Ron Judd marks a memorable year with his annual Feats of Clay.
If one thing has been made clear in this space it is that Mr. Wrap, above all else, hates to be petty.
But, contrary to popular opinion at City Hall, he is human. And at times, occasions do arise. This is one of them.
Which is why we have no choice, really, but to name the State Transportation Commission as the winner of The Wrap’s annual “Feats of Clay” Award for Distinguished Lack of Valor.
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The commission’s handiwork: Presented with a powerful groundswell of public support — shamelessly fanned, ad nauseam, by this column — to name one of two new state ferries after the late, local civic icon Ivar Haglund, this group of state-appointed citizen hall monitors recently opted instead to stick with a decades-long tradition of picking (possibly made-up) ferry names that need an accompanying pronunciation guide.
The result: a new ferry with the native / orca-inspired name “Tokitae” (pronounced “hump-TWO-lips”). No offense meant to local tribes, or tribal words, or nautical tradition, or even whales. But “Ivar” also happens to be a word cherished by many natives, of the extra-tartar tribe. And denying a rare groundswell of support for naming just one of the state’s fleet of leaky creakies after a man with the good sense to bring a short stack of pancakes to a syrup-tanker spill was a missed opportunity. Frankly, it makes our decision to hold the commission up for special scorn — yes, out of abject spite, so what? — a no-brainer.
The Wrap does not bestow such unpraise lightly. The “Featsie,” an honored local tradition for more than a sixteenth of a century, is named in hallowed dishonor of notorious jar-headed ratfish Clayton Bennett, who in 2006 either duped or conspired with much-unloved local coffee groundster Howard Schultz to transplant the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City, a little-known livestock station somewhere in the nation’s Dust Bowl.
Previous nondistinguished dishonorees include Bennett himself, famed local La-Z-Boy spokesmodel Ken Griffey Jr., and last year’s controversial winner, savvy credit-limit-extension negotiator Sen. Patty Murray, D-No Plan B.
This year’s champion surged ahead at year’s end, snatching the coveted award from the limp grasp of front-running Seattle Mayor (pro tem) Mike McGinn, whose googly-eyed man crush on shifty San Francisco hedge funder Chris Hansen threatens to put city taxpayers right back in bed with this award’s namesake, Bennett, and his literal partner in crime, the noted weasel David Stern, commissioner and corporate-welfare bagman for the NBA.
In truth, the ferry-name debacle alone wasn’t enough to secure the title for the Transpo Commission. But the full-speed-ahead order to install pre-cracked concrete bridge pontoons beneath the new Highway 520 floating bridge pretty much sealed the deal.
With that, a drum roll, please, for the runners-up:
The Sarah Palin Memorial Your-Tax-Dollars-At-Work Award: To the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Aerial Strafing, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help wolves reoccupy state lands — and then tens of thousands more to turn around and shoot a bunch of them. Welcome to the neighborhood.
The Do-As-I-Say Award: To the nation’s cable-TV newscasters, notably CNN’s Ali Velshi, who valiantly stood in waist-deep, rushing water in Atlantic City during Hurricane Sandy to warn the nation not to stand in waist-deep, rushing water during Hurricane Sandy.
The Tough, Tough Love Award: To U-Dub alums Hope Solo, U.S. soccer team goalkeeper, and noted ne’er-do-well Jerramy Stevens — a marriage match made in A&E reality-TV heaven.
The Built-Ford-Dumb Award: To that U.S. automaker, which saw fit to explain to its target pickup-truck advertising audience that “Torque is what gets the cap off your beer.”
The Fans, Schmans Award: To the University of Washington Athletic Department, which would gladly assign local college football games 3 a.m. start times if a TV network promised an extra 50 bucks in revenue.
The Rob McKenna Memorial / Initiative 74 Truth-in-Advertising Award: To The Seattle Times, which proved beyond any remaining doubt that free print advertising given to a single candidate or cause might — or might not — translate to victory at the ballot box.
The All-In-Good-Time Award: To NBC Sports, which will be showing the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics to West Coast viewers at midnight tomorrow.
The Stop, Look and Listen Hipster Award: To all those Amazonians, wandering around cluelessly in the middle of South Lake Union streets near their new HQ. Just a tip, boys and girls: Those are real cars and buses, and the term “campus” is just for fun.
The Courageous-Boom-Deployment Award: To those two female Washington Air National Guard members — both, and we could not make this up, refueling specialists from Spokane — who created a stir by posing in uniform for breast-feeding photos that made their way online.
The If-The-Oink-Fits Award: To the PR geniuses at US Bank, who decided the perfect summer-parade mascot for a money-grubbing financial institution would be a rotund inflatable pig.
The John Henry Browne Memorial Charitable Public Defense Award: To John Henry Browne, who would need counseling if his name did not appear in here somewhere, at least twice.
The It’ll-Be-A-Cold-Day-In-Hell … Or-Perhaps-Next-Friday Award: To all those indignant drivers — including, it turns out, one of Mr. Wrap’s editors — who swore they’d never, ever pay a toll to cross the Evergreen Point floating bridge.
The Thank-God-For-Small-Favors Award: To Alaska Airlines, which prepared for an oncoming winter storm by announcing it would “precancel” some flights. Beats the heck out of having one post-canceled after takeoff.
The Death-By-A-Million-Stupid-Taxes Award: To Washington state, the only place in the world where a citizen’s revolt to cut the middleman out of an industry — liquor sales — could possibly lead to higher shelf prices for consumers.
The Blowing-the-Lid-Off-Crayola Investigative Journalism Award: To The Bellingham Herald, which actually asked readers in an insightful, multiple-choice website poll: “What’s your favorite color?”
The Joe Paterno, Lance Armstrong, Who’s Next? Award: To Nike, which might as well sign on as permanent employees those sign crews that spent much of the year removing names of disgraced pitchmen from company buildings in Beaverton.
And Finally, the Live-and-Let-Live Citizen’s Award: To Seattle, one of the few places in America that could have, and did, let unwitting tabloid cover girl Amanda Knox live in peace just like any normal young woman with a $4 million memoir deadline looming.
Happy New Year, one and all.
Ron Judd’s column appears each Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8280.