Lantz and Seaquist Weigh in on “Oke” Bridge

Last week the state Senate Transportation Committee moved along a bill to rename the Tacoma Narrows Bridge after the late Bob Oke. Oke, a South Kitsap resident, was a long-time 26th District senator and one of the main proponents of building a second span across Puget Sound between the Kitsap Peninsula and Tacoma. There is not yet a time line for the bill to be heard on the Senate floor.

Three state senators representing Kitsap and North Mason – Sens. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch – are listed as sponsors of SJM 8026. Oke was a Republican.

Following the committee hearing, at which Oke’s widow Judy Oke testified, she said she was fairly confident that the bill would pass in the Senate, but she wasn’t so sure about the House of Representatives.

Both current 26th District representatives, Pat Lantz, D-Gig Harbor, and Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, are officially opposed to the proposal.

Lantz, in an e-mail, said she’s against renaming the bridge at all.
“Now, as to the issue itself. I, too, think the bridge is already perfectly named. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge or just the Narrows Bridge is a dignified, descriptive and historically rooted name that will serve us well for generations to come. We will find other opportunities to honor Senator Oke and naming the park (presumably Long Lake County Park) for him might be one of them.”

Seaquist was emphatic in his stance on the idea.

“I have the greatest admiration for Bob Oke as a senator,” Seaquist said. “I am firmly (he emphasized the word ‘firmly’) opposed to the idea of renaming the bridge. I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to get into the business of naming bridges.”

Seaquist said his perception of the “overwhelming view” among his constituents is that they are against naming the bridge for Oke, not all necessarily because of the price of tolls, he added.

12 thoughts on “Lantz and Seaquist Weigh in on “Oke” Bridge

  1. I think Seaquist may be wrong. There were many people angry with Senator Oke for pushing the bridge, maybe Seaquist has only heard from them.

    Sometimes Seaquist speaks off the cuff in ways that don’t reflect the feelings or thoughts of his constituents. I can say this from personal experience with him. I remember when he was defending Beth Wilson and an action she took that was condescending, hurtful and unprofessional at best. He told me in angry terms when I tried to speak with him about it, “You have marginalized the whole community. No one will work with you.” I think he was speaking of Beth and possibly a few other environmental leaders, although when I spoke to several, they didn’t agree with his assessment.

    Seaquist’s comments that I had marginalized the “whole community” left me wondering for days, weeks even, how 65,000 people in SK could hate me. It was at the same time, Kathryn, that you and I were in conflict, so it left me pretty jarred and quite frankly upset.

    Until it dawned on me that Seaquist can’t possibly assume to know or understand the feelings or thoughts of all 65,000 constituents (if that is indeed the number) and shouldn’t feel that he could speak for everyone, and besides, when has everyone in SK agreed on anything, even something as trivial as hating me?

    Personally, I think it is a good idea to honor Senator Oke in this way. However, there was that idea floated around of selling the name. What happened with that? Is it possible? Legal? Fair?

  2. Chris,

    Is there a reason my comment was removed from this blog?

    Kathryn Simpson


    Sorry we’ve had so much spam it must have gotten swept up in the tide, i.e. I got overzealous with the delete key.

    Here it is again:

    “Overwhelmingly opposed”? Come one, Rep. Seaquist, are you serious, sir? Do you really believe “it isn’t appropriate for us to be naming bridges”?

    What percentage of bridges in this fine state or this great nation AREN’T named after someone? I’d bet it is a minority.

    Of course it will always be the “Tacoma Narrows Bridge”, by common usage. But what is the harm in honoring Senator Oke?

    I’m disappointed that this seems more about partisanship from our representatives than anything else. Otherwise, I think we could get a better response than “it isn’t appropriate for us to be naming bridges”.

    Kathryn Simpson

  3. Chris…I sent this earlier…is there any reason it is inappropriate here?
    Thanks, Sharon

    I assumed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge would remain the same and the new one named after Bob Oke.

