Opinion

Sheriff Kimball started off on the right foot

Thurston County's newly elected Sheriff Dan Kimball got his four-year term off to a good start with a crackdown on registered sex offenders who have failed to make quarterly checks with the sheriff's office. When deputies went to one offender's Nisqually Valley home they found marijuana, guns and ammunition. It was part of an ongoing roundup of registered Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders who failed to show up

Jan. 8 - the most recent time they were required to comply with the reporting law. "We want Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders to know that they are required to meet their obligations," Kimball said. "If they don't, we will seek them out, and they will go to jail." Of 302 registered sex offenders who were required to check in with the sheriff's office on Jan. 8, 80 did not show up, Kimball said. Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders are classified as being at a higher risk of reoffending. Arresting the scofflaws will send a message to the offenders that Sheriff Kimball is committed to holding each accountable. It's the right message at the right time.

The number of car accidents involving state employees on duty spiked last year. There were 361 incidents in 2006 - 86 more than in 2005. Crashes involving state workers have cost taxpayers more than $13 million since 2000. And of the 1,892 accident claims over the last six years, 1,795 were caused by state employees. It stands to reason that a majority of claims filed against the state would be in cases where the state worker was at fault. "I can't explain why we're such bad drivers," Gov. Chris Gregoire said in recent briefing on the subject. "We haven't turned squat around, so now we're going to turn it around." That's the right attitude. It would be interesting to see how many of those accidents occurred while the state employee was on a cellular telephone. If cell phone distraction is a major cause of mishaps, perhaps the governor could issue an order banning state employees from using their cell phones while driving. In the meantime, it's clear the state needs to do a better job of training employees on defensive driving skills.

State Department of General Administration employee Larry Kessel was caught completely off guard recently when he was named 2006 Person of the Year by the Olympia Downtown Association. Kessel manages Sylvester and Heritage parks in the heart of the city along with Capitol Lake. ODA Executive Director Connie Lorenz announced the award saying Kessel is informally known as "Lawrence of Olympia." Anyone who has reserved the parks for a rally or community event can testify to Kessel's willingness to please and his incredible ability to accommodate special requests. Kessel tried to deflect the spotlight a bit at the ODA awards ceremony, saying that the work he has done for downtown and for community residents wouldn't have happened without his crew and the collaborative efforts of the state, the city and others. "We all pull together and make it happen, and that's what it's all about," he said. His selection is a well-deserved honor.

A new express bus ramp above Interstate 405 in Kirkland has cracked because of a design blunder. The cost to taxpayers to rebuild the ramp is expected to be $2 million to $3 million. The road improvement project at Totem Lake will be delayed four to six months because of the crack, which was discovered in December. The roadway cracked lengthwise where a wide concrete slab hangs partly over the freeway in what Department of Transportation officials describe as a cantilevered design. Upon investigation workers discovered there is not enough reinforcing steel inside the concrete to hold things in place. Crews must insert tight steel bands to compress the concrete so the cracking will cease and the roadway will be stabilized. The one bit of good news in this issue is the fact that other construction projects where high occupancy vehicle lanes exit the freeway directly into park-and-ride lots don't have the same design flaw.

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