Washington State has been trying for 10 months to locate a site for a sex-offender halfway house. The search has drawn thousands to hearings and attracted almost 3,000 written comments.
The Seattle Times reports that “out of the public eye, the search has been full of heated lobbying by political heavyweights, some backroom dealing and accusations of partisan favors.”
Democrats running for governor have been involved, including Phil Talmadge, a former state Supreme Court justice, who lobbied against one site, and King County Executive Ron Sims, who pushed for another. Republicans hope to embarrass state Attorney General Christine Gregoire for a mistake her staff made in handling a legal challenge to one sites.
Gov. Gary Locke suggested a remote, state-owned site, which touched off an interagency fight that could unexpectedly wind up costing a school district hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A state agency plans to announce its top pick from four finalist sites tomorrow afternoon. The messy search will likely be re-hashed in court, with neighbors near each site threatening lawsuits to block construction. Critics say the politicking made the state ignore upscale neighborhoods in favor of poor South King County tracts, and produced baffling decisions.
The process angered “tens of thousands of voters,” said Jamie Durkan, a Seattle lobbyist. “This is a giant-killer issue, the type of issue that brings politicians down. This will have an impact on the governor’s race.”