Opinion

Where is the Puget Sound Regional Council taking us?

Most should now know Commissioner Jan Angel is the only commissioner who had the gumption to vote against ratification of Puget Sound Regional Council’s (PSRC’s) VISION 2040, taking us now to the next step of regional government. Commissioner Josh Brown voted for it. Commissioner Steve Bauer was absent from the vote. (Whether by accident or design, we don’t know.)

Commissioner Brown seems to have no uncertainty regarding the move to regional government. Commissioner Bauer has yet no voting record on this issue, although he has publicly stated his awareness something is wrong. He has so far claimed that PSRC difficulties are merely Kitsap County’s failure to do its homework.

On May 9, Commissioner Brown was quoted (Port Orchard Independent) at a Conservation Voters forum that he opposed the NASCAR track facility because “the legislation they wanted to pass would have taken the land-use authority away from the county.” Yet his vote on April 24 has provided the only affirmative Kitsap Commissioner vote on VISION 2040. It’s as though he doesn’t know that what he fears is precisely what VISION 2040 does (or will soon do) to Kitsap’s land use authority. Nor does he recognize that is PSRC’s purpose. The April PSRC Resolution made it clear that Kitsap County has now consented to PSRC’s “integrated regional approach to growth management, the environment, the economy and transportation.” PSRC’s original scope of effort was to focus on regional transportation. Now there has been a sharp change in order and emphasis in the above words.

To capture a bit more of the scheme of things, this resolution also provides PSRC authority to insure “multicounty planning policies and related goals satisfy the requirements for regional guidelines under state law” and to make amendments to the PSRC “Regional Growth Strategy” prior to counties setting GMA targets, and to alter as necessary “implementations and measures” contained in VISON 2040.

Brown (and past Commissioner Bill Mahan, as well) have naively accepted false PSRC assurances these policies are only for “guidance to the counties.” Unless they know much more than they are telling the public, they are in for a surprise. Action is already underway to establish complete four-county regional government. On June 3, Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners (KAPO) informed the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council (including the above naysayers) that we actually hold copy of internal PSRC correspondence citing their dialogue with lawmakers for such legislation.

Consider for a moment. Why in the world would any Kitsap resident (or commissioner) want such a thing? Why would any of us vote to place Kitsap under governance of eastside King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, which hold 96 percent of the population? In a projected popular vote of the four counties for regional government, how could Kitsap’s vote have any influence on the outcome? The same would be true on any future features of self governance.

It’s not as though Brown was alone. In fact, nearly all the other Kitsap representatives also voted “yes.” (Commissioner Angel had the only “No” vote.) Commissioner Brown also erroneously asserted that VISION 2040 was required by law by the Growth Management Act. Not true! Does he understand what is going on? I think we can also be confident Commissioner Brown did not significantly consult with any of the Kitsap junior taxing districts (schools, sewer, water, port, etc.) before he voted.

Commissioner Bauer, as stated, recognizes something is wrong between Kitsap and PSRC and currently attributes it to incomplete KRCC and county staffing. His city of Portland experience with the Trail Blazers owners also justifiably conditioned him to be skeptical of NASCAR’s exaggerations of Kitsap projected revenues from the NASCAR facility. (Nevermind the 350 days per year use of those park and recreational facilities Kitsap could have enjoyed.) His public pronouncements have some credibility and Brown’s do not.

Consider PSRC’s attitude itself. On March 27, when Snohomish County moved to amend VISION 2040 (to remove “contained communities” from VISION 2040 and PSRC jurisdiction), PSRC Executive Committee alternative member Richard Dole responded to Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon that “making any changes would be an insult to all the hard work our staff has done.” Later, on May 8 PSRC’s/KRCC’s Dale Rudolf stated that PSRC had successfully “quashed” Kitsap’s concerns over VISION 2040!

Should this all give a warm feeling to Kitsap citizens? Is PSRC what we want? Is this self-government? Where is our voice to our mayors, council members and commissioners?

KAPO is currently fact-finding regarding several other PSRC crucial issues, including transportation, economic development and land use. We will report the results publicly. This research includes how two major eastside cities are reputedly released from full participation in PSRC. If these facts should be confirmed, it will demonstrate that Kitsap doesn’t have to participate in all of PSRC’s activities to enjoy federal PSRC transportation funding! This is so far the only activity cited as to possible benefit for Kitsap remaining in PSRC.

Kitsap should do its homework and follow such leads as this. We can think for ourselves regarding our best interests.

Karl Duff is the president of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners.

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