Opinion

Port of Bremerton votes to waste millions more on SEED

The Port of Bremerton’s incomprehensible decision last week to accept a $2.58 million federal grant to fund its much-lamented Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project — and thereby obligate local taxpayers to come up with a similar amount, since the grant requires a one-for-one match — was portrayed in some circles as a vote on whether SEED would live or die.

It wasn’t.

With or without an infusion of $5 million worth of our money, SEED is destined to fail. The only question was whether the port commissioners would finally do the humane thing for all of us and just put the project out of its misery or demand that we continue to squander untold millions of dollars until it withers and dies a lingering, expensive death.

The commissioners — specifically Cheryl Kincer and Bill Mahan, who fancy themselves more business-savvy than the professional venture capitalists who apparently wouldn’t touch the green technology businesses that would inhabit SEED with a barge pole — opted to vote with their hearts, and our wallets, rather than their heads.

Commissioner Larry Stokes, who has been an outspoken SEED skeptic, wasn’t present for the vote. Evidently he couldn’t bear the sight of such profligate waste — and who can blame him?

Most assume the well-seasoned Mahan, whose term is due to expire in 2010, won’t seek re-election. Happily, this frees him to do whatever he pleases rather than worrying about what the voters think.

For her part, rather than come right out and admit she’d thumbed her nose at the taxpayers, Kincer insisted she was merely keeping all options open — including those dealing with the the not-insignificant question of how to pay for the port’s $2.58 million match.

But it won’t wash. Outside of a really big bake sale, the only way the port can come up with that kind of money without asking the voters for a lid lift is by substituting new general-obligation bonds in place of those the port was forced to sell in 1998 to pay for repairs to the Port Orchard Marina after it was damaged by heavy snow accumulation.

And Kincer knows it. Which means her Hamlet-like “to-tax-or-not-to-tax” soliloquy at last week’s meeting was as phony as the well-orchestrated parade of SEED shills who showed up at the public meeting to speak in support of the concept.

In case you missed it, the commissioners were treated to more than an hour’s worth of tearful appeals from would-be green-technology workers and/or entrepreneurs eager to spend your property tax dollars to spare them the inconvenience of a commute to jobs on the other side of Puget Sound.

These were accompanied by fanciful tales of favorable academic studies and newspaper accounts of the untapped potential of green-technology jobs, followed by the unquestioned highlight of the evening — an audacious bluff by ousted former Kitsap County Commissioner Tim Botkin, who hatched this whole harebrained scheme in the first place and has pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees along the way.

Botkin blustered that if the Port of Bremerton didn’t invest in his ponzi game some other public entity surely would. Naturally, he was vague on just who that might be.

Conspicuous by its absence, of course, was testimony from even a single private-sector investor willing to flush a dime of his or his clients’ money down Botkin’s sewer.

Because there aren’t any — and there never will be.

Ten years from now, if the taxpayers were patient enough to wait that long, SEED hucksters would still be promising profits around the corner if only we “invest” just a few million more.

Fortunately, it won’t come to that. The voters, in their infinite wisdom, will replace Kincer and Mahan over the next two years with comissioners who don’t think someone else’s hard-earned money is their personal piggy bank to be cracked open and spent on multi-million-dollar impulse buys.

And they’ll mercifully pull the plug on this terminal patient once and for all.

Just not in time to recover the millions Kincer and Mahan bilked us out of last week.

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