Centralia No. 5 Essay

Submitted By Susan_dawson
Words: 2075
Pages: 9

Centralia No. 5 – Assignment 1 For this assignment we are asked to tackle three items. The first, identify and explain four (4) logistical alternatives Scanlan could have addressed. Next to analyze and discuss Scanlan’s motivations toward the Constitution (the law), bureaucracy (as a public administrator to the public) and obligation. And finally, we are to take a position on two (2) possible paths of action for Scanlan and defend your choices. The Blast in Centralia No. 5: A Mine Disaster No One Stopped was difficult to read. At numerous points throughout the text I wanted to say, “Stop! Do you have any idea what you are doing?” As stated by Laudicinia, this is a, “play of bureaucratic proceduralism, partisan political pressures, intergovernmental rivalries, competing interest group pressures…which produced a series of non–decisions and, ultimately, disaster”(White, 1978). The text did indicate several instances of political pressures, rivalries between individuals and departments, intentional and perhaps unintentional oversight, and above all, in my opinion, a complete lack of accountability. One of the key participants in this disaster was Driscoll O. Scanlan. He started working in a mine at the age of sixteen (16), took night classes in engineering and functioned as a coal-company mine examiner for thirteen (13) years. In 1941, upon recommendation by his district political representative, he was appointed by the Illinois governor as one of sixteen (16) state mine inspectors (Martin, 1948). Unlike other inspectors who wrote brief reports, often after simply chatting with mine officials, Scanlan took his job seriously and would compose lengthy and detailed reports enumerating every violation he found, regardless of how minor. He regarded Centralia No. 5 as the most violation laden mine in his territory. In his first report, among other violations he specifically cited, “The haulage roads need to be cleaned and sprinkled…That tamping of shots with coal dust be discontinued and that clay be used….”. These findings were significant because they contributed to the ultimate mine disaster (Martin 1948). We are told that Scanlan’s reports, when they arrived at the Department of Mines and Minerals, we essentially, stamped received and sent, probably sight unseen, to mine operators with a request that they comply with the recommendations and advise the department upon completion. It was apparently a well-known fact among mine operators that follow-up was never done by the state because we are told that Centralia No. 5 never responded to any of the director’s letters, and there were never any repercussions for their nonresponse. Federal inspections were even less of a concern as we are told those never even left the Department of Mines and Minerals when they finally filtered through Washington, DC and received. What finally did get some action was a letter from the Local 52 to the director of the Department of Mines and Minerals. We are told that he sent Scanlan to investigate and eventually the Local 52 wrote Scanlan that some work toward correcting violations had been done. Perhaps drawing on that knowledge, Scanlan, “emerging from his regular inspection, took the unusual step of telephoning Medill in Springfield” (Martin, 1948). He was told to write a letter, which he did, and upon which no action was apparently taken. This, I believe, is one of the first logistical alternatives Scanlan could have taken – he could have followed up with another phone call, or even a visit to Medill’s office to inquire as to what action would be taken. It is often said that, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and in this case Scanlan could have become the “squeaky wheel” and continued calling and/or visiting Medill to follow up on the actions being taken by the department to ensure the violations were finally addressed. Given that success of the letter sent to the Department of