Opinion

Kitsap's voters reaping what they've sown

It’s going to be interesting to see how Kitsap County extricates itself from the financial bind in which it now finds itself. It will be even more interesting to see who takes

the blame for the mess — the politicians who created it or the voters who game them the opportunity.

The truth is, both share the responsibility.

The Kitsap County commissioners last week conceded what should have been obvious to anyone with two eyes all along — that they were spending more than we can afford

based on the current level of property tax revenues being generated. Consequently, we face either drastic cuts in services or the voters will have to approve higher property

taxes.

“In order to provide the same level of services,” noted South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, “we will need to go to the voters so they can vote to pay for the things that they cannot do without.”

What Angel was being too tactful to mention is that the problem could have been greatly reduced or avoided altogether had Kitsap County’s leaders shown a little more foresight

over the years with respect to economic development.

For example, the late, lamented proposal to construct a NASCAR track in South Kitsap — a plan Angel was the only commissioner to openly support, by the way — was just the latest case of the region’s elected leaders caving in to elements that ranged from apathatic to downright hostile to the prospect of attracting business to the county.

Whether these objections take the form of concerns about the environment or some other lofty-sounding goal, the end result is that we now find ourself with a huge hole in our

budget that could have been filled very nicely with the influx of property and other tax revenues generated by a healthier business climate.

Instead of holding out for only the most desirable kinds of economic development — those that don’t require the cutting down of any trees, the generation of any noise or funny smells or the importation of people who actually get their hands dirty for a living — perhaps Kitsap residents should have been a little less demanding and a little more realistic about its prospects.

Meanwhile, our elected leaders — as ever oblivious to the looming problem — think the answer is pumping even more of our shrinking resources into pipe dreams like the Port of

Bremerton’s Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project.

In real life — as opposed to the make-believe world of government — you can’t spend your way out of debt. And real life is threatening to intrude on Kitsap County’s happy dreams.

To say that Kitsap voters have some hard choices to make is to ignore the fact that they’ve already made their choices.

The question now becomes how willing they’ll be to live with the consequences of those choices.

Time and again candidates have run for office here making clear their understanding of the need to be more receptive to private-sector business and development. And those candidates are nearly always rejected in favor of candidates who promise to put more and more land off-limits while spending more and more tax money on public services.

The problem — or the alibi, if you’re one of those politicians — is that Initiative 747 limits how much property taxes can be raised without the approval of the voters. Which means it’s going to be up to all of us to decide whether we’re satisfied with the kind of leadership and direction we’ve saddled ourselves with.

For too long we’ve been asking our government to do the impossible — pay for lavish services while keeping our taxes low and unwelcome businesses away. Now it’s time to see which of those goals is really more important to us.

Yep, it’s gonna be real interesting.

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