Updated — Bainbridge’s Boat to NowhereDecember 8th, 2009 by Steven Gardner
2:55 p.m. Wednesday UPDATE: Tristan Baurick has more on the city’s response to McCain’s diss. It just gets better.
My close, personal friend John McCain (I’ve got a photo to prove he sat next to me on a bus.) thinks Bainbridge Island’s $190,000 grant to upgrade a boat he doesn’t think the city needed is among 100 projects in the federal government’s economic stimulus plan that either:
A. Create few jobs;
B. Benefit private interests over the public good; or
C. Make improvements where they are not necessary.
Some islanders wonder what an Arizona senator, or his Oklahoma partner Tom Coburn, knows about the needs of a Seattle suburb. Tristan Baurick wrote the story.
No matter that McCain got the best reception of his 2000 presidential campaign in Bremerton, in sight of Bainbridge Island. The man responsible for Sarah Palin’s fame gives little credence to the idea that the boat should be able to “test vapor or surfaces for microscopic traces of explosive material.”
Why? Because Bainbridge is a “tranquil hamlet,” and tranquil hamlets and cozy hideaways and quiet respites and snoozy doormats don’t need vessels that can sniff out bombs.
How tranquil is Bainbridge? Why, they’ve reduced their police force, because there is so little crime. At least, you might think the police budget cuts were painless from reading the McCain-Coburn treatise on wasteful spending in the federal government’s economic stimulus package: “After years of decreasing crime, the city turned to the police force as a source of budget cuts in 2009, trimming it to a force of 20.”
McCain and Coburn also wrote of the original Homeland Security grant that netted the island the new boat, “Bainbridge Island officials were at first puzzled, citing little need for such an advanced boat at the small locality, though it ultimately accepted the funds.”
There is some truth to that statement, but people will certainly interpret it to mean that islanders didn’t really ask for the vessel. A couple of Bainbridge city council members did question the original $600,000 grant to get a bigger boat, but much of the concern was in how much Bainbridge officers would be called on to do work the Coast Guard normally does, or whether island police should be helping with investigations on ferries and for the Naval shipyard.
A Bainbridge Island Review editorial offered manna to those who think islanders are loathe to mingle with those of us who live off island by asking ” . . . when exactly did Bainbridge Island become the regional provider for maritime safety?” and “Since when is it Bainbridge Island’s job to guard the ferry?”
It makes you kind of like the idea of that bridge from Illahee to Bainbridge, doesn’t it?
The editorial asserted that the money would better serve the island by paying for officers. Indeed, a few years later Police Chief Matt Haney was telling Patty Murray the city got a grant for a nice boat, but needed money for uniformed people to operate it.
The whole notion that “Bainbridge Island officials were at first puzzled” though, paints the picture that a fed urged the city without any request by the city to take the boat. That’s missing some nuance, for those of you inclined to do nuance. In fact, the city actively courted the grant money, then most islanders spoke in favor of accepting it.
There remains the question of how many jobs the $190,000 creates. Someone has to build the technology. Someone has to install it. The challenge appears to be in paying someone who can use it.
Whether the original or new grant was merited is probably worth arguing. But in the senators’ dismissive method of describing the Bainbridge allocation I’m reminded of Palin’s “‘thanks but no thanks’ on that bridge to nowhere,” which painted her as someone willing to turn down an ungodly sum of money for an unnecessary project without mentioning that Alaska did still get the money. They make a fine case, but for political reasons are willing to leave out context.
Read the report, but don’t stop there. There are footnotes. For once in your life read those, too.