Opinion

Hopefully study is the first step in leaving PSRC

Having already expressed the view that Kitsap County’s association with the Puget Sound Regional Council has outlived its usefulness — assuming there ever was any — we feel compelled to congratulate the county commissioners for taking what we hope will be the first step in terminating it once and for all.

At the request of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, the commissioners last week ordered county staff to prepare a report that will help them determine whether to maintain the county’s current membership in the PSRC.

Staff member Eric Baker is scheduled to deliver what he described as a “just-the-facts” presentation at the board’s April 9 work-study session, a report that will itemize funding the county has received over the past 15 years and examine other funding models.

“We are not going to tell them what to do,” Baker said. “We only want to present accurate information so the commissioners can make the decision.”

Here’s hoping that’s exactly what the commissioners get, since we’re of the opinion that the plain, unvarnished truth doesn’t paint a very flattering picture of PSRC.

By way of explanation, the Puget Sound Regional Council is a voluntary association of county and municipal governments from around the Puget Sound region.

In theory, the idea of pooling resources and offering a forum for inter-agency communication sounds harmless enough. But in practice, we’re concerned that PSRC functions as a quasi-government — and an unelected, unaccountable-to-Kitsap-County-voters one at that.

For one thing, PSRC isn’t value-neutral. It has its own political agenda, as expressed in PSRC’s Vision 2040 manifesto, which the agency’s Web site audaciously describes as “an integrated, long-range vision for the future that lays out a strategy for maintaining a healthy region.”

In other words, PSRC, which you didn’t elect and which doesn’t represent you, has a plan for how you ought to live your life.

Whatever one may think of the goals espoused by the agency, however, the salient point is that Kitsap County’s vision ought to be developed by its own elected leaders, not a hodgepodge of professional bureaucrats and governmental officials representing other jurisdictions that may or may not have Kitsap County’s best interests at heart.

Certainly it’s acceptable, and even desirable, to develop that vision in concert with neighboring cities and counties. But not in deference to them.

Which brings us to our second objection.

By charter, influence within the PSRC is based on the population of the regions represented in the group by their governmental leadership. Simply stated, the governments of Seattle and King County as a bloc hold more than half (52 percent) of the votes in the PSRC, followed proportionately by Tacoma and Pierce County, then Everett and Snohomish County.

By comparison, Kitsap County has only a 3 percent say.

So why belong at all? Because somehow PSRC managed to finagle control over the distribution of millions of dollars in public grant money — which it can dole out to jurisdictions like Kitsap County, assuming we support PSRC’s goals.

The forthcoming study by Kitsap staff is intended to determine whether the community is better off standing on its own two feet or continuing to take handouts from PSRC, even if it means backing policies that may even contradict the best interests of local residents.

From where we sit, this sounds a little like trying to decide whether to keep handing your lunch money over to the schoolyard bully or risk getting beat up to do what’s right.

PSRC isn’t representative of Kitsap County, and our leaders shouldn’t be carrying water for our neighbors across the Sound in hopes of being thrown a few scraps from their table.

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