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Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council debates legislative agenda
In the face of a $2 billion shortfall in the state's 2012 budget a collective of local governments and agencies will voice the most pressing local concerns to Gov. Chris Gregoire later this month.
The executive board of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council (KRCC) Tuseday met to discuss their legislative agenda for the Nov. 22 meeting with Washington State legislators.
"We must be collaborative and one voice as we move forward," said Mayor Patty Lent of Bremerton, and chair of the KRCC. According to Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown, the state is targeting over 2 billion dollars in cuts. This means that everyone will feel the crunch, including services like the fire department, police force, and schools.
The KRCC is responsible for allocating federal and state funding for such community services as well as transportation, housing, and growth planning.
In the Sept. 27 meeting, the executive board assembled a catalog of issues that needed their attention in the face of budget cuts. The resulting list was over twenty items long, causing the KRCC to rethink their approach.
"When it is a situation where everyone is adding proposals, it turns into a laundry list and it diluted. [Our demands] lose all effectiveness," said Josh Brown.
Brown explained that while the board wishes they could crusade for all programs, some fall into the category of "nice to do" rather than "must do" in these times.
The executive board proposed a four point plan.
The first point focused on the Growth Management Act (GMA) and making it work. This proposal involves encouraging the annexation of urban growth areas to cities with more comprehensive urban planning and tools to develop capital investments in the county.
"The board has a central function to regulate land use," Brown said. "With an obvious nexus to economic development in the area."
He explained that making GMA work is essential to urban growth sustainability and the future of Kitsap. The council members agreed that resources for managing the GMA should be protected.
The second focus was on transportation. Brown explained that while WSDOT programs are important, statewide funding for local transit should also be in place. The board will approach state legislators for support with county and city roads, local highways, and ferries.
The third focus was on growing local jobs and tourism. Mayor Larry Coppola of Port Orchard critiqued the current management of the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA), the so-called industrial basket of Kitsap County.
"What incentives do we offer businesses to locate in SKIA? I would go further to say that the current plan discourages development rather than encourages it," said Coppola.
Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Carrido added that resourcing government contracts to locally is also key.
"It is important to keep our funds in the community and source locally as much as possible," said Garrido.
Fourth is the consolidation of public services. Coppola explained how this was done in the past with the fire district.
"Twent years ago, we had many more fire districts. Now it's been streamlined and consolidated. We can do that again, giving voters the flexibility to pick their level of service," said Coppola.
However, Coppola does acknowledge that consolidation will likely run into problems.
"Every jurisdiction has its own little fiefdom. No one wants to give it up. Everyone protects their own butt and managers don't want to lose their jobs," said Coppola.
Discussion of the four points left Mayor Becky Erickson of Poulsbo and Council member Kim Brackett unsatisfied.
"What i think is missing from this discussion is education," said Brackett.
Erickson agreed on the point of education saying, "Education is the real life bud of our community that got hammered again. You don't decimate your colleges and universities if you want a strong society in 15 years."
Both Erickson and Brackett pushed for a fifth point of discussion to be added to the board's list. This point would look at education and community health and safety.
"I was so distressed by what I saw in the governor's budget cuts. Children, poor people, and health care. Are we going to balance the state budget by absolutely decimating our vulnerable population," said Erickson.
Brown, while acknowledging the importance of education and a community safety net, was reluctant to add a fifth point.
"If the fifth bullet becomes, don't cut anything we like, then it's not fair to the state either," said Brown.
He instead suggested that the board request legislators consult with them before making cuts to those programs.
Mayor Lent said that the board would be remiss not to bring up education and public safety net with legislators. However, the board will have to discuss how this fifth point will be framed.
"It's a moving target," said Lent. She concluded that the board must stay on their toes and flexible with whatever they are thrown.
The KRCC executive board is scheduled to meet with state legislators on Tues, Nov. 22.