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Bless the Beasts and the Children

By Carter Clews

Barack Obama has now named his choice for Deputy Housing and Urban Development Secretary. The award goes to one Ron Sims, currently County Executive for Life of King County, Washington.

Proving once again, it's not just the cat, it's what the cat drags in that's the problem.

And, ironically enough, it is Mr. Sims' treatment of cats (dogs, and other defenseless creatures) that may, indeed, be indicative of the callousness, cunning, and basic lack of integrity we shall see on display as he attempts to bamboozle his way from the state of Washington to the city of the same name. Let's put it this way, Mr. Sims was to the cat population of King County what Michael Vick was to the dogs of Atlanta. And, in fact, Mr. Sims wasn't all that kind to “Man's Best Friend,” either, as far as that goes.

Here's how researcher extraordinaire Don Todd put it in his recent account of Mr. Sims 12-year tenure (so far) as King County Executive:

“In 1998 there were reports that the King County animal shelters were not properly caring for animals. In 2007, a citizens advisory committee found the shelter conditions to be ‘deplorable” and said that the agency's adoption outreach effort was “paltry at best.'

“Finally in 2008 an independent inspector informed the county council that the shelters were filthy, the staff was not adequately trained, paperwork was not being completed, and the animals were being neglected. County council members were angered. They had been appropriating the sums that Mr. Sims had requested and the animal shelters did not even spend all of the donations they received.”

Finally, in 2008, Mr. Sims held a press conference, replete with tail-wagging dogs and purring cats, to boast to the world that he was about to release some $975,000-plus to rescue what remaining furry friends had not already died on his lackluster watch. But hold your applause. Of that amount, it turned out some $570,000 would come from an animal benefit fund built up over no less than 20 years from donations by people licensing their pets, adopting animals, or simply making charitable donations in the misguided impression they were actually doing some good.

Said a shocked Christie Keith at Washington's petconnections.com:

“I'm sort of reeling to learn there was more than half a million collars just sitting there, “building up” over 20 years. If lack of resources were the problem, wouldn't they have at least tried to tap that at some point?” (Apparently, not if “they” included Ron Sims.)

According to PAWS, in Washington state , as far back as the early Nineties, “a shelter animal is killed every four and a half minutes.” Let's see, that's four and one half minutes divided into 13 years – you do the math; I don't have the stomach for it. Too bad the blithe Mr. Sims couldn't have acted a few minutes sooner.

One group that Mr. Sims does seem to care greatly for, however, is the homeless. It's the “homed” that he treats like … well, animals. Which may say something about what's in store for hard-working homeowners and their innocent families should Mr. Sims become Mr. Obama's Deputy Secretary of HUD.

Known as “Tent City Ron” to many in the Seattle area, Mr. Sims is recognized far and wide (not to mention, down and out) for his adamant support for sticking tents harboring drunks, derelicts, and druggies into residential neighborhoods.

Working hand in hand with Mr. Sims, a group called SHARE/WHEEL has shoved tents into neighborhoods with schools and children nearby for years now. In fact, again with the County Executive's eager encouragement, they have declared that they will not stop this invasion until all 8,000 in King County are properly housed. Properly apparently being next to those who worked long and hard to buy their own homes and pay their own ways.

Tent City 4 provides a case in point. So eager was Mr. Sims to play to the homeless industry gallery in his failed run for governor in 2004 in April of that year, he promised to move one of their tents into the Bothell area of King County – without, of course, bothering to tell the homeowners living there. Only after the residents sued did Sims back out of the offer.

But, that, of course, did not mean he acquiesced to those who were paying their taxes – and his salary. Instead, he ignored a moratorium on homeless encampments passed by the King County Council, and encouraged the homeless shelters to do an end-run around the moratorium by moving from one church property to another throughout the county.

In short, should Mr. Sims assume the deputy secretariat, that tent you may soon see in your backyard won't be from Barnum & Bailey.

So outrageous has Mr. Sims behavior been as King County Executive that the ink well would run dry were each instance given adequate attention. So, let's just hit the high (or in his case) lowlights:

• He gave a low-interest-rate HUD loan to build a four-star hotel at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The hotel was owned by a union pension fund manager and one of the world's largest hotel and casino operators. Those loans are supposed to go to clean up blighted areas and typically go to non-profits, low-income housing developers, or social service agencies. “Hello, Mr. Astor, this is the Deputy Secretary, we have a tidy little grant here we thought you might be interested in …”

• For years, Mr. Sim's medical examiner's office has been plagued with scandals: losing a body, selling organs, a lawsuit about an involuntary organ donation, gross photo contests, lawsuits over sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, employees being paid to provide semen samples, an investigator stealing and consuming drugs from the dead, bodies left on the floor, and chemicals being poured down the drain illegally. Yet, the Chief Medical Examiner, Richard Harruff, remains in his office. And one has to wonder: What would this man need to do to be fired?

• To get the Brightwater sewage treatment plant built, County Executive Sims agreed to mitigation projects in Snohomish County and to pay a soup company to relocate. He paid for these things with dedicated wastewater funds. The problem is that these projects had nothing to do with wastewater. Around the time of the deals, he boasted, “Use of King County funds for these extraneous purposes is not authorized by law.” And he then went on to authorize them.

Now the county is being sued for illegally using these wastewater funds as Mr. Sims' slush fund. So much for Mr. Obama's much-touted ethical reforms.

• Mr. Sims' election division horribly mangled the 2004 elections: felons voted, dead people voted, hundreds of ballots were found after election day, provisional ballots were counted without eligibility verification, a number of people were able to vote twice, late absentee ballots were counted, some absentee ballots were not counted, and unregistered voters' ballots were counted. This was nothing short of a debacle.

An election-review panel said that the office was actually worse off after Mr. Sims hired Dean Logan to replace the previous elections director who had resigned in disgrace. After the debacle, King County voters chose to take the power to appoint election chiefs from Mr. Sims and make it an elective office – much to his outrage who termed the proposal full of “irony, hypocrisy and inconsistency”.

And yet he highly praised the ousted Logan, saying, “I knew he was the best when I hired him. I was right. He is.” And when Dean resigned, Mr. Sims said that he was “one of the most respected elections administrators in the nation” and noted “his consummate professionalism” that would “be sorely missed.” The latter, of course, may be the only accurate statement of the lot – particularly so the next time Washington's Democrats want to steal an election.

Clearly, Ron Sims is one cool cat. If he had nine lives, he could go on bilking the taxpayer forever. The question soon to be before the Senate is: Will the Honorable Ladies and Gentleman allow a scofflaw like Ron Sims to bring his sordid act to the Nation's Capitol? If so, the pet population (not to mention the homeowners and cadavers) of King County will surely breathe a sigh of relief.

Carter Clews is the Executive Editor of ALG News Bureau.


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