Junkets to D.C. the wrong idea at the wrong time

South Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido this week mailed out a press release heralding her return from a taxpayer-funded, four-day visit to Washington, D.C.

Granted, it was a business trip — she attended the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference and met with electeds to discuss Kitsap County’s piece of the federal stimulus pie.

This was on the heels of Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown’s trip to the nation’s capital ostensibly to stump for continued support of the county’s military presence.

In any other time, in any other economy, the trips would have been justifiable. In this time, and in this economy, not so much.

Back in November, when the county introduced its 2009 proposed budget, there was not a penny to be spared. In fact, a projected $5.9 million deficit (translation — money needed that simply isn’t there) was hanging over the county’s head.

Remember those snowplow drivers who were nothing short of saviors this year? Their wages come out of the county budget.

Maintenance for county parks? That, too, along with lots of other essential things.

Here’s the crux of the budget situation — people have less money to spend, generating fewer tax dollars for the county, so it has less money for services.

Meanwhile, county employees are losing their jobs. The budget called for an elimination of 12 positions, including two deputies.

Oh, and those agencies that rely on tax dollars to survive, like the Kitsap County Humane Society and the Kitsap County Health District? They’re projected to receive less funding from the county, too.

But in Kitsap County, apparently it’s more important for our county commissioners to get face time in the nation’s capital than it is for those extra deputies to be patrolling the streets.

Travel before safety. Those are the wrong priorities.

The next time the county commissioners want to beg for handouts, rather than spending thousands of dollars the county doesn’t have to visit in person, why not just pick up the phone?

— Reprinted from the North Kitsap Herald

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