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State ferries

Same skippers, so no sea change

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Kudos to The Herald and reporter Jerry Cornfield for your excellent expose of ongoing problems at Washington State Ferries, this time involving the beleaguered Chetzemoka. ("Good ship Lemon?") Over the years, Washington state taxpayers have come to rely upon The Herald's coverage of ferry-related miscues to learn how their hard-earned dollars have been tossed down the hole in the water that is WSF.
It's not like any of this is new. On the pages of The Herald (and re-published at well over four years ago -- almost a year before the keel was laid for the Chetzemoka -- the Freedom Foundation, in a commentary I wrote while working for them, warned that many of the cost and construction bungles mentioned in your article were bound to happen. ("Taxpayers deserve all ferry-construction options.")
Why they happened was easily foreseeable: when a politicized government bureaucracy with as poor a track record as WSF is in a business best left to the private sector, what should you expect? When career bureaucrats run an agency that should be run by experienced maritime industry professionals, is there any wonder? When political pressure on behalf of special interests controls where and how vessels are constructed, who can be surprised?
But don't expect things to change anytime soon. The folks in charge of WSF now were the ones in charge of it then. The bureaucratic inertia that stymied new-vessel construction for decades until things got so bad that poor vessel construction resulted remains at the helm. The Chetzemoka isn't the only thing that's listing.
Scott St. Clair
Clifton, N..J.

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