Seattle Times readers knock Richard Davis’ idea to eliminate statewide elected offices

In Tuesday’s Seattle Times, prolific establishment business writer Richard S. Davis had a column suggesting we ought to do away with statewide elected offices like the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the state Treasurer.

“We elect too many statewide officials,” Davis begins, going on to declare, “As I’ve written before, this structural albatross reduces accountability, frustrates effective coordination within the bureaucracy and makes state government less responsive.”

Where’s the evidence for that conclusion? Davis doesn’t offer any. The most he does is suggest that a recent tax reform proposal by Treasurer McIntire and Superintendent Dorn, which Governor Jay Inslee doesn’t support, is “unproductive”.

Davis thinks it’s a problem “to have statewide elected officials lobbying each other, the Legislature and the public in pursuit of their policy goals.”

But amusingly, by the end of his column, Davis concedes that it would make sense to keep the attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, and treasurer as independently elected positions. That’s four of the nine.

And the lieutenant governor would still be elected too, just with the governor as part of a ticket. (We do agree that would make a lot of sense). That’s five and six!

So Davis is really only for eliminating the positions of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Commissioner of Public Lands, and Insurance Commissioner.

Those positions are all defined in our Constitution. Our founders thought they should be independently elected. They deliberately chose to construct an executive department that consisted of individuals elected independently of the governor. (At the federal level, the President and Vice President are the only elected officials; everyone else in the executive branch is an appointee or in the civil service.)

Seattle Times readers didn’t have many good things to say about Davis’ column.

“If we wanted efficiency, we could just elect a king for four years who could take the place of the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary.  Wouldn’t that be a efficient?,”  retorted a commenter calling him or herself Drunk Fan. “Accountability would definitely follow authority and guarantee all laws and policies would agree.”

“Hmmm – seems his answer to an ill-informed apathetic public is to cater to them with more appointees and more centralized power,” said commenter Bottom Feeder.
“Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Speaking of ill-informed, he’s forgotten about the Supreme Court [justices] being elected statewide.”

“Well, I confess that I am confused,” wrote commenter Eastward.

“There is apparently a thesis that state government is inefficient or ineffective, and the way to cure this is to curtail the number of elected officials.”

“Did I read this correctly? We are not talking about eliminating jobs, or combining functions, or privatizing certain tasks. We simply want fewer people elected so that voters don’t have to choose, say, an auditor.”

“Now, that does not strike me as giving accountability for inefficiency or even corruption. It simply makes it easier to elect a single administrator, like a Dino Rossi, and have him appoint a bunch of folks that think like him.”

“What’s left off the ballot that makes you say they take up to much space? asked commenter RBTom. “Having appointed officials is what reduces accountability. Having appointed officials unable to act because their boss has other priorities is what makes government less responsive.”

“And exactly what’s wrong with having elected officials offer solutions to the state’s worst problem (the 2nd most regressive tax structure in the country)? You should thank them for trying to move the state forward.”

“There is one official elected to look exclusively after the interests of schoolchildren in this state,” noted Acadian04. “It would be unfortunate if that official had to subsume those interests to the broader policy agenda of the Governor.”