For once, politicians went with the flow

Just when it seems politicians can never behave in ways that do anything other than add to the public’s cynicism, along come a few who break the mold.

At Monday’s meeting of the Port of Manchester commissioners, each one stood up and summarized his understanding of the community’s feedback on the proposed “industrial development district” and its related property tax.

And, one by one, they stated their belief that, in light of the feedback, it’s not a good idea to go ahead now with the IDD.

Residents of the port district could not have stopped the creation of the IDD or the levying of the additional tax. Voter approval isn’t required for either one.

Nevertheless, the port commissioners recognized that the authority to do something doesn’t provide its own justification.

Unless the people who would pay a new tax support the idea, going ahead with the proposal would risk losing the public’s esteem.

Manchester is a gem because of its small-town character. A gem can be cut and polished, or it can be smashed by a mistaken blow.

As in every small town, there is a core group of people who get involved in voluntary efforts to improve their community and enjoy its activities.

For example, raising funds to maintain the community’s library building is a perennial effort, and the library is tied to the port district by the simple fact that it sits on port district land.

The port district’s comfortable fit into this community network is perhaps its most valuable asset.

Manchester’s port district may never return to its original purpose of moving people and goods by providing a ferry boarding site, but it can fill other needs and satisfy other desires.

Fundraising by volunteers can only go so far in providing the money needed to do things the majority of residents want to accomplish.

The port district’s ability to levy property taxes can be a vital element in providing revenue for things residents want, or it can damage the community spirit that makes Manchester a gem.

Unless volunteer efforts and the port’s taxing power complement each other, less can be done.

To their credit, the port commissioners decided to avoid the risk an IDD levy posed to the sense of community that Manchester can’t lose without losing its character.

They did more than provide an opportunity for residents’ comments — they heeded them.

Now they face the difficult task of determining the community’s desires and then acting to implement those desires.

Several obstacles have to be overcome, not the least of which is to inform district voters of the possibilities.

The core group of active people, by their very nature, have ideas they would like to see put into effect.

The rest of the community has to be sold on those ideas. People will spend their disposable income on things they want, so they first have to be persuaded to want something.

It’s a safe bet that no project will be wanted by everyone, but a solid majority is good enough.

People who live within sight or earshot of the port’s facilities may worry that the peaceful enjoyment of their own homes and neighborhood would be disturbed by a change.

Those living farther away may give little thought to the port’s assets or activities, but a lack of worries doesn’t equal a desire for change.

The port commissioners have proven their willingness to heed residents’ feedback, and now they need more residents to let them know what is wanted.

An idea that seems to have majority support would be worth the cost of an election to obtain voter approval of a property tax “lid lift.”

Determining that a ballot measure is likely to succeed requires more than commissioners willing to listen — residents have to talk to them.

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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