City evokes 9/11 and Grey’s Anatomy in response to McCain stimulus report

The city has officially responded to the McCain-Coburn stimulus report, in which the Bainbridge police patrol boat was singled out as one of the worst uses of federal stimulus funding.

In a press release issued this afternoon, Interim City Manager Lee Walton said the report failed to take into account “significant relevant data,” including the police boat’s potential use as a safeguard against terrorist attacks on state ferries and the Winslow ferry terminal.

“The FBI has determined that WSF boats, which carry as many as 2,500 passengers during peak hours, could be attractive targets for terrorists seeking a loss of life comparable to that which occurred at the World Trade Centers,” Bainbridge Island Chief of Police Jon Fehlman said in the release.

And here’s the kicker:

“Fehlman noted that the popular television show Grey’s Anatomy gained significant attention for a storyline demonstrating the dramatic potential of such an attack,” the release states.

Read the full press release below.

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, December 10, 2009 – Senators Tom Coburn and John McCain issued a report yesterday criticizing the investment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds in what they assert are “silly and shortsighted projects.” The report, Stimulus Checkup: A closer look at 100 projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, identifies a $190,000 Department of Homeland Security, ARRA-Port Security Grant Program grant to the City of Bainbridge Island as an example of such funding.

The grant, awarded in August 2009, would fund equipment for the City’s police boat which would enable officers to rapidly detect and identify explosive materials that might be a threat to other vessels in Puget Sound.

The report identifies Bainbridge Island as a “tranquil hamlet” and suggests that the community has “little need” for such protection.

“It is apparent that there is significant relevant data which must not have been available to Senators Coburn and McCain as they made their determination on this project,” said Bainbridge Island Interim City Manager Lee Walton.

Walton noted that the report fails to recognize Bainbridge Island as the terminus of the most heavily used route in the state’s ferry system – a significant “marine highway.” The Washington State Ferries (WSF) have been identified by the FBI as a high risk Homeland Security target.

WSF reports that ferries travelling between Seattle and Bainbridge Island in 2008 transported 6.2 million riders. Ferries travelling between Bremerton and Seattle, which pass through waters under Bainbridge Island Police jurisdiction, transported an additional 2.5 million. Together, these routes carried 38% of WSF’s riders. Ferries between Edmonds and Kingston, which transit just five police-boat minutes away from the island, carried another 4 million riders that year. (Source: Washington State Ferries Traffic Statistics Rider Segment Report, V3.11.)

“The FBI has determined that WSF boats, which carry as many as 2,500 passengers during peak hours, could be attractive targets for terrorists seeking a loss of life comparable to that which occurred at the World Trade Centers,” said Bainbridge Island Chief of Police Jon Fehlman. Fehlman noted that the popular television show Gray’s Anatomy gained significant attention for a storyline demonstrating the dramatic potential of such an attack.

A look at the statistics reveals that an attack on the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry line would have significant impacts on communities far beyond the island. While WSF does not track place of residence for its riders, a calculation using their 2008 statistics reflects 16,948 rider trips per day on the Bainbridge-Seattle run. The current island population is 23,290, which strongly suggests that a significant number of these riders are non-residents. Recent U. S. Census Bureau documents estimate that 2,995 island residents commute using public transportation, further supporting the conclusion that a significant number of riders on the Bainbridge-Seattle Route are non-residents. (Source: Ibid; 2009 Washington State Office of Financial Management; U. S. Census Bureau 2005 – 2007 American Community Survey 3-year Estimates.)

Bainbridge Island is also home to WSF’s only Maintenance Yard, which serves all of the ferry system’s vessels and terminals. “This further increases the significance of island security in protecting the state-wide transportation system,” Fehlman said. “With the nearest Coast Guard facility 10 miles across the Sound, the Department of Homeland Security has determined that, if properly equipped, the Bainbridge Island Police Department can play a valuable role in supplementing Coast Guard efforts.”

“It is unfortunate that Senators Coburn and McCain were apparently unaware of the significance of Bainbridge Island in our state and regional transportation when they developed their report,” Walton said. “It seems clearly evident that an investment of $190,000 is a worthwhile expenditure to protect the thousands of human lives and significant infrastructure which could be impacted by a terrorist act against WSF. We believe that this is a prudent investment and are proud of this expression of confidence in the Bainbridge Island Police Department.”

Fehlman stated, “The inclusion of the Bainbridge Island Police Department’s police boat in this report reflects grossly inadequate investigation. Our boat is equipped to provide protection and service as needed when called upon. This is not ’silly and short-sighted’. On the contrary, it is an example of utilizing available funding and resources to provide optimum protection to our community, the State of Washington and the general public.”

7 thoughts on “City evokes 9/11 and Grey’s Anatomy in response to McCain stimulus report

  1. Nice try Interim Manager Lee Walton with your spin on why we need these very sophisticated vessels on our inventory. Oh, and I know these come with all sorts of electronic, navigation and funding goodies but the scenario you lay out is too far fetched. 9/11 — Please !

    We have Seattle fireboats on ready along with Coast Guard assets alongside the ferry terminal. No matter how sophisticated these boy toys are, they are useless unless manned 7x24x365 to respond to your scenario. Where do the crews for these vessels reside? Silverdale? Poulsbo? What is the fastest they can get underway fully manned with qualified sailor/policemen?

    And Interim Manager, how about concentrating your attention on COBI core missions: fix the roads and land-side police security.

  2. Actually all they needed to say was, “Port Orchard’s police boat is a much bigger waste than ours”.

  3. This reminds me on Gov Jindal slamming the stimulus for including increased volcano monitoring – maybe they should cut hurricane monitoring.

    McCain also does not comment on the fact that it was HIS committee – Homeland Security – that authorized the inital purchase ($650k) for the more modern police boat in 2007. Of course that was during the Bush administration when no one cared who about earmarks and wasting money.

    I can’t believe McCain and Coburn are quibbling about $190k out of $152 BILLION in stimulus funding – I bet there was more pork money in the stimulus for their states than 1 boat.

  4. And what’s interesting is that beneath the spin, the city’s official response basically admits that McCain’s report is correct – the City of Bainbridge Island has no need whatsoever of the boat. They only have it in the unlikely event they are called on to backup the Coast Guard or the WSF.

    Then they follow this by, once again, trying the tired old ‘fear the terrorists!’ scare tactic, while ignoring the main point of the McCain report… Which is that stimulus funds were meant to be spent on job creation, not security.

  5. What a huge waste of money- NO way can this boat be justified. A horse for the street patrol would have been a better expenditure. And our inter-rim mgr. spent his time with this BS justification. He too must go. Lets just go back to County rule and be done with it.

  6. Unfortunately, very few in Congress or any other high elective or appointed office have ever run a business. They may truly believe that the things they’ve bought with the “stimulus” money would help put people back to work. Thus far, they’ve been wrong.

    The way to get people back to work is to loan money to small businesses. The government definition of a small business is one with fewer than 500 employees. These are the companies that write the most paychecks, not the brokerage firms or banks. Loan them the money, and when they pay it back, loan it to another. The banks just might figure out that this is a good business to be in and start lending again. Win-win.

    Instead, the money bailed out Wall Street and sent pork to every Congressional district, based on seniority. Hence, this ridiculous boat.

    Are the ferries an attractive terrorist target? Yes. Could a terrorist drive enough explosives onto a boat in a U-haul to sink it? Sure. Would the occasional dog patrol catch them first? I hope so. Would the patrol boat stop them? Duh, no.

    This press release is pro forma for gov’t officials. Don’t blame them. It is to be expected. Blame Congress and the administration wonks wo wasted so much taxpayer money.

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