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Originally published Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 4:00 PM

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Seattle transportation chief's departure was expected

Seattle transportation director Grace Crunican has resigned. Her decision to leave the city is the right one under the circumstances.

ONE of the biggest non-surprises of the year is that Grace Crunican, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, has resigned. Crunican's departure was expected, especially with a new mayor taking office.

It is unclear — and ultimately doesn't matter — if incoming Mayor Mike McGinn asked her to leave. She has lost the confidence of Seattle residents.

Crunican's department botched the response to the December 2008 snowstorms, and then she, in essence, told Seattle residents they should just get over the inconveniences they experienced.

As the snowstorm pounded the city, Crunican was out of town for the Christmas holidays. That was understandable. People go on vacation in all kinds of weather. Yet, when asked about her absence, and the city's inadequate handling of the storm, she said, "I don't drive a snowplow."

Her answer was packed full of insensitivity and reflected the opposite of a commitment to customer service.

Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, incoming chairman of the City Council Transportation Committee, says Crunican's decision to leave is the right one. The failure to respond appropriately to the storms was followed by a failure to fully understand the inadequacy of the city's performance.

The snowstorm was just part of the problem. Subsequent Seattle Times investigations revealed an unqualified manager in a critical position and a department with a problematic work culture.

Crunican's departure was expected also because it was known she was a finalist for a county administrator job in Clackamas County, Ore.

Mayor Greg Nickels refused to fire Crunican out of loyalty and a sense that her overall performance on projects such as "Bridging the Gap," designed to improve roads and sidewalks, was done quite well. Maybe it was.

But a crisis is the time when leaders prove themselves — and Crunican and her staff let down the decent, snowbound citizens of Seattle.

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