Opinion

The ‘other guys’ grow, while SK stagnates

Sometimes it seems that South Kitsap — Port Orchard in particular – is one step behind the competition in — trying to obtain economic development funding.

Remember the famous question asked by the movie character, Butch Cassidy, “Who are those guys?” It could be used around here, too; but it would apply to “those guys” ahead of us rather than the ones trailing.

The persistence of folks who chose years ago to focus economic development efforts in Bremerton is a wonder to behold. It all started more than 10 years ago, and has yet to lose momentum.

The grand opening of the expanded Bremerton marina this weekend is one more step, as public funding is spent trying to revitalize the old downtown.

Once political leaders throughout the county focused on Bremerton and decided public funding was required to do what private investment wouldn’t, there was no looking back.

Consider the several projects that are either completed or underway since the 1990s: the Admiral Theatre renovation and operating subsidy; convention center; transportation center; State Route 304 improvements from the ferry dock to State Route 3; Harborside Condominiums; Norm Dicks Government Center; parking garage for the shipyard; and the tunnel from the ferry terminal.

That may not be a complete list, and you may disagree with one or more items, but it illustrates what can be done when everyone focuses on one big idea.

Unfortunately, any area whose leaders don’t elbow their way to the table can be left out when a single-minded effort of this kind takes hold.

When the county’s Housing Authority obtained federal tax credits that could be used to attract private investment, Port Orchard was ignored until the final push to use all the allocated credits.

Perhaps a project on Bay Street can gain approval before time expires, but years went by with no effort to include this area.

Although passenger-only ferry (POF) service is extremely expensive, the effort to provide that service for Bremerton continues. Meanwhile, South Kitsap is at best an afterthought.

The last ballot proposition for higher taxes to pay for POF service would have perhaps included direct runs between Southworth and Seattle sometime in the future, and now there is little or no apparent intent to initiate such a run.

In part, Southworth POF runs are in limbo because of King County’s desire to include South Kitsap riders in a run combined with Vashon Island. Perhaps that’s how it will eventually happen, if enough people actually want it. But what is being done to make it so?

Did anyone else notice that the county funding which might have been applied to the Bethel Corridor project was used instead in the Silverdale area to open more land for development there?

Even when Bremerton is the focus, it is possible for others to move ahead.

Development along Bethel Road will happen, but without the road improvements planned years ago there is less chance that we will be pleased with the outcome.

Not long ago, state law was amended to provide state funding for local infrastructure projects in one area per county.

You should be able to guess which city is stealing a march on the rest of us to get that funding. Bremerton plans to create a development area and then apply for funding to extend its boardwalk and build a parking garage.

The available state funding is relatively small on a statewide basis, so Bremerton’s application will probably face stiff competition.

It would be nice to be in that competition, rather than watching from the sidelines. As our retail and commercial areas in and near Port Orchard attract more traffic, state funding could be helpful in building the needed infrastructure.

Before South Kitsap and Port Orchard can compete, we need to know that things like the federal tax credit program and the state funding for infrastructure exist – then we need people to go after the money.

Naturally, our government officials and public servants could be expected to do a lot of the work, but is it likely that they can catch up with “those guys” on their own?

Perhaps not, but it would be a good first step to elect someone to take Jan Angel’s place as county commissioner who could be expected to join the competition wholeheartedly.

Electing legislators who can work closely with our local leaders would help as well, since state laws and budget decisions may or may not be advantageous to us.

Even with the best team of elected officials we can muster, it seems that we need something more. We need a general idea of what we want to achieve, then we have to pitch in once in a while to help achieve it.

As you consider who ought to be elected this year, give some thought to the candidates’ apparent ability to get people involved and get things done.

Robert Meadows is a

Port Orchard resident.

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