Bridge Over Troubled Water

In October, Thomas Moore, with whom I have had the pleasure of serving for six years, will end a 16-year tenure of stewardship as a CPSC Commissioner. Like many others, I hope the President nominates and the Senate confirms Commissioner Moore’s successor promptly.

There has been growing speculation as to how the Commission will function if our new colleague’s arrival is delayed. It’s no secret that many of our recent decisions have been contentious, with philosophical disagreements producing frequent 3-2 splits in either votes or opinions. Until another takes Commissioner Moore’s place, the three-Commissioner majority bloc will be down to two, and some worry a four-member CPSC will be immobilized by stalemates.

This dire prediction overlooks an option we’ve had all along: Cooperation. And for an example of how important that can be, we need look no further than Commissioner Moore.

From three years, I served as the acting Chairman of the CPSC. During that time, we had more seats empty than filled, as Commissioner Moore and I were the only members. With only two votes available, and since the law requires at least two votes for any official action, we had to work together if we wanted to get anything done. So we did.

During that time, with an under-funded and under-staffed CPSC, we took important strides to make, among others, portable generators, upholstered furniture, ATV’s and cribs safer, and we started climbing the mountain of work the CPSIA demanded. In the 9 months following the passage of the CPSIA, we issued more than two dozen rules and other decisions. We could not have done any of that work without a commitment to cooperation and civility.

But that collaboration wasn’t just a matter of necessity. Cooperation was—and remains—the most effective way for the CPSC to operate.  Cooperation and collaboration are hallmarks of genuine leadership. Leadership is recognizing that the best time to build a bridge is before the water is troubled. Commissioner Moore and I built such a bridge, but it seems to have been burned.

With the crutch of an absolute majority to lean on, it has not been necessary for the current Commission to collaborate or cooperate. Now, it looks like a seat will be empty and any action will require bi-partisan support.  We will again have a river to cross, but with no bridge to walk. My hope is that we still remember how to build a new one.

The talk about Commissioner Moore’s departure should be limited to how much we’ll miss him, but instead the rancor of the past two years stirs whispers of deep divides and stalemates.  This doesn’t have to be. Every Commissioner wants to protect consumers, as does every CPSC employee. We differ in our approach, in how we choose to balance the consequences of our choices, but we share that common goal.

 My vote will continue to go, as it always does, to the merits of each issue. If we can build another bridge and restore an atmosphere of collegiality and trust, I’m confident we can find enough common ground to allow the CPSC to effectively carry out its mission. The only remaining question is how many bridge builders we have left on the Commission.

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2 Responses to “Bridge Over Troubled Water”


  1. 1 Esther September 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

    A stalemate sounds ideal. Maybe it will stop or delay some of the insanity coming out of the CPSC.

  2. 2 Mary Blakely August 24, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Would be nice if you also concentrated on repealing the ruling regarding cottage and home based industries. I can no longer make baby sweaters because of this silly ruling. Rather than penalizing those of us who just want to earn a few extra dollars a month to help pay our taxes, you should require the importers of components like buttons, zippers, etc. to certify their safety and let the rest of us continue to provide one of a kind and custom made products.


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