Bremerton City Council members think they might be able to sit around a table and agree on long-term funding priorities. If they could it would mean that in one afternoon they would craft a list that would for years establish whether you would be able to:
A. Drive down your street without your tires shredding and injuring that hippie down the street raising chickens without a license;
B. Call police when someone has organized a sit-in on your lawn;
C. Complain to the city about your neighbor’s odiferous flowers;
D. Expect more than your neighbor’s hose when that bananas foster you were making gets out of hand;
E. Calm your nerves by letting a playground be your babysitter while the recipe kicks in;
F. Trust that even on a day that it snows you’ll be able to get to your job without relying on your neighbors’ dogs;
G. Build an outhouse within 5 feet of your property line.
It’s a question of priorities. I’m not sure an agreement on them could be hatched in a day without a poker game in which the winner gets to pick them. “We’d love to repave your street, m’am, but Brockus’ full house beat Runyon’s two pair.”During Tuesday’s conversation I thought to myself what priorities I might pick as the top ones. Like the council members, I see the value in just about every service the city provides. Some are more valuable than others, and if I was sure which value I would place at the top, I couldn’t tell you. For one, it would ruin my appearance of Olympian objectivity. Secondly, I’d be afraid someone would take me seriously.
For a moment Tuesday night, though, my opinion was clear. It happened after the meeting. I walked back to the office and then took a quick break. I left to go my car, parked in a lot between Park Avenue and Warren Avenue.
(Sidenote: I love that Bremerton has a Park Avenue. “Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue.”)
Between the Kitsap Sun building and the Navy parking garage, I decided to jaywalk. Sue me.
A few steps into the street I met one of the city’s most prominent citizens, the pothole. My ankle turned hard enough that I fell all the way to the ground, right there on the street before the observant eyes of . . . no one. Nobody else was out there.
My ankle hurt. It was worse than usual. I get ankle sprains a lot. I’ve been getting them since I was 14. I’m just lucky that way.
This one was worse than usual. It wasn’t crippling, but it hurt. I pushed myself off the street and continued walking toward my car, cursing the whole time at those children of rude mothers from the Deity punished city that won’t repair the highly affectionate streets.
“Streets should be the top priority!” my ankle yelled. “Quiet you!” I yelled back.
I suppose it points out why we have differences of opinions on what the city’s priorities should be. Nearly everyone on the council will say police and fire as first and second. Roads will either be in third or fourth. Things like reserves and parks and planning get dibs, too. But something colors our opinions about the order. For me in that moment it was the throbbing pain in each step.
That pain was worse on Wednesday. It’s better today. I’m moving around pretty well. If I was on the council, though, and we were meeting today about budget priorities, there would be a cry from under the table for better paved roads. On Monday I might have been less sympathetic. I’m not saying.
This is all to say that if the council can decide in one or two meetings the spending direction it will take for the next several years, it will take getting agreement from council members who have also sprained ankles, damaged tires, seen their homes burglarized, enjoyed parks, planned development or needed medical aid at home. It isn’t just ideology that colors priorities. It’s experience, as well. To get them to quickly agree on what comes first, second, third, fourth and on would be quite a feat.