Could government have prevented Oso landslide tragedy?

By Neal McNamara | March 27, 2014
Washington Mudslide

How far should the government go in regulating areas prone to mudslides and other environmental treachery?

That’s the question host David Boze faced Thursday, as a caller – a self-described progressive who said he only listens to KTTH for the “schadenfreude” – questioned the “less government” argument when it comes to regulating flood plains and wetlands.

The caller, also named Dave, asserted that Snohomish County should have done more to regulate building in Oso in the area affected by Saturday’s deadly mudslide.

“You laid bare the libertarian ideological idiocy you and your fellow travelers promulgate day in and day out – how can you not look at that tragedy and not demand that the county regulate wetlands and flood plains so that these types of tragedies don’t happen ever again?” Dave asked.

But, Boze said, those areas are already heavily regulated by the federal government and by local governments. In fact, Boze described a situation where some had proposed to sure up the riverfront in Oso, but the government prevented them from doing so.

LISTEN: BOZE DISCUSSES GOVERNMENT LAND MANAGEMENT WITH CALLER

Dave, the caller, asserted that greedy land developers should not be allowed to build in spots like Oso where studies have proved a landslide danger. And, if those developers do get permission to build, it’s because of their too-tight relationship with local politicians.

That led Boze to conclude the opposite of the caller – that, like individuals, government doesn’t always work in the interest of people. Politicians in charge of enacting policy to keep people safe are susceptible to corruption and being bad stewards, and so they are also susceptible to creating bad policy that ends up killing people.

“I believe we should be conducting all of our zoning and land use laws according to the latest science from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” Dave, the caller, said.

“I don’t know how much was revealed in terms of the dangers of landslides to the property owners in Oso,” Boze said. “I’d be curious about that. As you’ve seen in the Seattle Times, there were a number of reports indicating slides, even the potential for catastrophic slides. But were they really expecting half a mountain to fall on to the people of Oso? That I can’t imagine.”

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