Thoughts on Kitsap County: Judicial integrity, SEED analysis and toll honesty

A few quick thoughts on some of the issues floating around Kitsap County these days:

• First, we applaud Superior Court judicial candidate Bruce Danielson for his principled decision to not accept campaign contributions from area attorneys.

It obviously doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate the inherent conflict of interest in a judge taking money from people who one day will almost certainly find themselves arguing in his court.

Danielson’s opponents for the seat being vacated by the retiring Leonard Costello have made no such pledge and point out that Danielson wasn’t getting contributions from local lawyers to begin with.

They snarkily argue it doesn’t take much principle to turn down money you’re not getting.

That may or may not be true, but at least Danielson’s stance is a bit less insulting on the face of it than the other candidates’ flimsy argument that, “Hey, I’m running for judge. Of course you can trust me.”

If you’re going to trust someone whose work you’re unfamiliar with anyway, it just seems like picking the candidate who at least recognizes the potential for conflict of interest and shies away from it is a pretty good place to start.

• Meanwhile, we’re a little nervous at the choice of Berk and Associates, a Seattle-based “policy and management consultant,” as the firm that will evaluate the viablity of the Port of Bremerton’s Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project.

SEED is currently on hold until an outside consultant can determine whether or not the concept pencils out. Most immediately, the analysis will go a long way toward convicing the Kitsap County commissioners whether or not to follow through on a pledge of $1 million to the project.

We’ve made no secret of our belief that SEED is little more than a publicly financed scam and that neither the Port of Bremerton nor the Kitsap County commissioners should be funneling taxpayer dollars into a “business incubator” whose tenants intend to create products whose profit potential is so shaky that no private investor will take a chance on them.

Berk and Associates, according to Port of Bremerton CEO Ken Attebery, is “currently pretty significantly involved in analyzing the clean technology sector for the Puget Sound Regional Council.”

That’s helpful. But we’d be more comfortable having the project reviewed by a hard-headed investment banker with a track record of success making money for its clients.

SEED isn’t an academic exercise. It’s a sizable investment of the taxpayers’ money, and the key factor in determining if the project lives or dies should be its prospects of making money, not whether or not an environmental activist believes it could possibly, potentially help save polar bears.

• Finally, one of the most controversial aspects in the decision to build the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge — back before it was built, that is — was the cost of the tolls.

Washington State Department of Transportation officials projected a toll of $3 per round-trip and later amended that by setting a rate of $1.75 for drivers with an electronic transponder on their windshields.

Critics of the plan, meanwhile, argued that the $3 toll was set artificially low in order to win support for the bridge and amounted to little more than a “grand opening special,” after which the tolls would be raised significantly.

Bridge backers scoffed at the idea, of course.

So here we are, a year after the bridge’s opening, and as of this month the toll has jumped by $1 — and who knows how much more it will cost next year.

Is anyone familiar with how the bridge came to be surprised to hear yet another reason why it never should have?

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