Elections, and more drama, beckon

Campaigns for elected offices at the local level could be interesting, if the candidates have something to say about their intentions and expectations.

Of course, the future can hold surprises that make it difficult or even impossible to do what the candidates had planned for their terms in office; so voters have to accept that not all campaign promises can be kept.

This year, positions on the Port Orchard city council, the Port of Bremerton board of commissioners, and the board of directors for the South Kitsap School District are on the ballot.

Each of these government entities has an important role to play, and the questions that arise when making public policy can be difficult to answer.

When we are fortunate enough to have more than one candidate willing to vie for election to these positions, we should hope to be offered a rational basis for choosing one rather than the other.

When candidates play it safe by speaking in vague generalities to avoid upsetting too many voters or setting goals that cannot be met, voters are left to make their selections based on little more than intuition.

Even if a principal campaign theme involves offering experience in office as a reason for re-electing the incumbent rather than selecting the newcomer, there is ample opportunity for the experienced person to summarize past decisions and describe the intended next steps.

Incumbents ought to be able to discuss their goals and the steps taken so far to reach those goals. Governing rarely involves making an unimpeded beeline to the goal, but something more than a random walk from one issue to the next should be evident.

Challengers have to show their understanding of steps taken in the recent past and indicate what they would do in the near future.

Unless voters are really dissatisfied with the incumbent, merely offering a new face and apparent enthusiasm is rarely a good substitute.

Since Cheryl Kincer has decided not to run for re-election as a commissioner for the Port of Bremerton, any desire by voters to oust yet another person responsible for imposing the property tax increase to pay for the expanded Bremerton marina will apparently be irrelevant.

Nevertheless, candidates for port commissioner ought to understand how that tax increase was accomplished despite the voters’ right to place it on the ballot for their approval or rejection, since the newcomer must find a way to restore the voters’ trust.

Merely stating that any tax increase by the port district should be put on the ballot hardly demonstrates an understanding of the circumstances.

Except for the usual annual increases of one percent plus the amount resulting from new construction, any future property tax increase must go to the voters for approval.

The special six-year levy to pay for the marina was the last of the port’s authority to impose such a big increase without voter approval.

Now, the important question is whether the continuing property taxes paid to the port district would be used for worthwhile purposes.

Candidates for the Port Orchard city council have an opportunity to discuss ideas for redeveloping the old downtown along Bay Street and annexing what could be a new commercial and retail core along the Bethel corridor.

Do they see these as competing or complementary efforts?

This economic recession will end some day, so it’s important for the city council to lay the groundwork for desirable development during the economy’s recovery.

Candidates for the South Kitsap School District board will face tough decisions in the coming two years to keep the needed personnel and maintain the buildings with less revenue available to them — a difficult balancing act.

Later in their terms in office, they will probably have relatively more revenue.

Then they could decide how to use it to improve our schools rather than simply put back whatever had to be cut.

School board candidates could give the voters an idea of their priorities, so the outcome won’t often be a total surprise when hard policy decisions are made later.

Let’s hope we have an interesting campaign season this year.

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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