Opinion

Time to chime in about what's wrong with PO

As I read your article describing the mayor forum, I wished I could have to been there to ask Mayor Jay Weatherill a few questions.

One would probably have been “Do you support the city’s undemocratic treatment of its citizens?”

We had to move from Port Orchard recently because the mayor and some of his “good ol’ boys” on the council made conditions undesirable for us there by being undemocratic.

A few years ago, when the new City Hall was built, they had four loudspeakers mounted on the building’s roof. When city hall opened they began blasting computer-generated chime sounds across the surrounding area.

It’s a harsh, penetrating sound, not pleasant, as with real chimes. And they’re loud.

The Washington State School Code prohibits building a school where the noise levels are as high as the chime sounds (must be less than 70 decibles). These chime sounds are made every 15 minutes, all day long, every day. It disturbs many people because the area around city hall is mostly residential. The people have asked for relief from the racket but the city seemed to ignore them.

The noise just went on as usual and the city said most people like it. Finally, a large group resorted a formal petition which asked for six specific modifications, all of which would have allowed the sounds to continue but at reasonable levels and intervals.

I was a member of that group. There were 132 signatures on the petition and it is on file at City Hall. None of the requests in this petition were granted.

Another petition was submitted shortly after ours. This one was circulated by a then-council member’s wife and represented 45 people. That petition is also on file.

It was not very specific and could be interpreted by the mayor and council to be requesting exactly what the the city wanted. The city granted all the requests of that minority petition, one of which was to reduce the noise volume.

The amount of reduction requested was not specified, so they turned it down very little (about 5 decibels). Now we have a range of sounds up to a maximum of about 78 decibels instead of 83.

The city will quickly offer, in its defense, that it has reduced the volume. And it’s true; but they reduced it just enough to be able to say it was reduced. They have also claimed a reduction by half, which is not only false but ridiculous.

They seem to have no idea how much it was reduced but probably know it is far from the maximum of 60 decibles we requested. It is difficult to know whether their ignorance is entirely genuine or if they are pretending to be ignorant as a means of achieving their own ends.

We left Port Orchard for two reasons. One was to avoid stress caused by the objectionable chime sounds. The city was to be our retirement home in a few years and we should have been disappointed to leave but we just felt fortunate to get out.

Some others would like to escape the noise but are unable to go. One retired couple in their 70s who had lived there long before this racket began suddenly found their golden years turned wooden by the chime sounds.

They are closer to City Hall than we were and I regretted that they were not able to move away. Moving was really their only hope after pleading extensivly with the council for more reasonable use of the loudspeakers.

It’s very discouraging when I think of how the chime sounds are made just for entertainment (mostly the council’s entertainment, I think).

The other reason we left Port Orchard is because the city has a problem with democracy. Not only did they recognize a minority instead of the majority, but they re-wrote their noise ordinance to allow the chime sounds which were suspected of violating the existing noise ordinance.

All of this can be documented with the city’s own records.

Most of the people of Port Orchard are not affected by the chime noise and there is no reason to be concerned except for the harm it does others. On the other hand, there is a reason to be concerned about the way the city does things.

In this case, I believe the mayor and most — but not all — of the old-timers on the council have governed with just about the maximum amount of tyranny the city’s sovereignty will allow. And I think they get away with it because too many of the people of Port Orchard are not interested in politics or are afraid of reprisals.

Reprisals were used against me and some of that can also be documented by city records. I’d like to write to you about that another time.

Sound Off is a public forum. Articles are selected from letters to the editor or may be written specifically for this feature. Robert Ruffner is a former Port Orchard resident.

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