    OR, to simplify, use the current Tacoma Narrows Bridge name for the new bridge and nothing needs to be changed.

    Seems to me then, Bob Oke could be honored by giving his name to the next new nearby park or street and no extra cost to the taxpayer.

    Continually selling and changing the name of a structure important to transportation seems unreasonable. Maps would never be up-to-date with the correct name.
    Sharon O’Hara

  4. Kathryn, your logic makes no sense. Just because lots of other bridges are named after people, this one must be too?

    Where’s the harm? The bridge shouldn’t be named after someone like Bob Oke. His discriminatory stance on opposing rights for the LGBT community should be enough to keep anything from being named after him. There are quite a few members of the community who are vehemently opposed to naming it after him.

  5. Ian,

    George Washington owned slaves. Yet somewhere there is a city and a state named after him.

    Folks will disagree on key legislation and issues from time to time.

    I met Senator Oke several times. We didn’t always agree. However, he was always a statesman.

    Kathryn Simpson

  6. Kathryn,

    You hit the nail on the head with your comment that this seems to be more about partisanship on the part of Seaquist and Lantz. I find a rather disturbing pattern with Mr. Seaquist. According to him we are NOT in the business of Motor Sports (bad neighbors you know) and we are NOT in the business of naming bridges. What business DO you approve of Mr. Seaquist? I pass under the Adele Ferguson (bridge)overpass everyday. Somebody in Kitsap was in the business of naming bridges at one time or another.

    Colleen Smidt

  7. Kathryn… Do you really equate President George Washington to Senator Oke?

    …”…Washington is seen as a symbol of the United States and republicanism in practice.[5]…… Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

    and…”…Washington was the only prominent, slaveholding Founding Father to emancipate his slaves….”

    Sharon O’Hara

  8. Sharon,

    First, Washington emancipated his slaves once he and his wife were dead. I congratulate him for doing the right thing. However, it should be noted that he didn’t do it until the slaves were no longer of value to him or his wife.

    As for equating Oke to Washington, they were both worthy of respect in my opinion. Though I disagreed with both on some issues (see above).

    I’m not asking the federal government to rename the Washington Monument. I’m merely asking our elected leaders to demonstrate respect for one of our more respected local statesmen by setting aside partisanship and afford the man an honor I believe he earned.

    To argue that my point doesn’t have merit because you believe Washington was such a greater man than Oke simply because Washington had a great impact on a larger community (the fledgling United States), diminishes the importance of local issues and local leaders working for local citizens.

    Finally, what got my ire up about this is the apparent partisanship and discordant statement of Rep. Seaquist.

    Kathryn Simpson

  9. Kathryn,

    You state that Oke was “one of our more respected local statesmen”. This may be true among his supporters, but there is a large number of people who are very unhappy with his stance on LGBT rights and the actions he took.

    Actively working against the rights of his own former constituents makes it hard to accord him this honor.

  10. Ian,

    Have you ever vehemently disagreed with an individual on an issue but also respected them? I have. I do. I will. There are times when people won’t agree. That doesn’t make you evil and me good or me evil and you good.

    As has been stated, Washington owned slaves. But I don’t forget all else the man did because of that.

    I don’t agree with Governor Gregoire’s complacency with education issues. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect her for her role in our State. Eventually a few schools and bridges and community centers will be named after her. Just because I don’t agree with her on a few issues doesn’t mean I don’t support respecting and honoring her as a leader in our state.

    Kathryn Simpson

  11. Kathryn …
    Please respond only to my post, not your interpretation of what you think I said or implied.
    Sharon O’Hara

  12. Sharon,

    The only way I can respond to your post is by “interpretation”. I read your post, attempted to understand your point and then posted a response.

    If you don’t think I responded on point to what you meant, then please point out how. Then I can address the miscommunication or misinterpretation. From your response, I have no idea where you think I misinterpreted you.

    I thought your point was that Oke didn’t compare to Washington.

    Kathryn Simpson

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