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Marquee’s future still hangs over business owners’ heads

A resigned discussion regarding the Port Orchard City Council’s opinion on the continuance of the ongoing marquee debate within the Port Orchard Revitalization Team (P.O.R.T.) took shape at Monday night’s council meeting, lead by Councilmember Rita DiIenno.

According to DiIenno, although the P.O.R.T. has met eight times in full with several attended by representatives of consultant EDAW, the question of what to do about the downtown marquee continues to “permeate every meeting.”

She asked the council, on behalf of the P.O.R.T. and EDAW, to discuss its “political will,” specifically whether or not it feels EDAW representatives should include options to modify the marquee within its larger charge of stimulating economic development in Port Orchard.

The council granted permission for citizens to speak to them about the issue, since it was not a public hearing.

Three spoke in favor of leaving the marquee alone, one said the subject should continue to be discussed.

“The marquee is not a problem for a majority of building owners,” challenged Fred Karakas, owner of Olympic Bicycle in downtown Port Orchard.

Karakas described the P.O.R.T.’s recent meetings to discuss the fate of the marquee as being “foo-foo filled,” and suggested future meetings focus on practical economic survival.

“We’ve been wrestling this marquee issue forever,” agreed Councilmember John Clauson.

Councilmember Bob Geiger said EDAW should be focusing on hard-hitting ways to make downtown businesses more attractive to consumers instead of the superficial.

“(The marquee) isn’t going to change the shopping habits of the people,” said Geiger. “But we would like them to waste more money trying to answer the unanswerable? If (business owners) have what (consumers) want, they’ll buy it.”

As the discussion progressed, Councilwoman Carolyn Powers said she failed to see the council’s role in discussions between the P.O.R.T. and EDAW representatives.

“They can talk about anything they want,” Powers said.

She later said she didn’t understand why the groups needed permission to talk about the issues they felt were important.

A motion that allowed the EDAW to continue to review the role of the marquee downtown and the city’s future options was later passed 4-3, with Cramer, Rider, DiIenno and Wyatt in the affirmative, Powers, Geiger and Clauson voting against.

“The marquee is an issue similar to religion and politics,” said Clauson on Thursday, three days after the meeting. “You have almost an equal amount of folks on either side of the issue.”

“If my frustration showed the other night, it was a matter of, ‘We’ve been here, we’ve done this.’ We’ve put a lot of bucks into this question just to visit it again and again,” Clauson said.

“I hope the (consultants) are not spending their time on the marquee,” he said.

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