Democratic commissioners preach to Conservation choir

The Kitsap County Conservation Voters hosted their annual county commissioner’s forum Wednesday night, putting forth a series of questions addressing energy, parks, growth and a host of other related issues.

As in the past five years, the North Kitsap and Central Kitsap Commissioners (Steve Bauer and Josh Brown respectively) addressed the questions, while South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel declined to attend.

Angel, who is in her last year as county commissioner, has said she does not feel comfortable at these meetings and they do not accomplish anything.

Bauer and Brown, who both have strong environmental support, offered answers that were generally well-received by attendees — even if some of these questions covered topics and occurrences from before they took office.

One of the topics, why the effort to place a NASCAR track in Kitsap County failed, was characterized by Brown as “something I never thought I would hear about again.”

He indicated he might have supported the project if it paid its own freight.

“One thing I didn’t like was how it was using the tax dollars it was to generate to pay for the facility,” Brown said. “And the legislation they wanted to pass would have taken the land-use authority away from the county. Beyond that, (sponsors) ISC had a complete unwillingness to address our concerns. If you are going to build a big project like that you need to be willing to answer some questions.”

Bauer, who was not a commissioner during the NASCAR era, said he had some experience with sports teams seeking public financing in Portland. He said that NASCAR ultimately failed because it was unclear what benefit it offered to the community.

Both Brown and Bauer’s expressed support of the SEED project in general, while saying the specifics were not addressed to their satisfaction.

“I fully embrace the concept of SEED,” Bauer said. “But I have not been impressed by the business plan. When we took our last look I said I wanted a peer review. If it passes muster, then we should proceed.

“I am also not sure that we need a building in place before we can go ahead,”?he said. “We can provide monitoring and other services to clients that are off-site, without needing a headquarters. We ought to be testing the model before constructing anything, do to otherwise is to put the cart before the horse.”

Brown said the county commissioners — prior to his election — committed $1 million to SEED with the intention of spending it on infrastructure. He feels the project’s deliverables need to be clear before this money is allocated, and lamented the recent dismissal of SEED consultant Tim Botkin.

“I think letting Tim go was shortsighted,” Brown said. “He was a visionary for the project, a driving force. I don’t know who is the driving force any more.”

Beth Wilson, who moderated the event, said the structured questions and their answers would be used to develop a scorecard in order to evaluate the performance of the commissioners with regard to environmental issues (even though Bauer is the only incumbent commissioner who is up for election this year).

About 25 people attended, most from the organization’s core membership. Occasional KCR spokesman Tom Donnelly said he was disappointed by the low turnout and acknowledged that it amounted to “preaching to the choir.”

“I don’t know what we need to do to get our message across,” Donnelly said. “These issues are of concern to everyone in the county.”

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