Opinion

Even curmudgeons smile once in a while

Once in a while events provide reason for hope, even for us curmudgeons.

After struggling for so long against arbitrary interpretations of arbitrary rules, the Olympic Gun Club finally turned its attention to the issue which should have been foremost — determining whether a firearms range could be built near Bear Lake without unreasonably diminishing neighbors' peaceful enjoyment of their property.

Not surprisingly, they found that the range could not be built in the intended location and decided to search for another site.

Imagine the time, effort and cost that could have been saved if the project's opponents had focused on the issue that mattered rather than attempting to use a clumsily written set of rules to delay and defeat the proposal.

We skeptics tend to doubt the motives of others, but sometimes other people really mean what they say.

The Olympic Gun Club officials said they wanted to move away from Gig Harbor because of the impact of their activities on their neighbors. If true, they wouldn’t seek to impose the same sort of problems on new neighbors.

The current situation indicates they meant what they said, and gives reason for hoping that when they select another site for their new range they will focus first on achieving their stated goal of eliminating a problem for their current neighbors without transferring the problem to new neighbors.

If they follow through on their stated intentions, maybe next time everyone can avoid wasting time and money playing games with the rules and instead look to see if the right to develop the club’s property can be acted upon without trampling the property rights of people who would be their neighbors.

For those who were surprised by the club’s decision to abandon plans to build on the previously chosen site, perhaps it’s time to step back and consider whether you had too little faith in the stated intentions of others. (But don’t abandon your distrust of the ability of officials and bureaucrats to recognize the merits of your arguments. There’s a big difference between hopefulness and naiveté.)

On another front, there was the decision of Kitsap Transit’s board to recommend approval by the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) of a proposal to operate privately run passenger-only ferries.

Finding reason for hope takes a little more imagination regarding the ferries, since the private operators would have an ongoing relationship with Kitsap Transit.

Nevertheless, as reported on April 7, the UTC might perform its regulatory function in a way that contradicts every principle seemingly held dear by bureaucrats and elected officials.

According to reports, one of the private individuals who would be involved in operating the ferries believes the UTC will require proof that the proposal is a “sound business venture” and that “there is a need...for it.”

Imagine what would happen if that were how the UTC operates, and if that idea spread like a contagion among other government entities.

Instead of collecting taxes to pay for the operation of virtually empty buses during the hours when there is no demand for mass transit, our officials would recognize that such expenditures are wasteful and meet no community need.

Instead of proposing a tax increase for the operation of passenger-only ferries, as they did, our officials would see that “full-service foot ferry operations” is a euphemism for wasteful operations during times of little or no demand or need for the service.

The possibilities are almost endless and entirely pleasant to consider.

Imagine a state Legislature filled with people who recognize that government can drain off only so much of the earnings of taxpayers without stifling economic growth. Then they would focus on sound ventures that meet the most important needs.

“Priorities of Government” would no longer be a slogan used only when putting together the budget in times of small revenue increases. It would be a basic budgeting principle at all times.

The Legislature would first determine what funding is necessary to provide a general and uniform system of schools for all children in our state, then fund that before turning to anything else. There is no higher community need to be met by the state government, nor is there a more sound way of meeting that need.

Government officials and employees at all levels would look at all the things their agencies do and cull out the activities that cannot pass the test of being both sound and meeting an actual community need.

Granted, there would still be times when the voters are talked into something that makes little sense, but perhaps there would be fewer people in government trying to talk them into it.

Things like Sound Transit’s boondoggle with the nation's most expensive commuter train system shouldn't have to happen often to prompt the majority of voters to pause before saying yes to such projects.

Fantasies, you say? Maybe so, but even curmudgeons are allowed to dream of a better world once in a while.

Robert Meadows is a

Port Orchard resident.

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