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Noise online; silence in person

December 8th, 2011 by Steven Gardner

The Bremerton City Council, as many of you have read, passed a $20 car tab fee Wednesday night. For all the gnashing and flailing going on in the story comments section, you would think it was highly controversial.

When the council was considering it, though, the masses that had earlier packed the first-floor chambers of the Norm Dicks Government Center were mostly gone. Sure, you could say the meeting was poorly advertised, and that it was late. But the meeting when the council considered the idea in July was well advertised and was held while the sun was still shining outside. (That’s easier to do in the summer, and impossible this time of year.) No one came to discuss it either time.

Wednesday’s meeting had a large contingent on hand to advocate in favor of additional funding for the Admiral Theatre, a smaller group there to support a $25,000 expenditure for the Youth Wellness Center and the largest group of all there to grill the council on its 2012 budget.

When it came time for the car tab discussion one Bremerton citizen, Bob Dollar, was there to ask a single question about how long the new tab would last. A few others had stayed but had no comment. All the debating was left to the council.

And yet, when the council finally made the move it had considered a few times before, the boo birds lept to their keyboards, having failed to leap to their feet before.

And that’s kind of the point. During this budget cycle most of the comments about car tab fees have been residents saying the council should do it.

My thought in July, when hardly anyone (Myself included. I was on vacation.) showed up for the meeting when the council was discussing the issue the first time, was that Bremerton residents were essentially giving the council permission to do what it did last night.

Sure, Bremerton voters said “no” to a car tab fee in 2009, a $30 fee. But based on the lack of outcry every time the council has discussed a $20, or $15, tab since, the second message seems to be “If you’re going to ask me, I’m probably going to say, ‘no.’ But if you do it without asking, that’s probably fine”

Nowhere here am I saying that what the council did Wednesday was right or wrong. But residents had their chance to make their thoughts clear on the subject, and the silence was every bit as loud as the arguments against the 2012 budget proposal the council put off approving Wednesday.

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9 Responses to “Noise online; silence in person”

  1. Ducttapeo1 Says:

    Because Bremerton just loves to put lipstick on a pig. But if you remember the Library and Veterans/Homeless levy attempts, they went down. The Vet levy went down with more than 60% against it.

    Bremerton has a lot of whiny people. Those that don’t follow through on voting. Just a bunch of people in t-shirts. And that money won’t go to fixing streets. They’ll spend it on something else…..

  2. RM Parker Says:

    Mr. Gardener:

    I agree with you. I was one of those that stayed for the entire council meeting and then some. I was a little amazed at the silence also. I expected a strong response to be heard but heard crickets.

    I was actually for the tab increase chose not to speak against the measure. I had already expressed my concerns in the workshops presented before it was finalized. I am still a little concerned with the wording as to specific tasks to be accomplished with the license tab increase.

    I have approached my council person by phone with my concerns and have been told that further specifics would be made available to me.

    My first concern with the final proposal was if it was the same streets as the first proposal and if labor was allocated in the final. The first time around it was a “materials only” being presented without a labor allocation with an already strained PW staff.

    My second concern was the roads being fixed in the first year included our current and former mayors. I think that looked a little bad to the citizens even if it could be justified by condition.

    I think you may have overlooked that their was input at the workshop study session however I didn’t see you in attendance. Maybe I just missed you.

    I think the timing of presenting it for vote was picked very carefully and to good effect on the cities part. As a citizen you could really look like a fool standing up to save some of those loosing their jobs that we really need in one breathe just to return to the podium and rant to not provide any funding for those same employees.

    I think the citizens and the council have to find a new balance and way forward that has to include some revenue and some cutting out the unnecessary.

  3. Colleen Smidt Says:

    @ Ducttapeo1. No it won’t. Many of us in the “shirts” have ensured that the language was implemented where the money can not and will not be used for anything but roads. We have been over the budget line item by line item and have been pointing out any discrepancies we find at meetings and in our posts on the stories related to any city budget issue. Many of us have also had direct one on one extensive conversations with the Mayor, the Finance Director and several City Council members on this issue. Many of us have also been talking to the city workers who will be involved with these repairs. They are well aware that we will be watching and monitoring what goes into the fund and what is expensed out of it which is all public record.

    Be dismissive and insulting if you want of those who are involved. It matters not to us and we will keep serving our community and doing what we are doing.

  4. Colleen Smidt Says:

    Steven, please keep in mind that city council meetings were not the only place and situation this issue was discussed. So correlating attendance, from only a fraction of the overall venues, is really not representative of the actual level of interest or involvement by citizens on or around this issue.

    I know for a fact it was a well attended and involved discussion at both of the District 5 meetings held by Greg Wheeler this year that were attended by several other council members. I have also received feedback that it was discussed at other citizen attended council district meetings over this past year. I personally heard it brought up at council candidate meet and greets that were held over the summer and right before the election as well.

    That is why many of us in the shirts did not stick around for the vote by the transportation committee. We had heard all of the arguments for and against. We had said our peace to our representative council members and to other council members as well. They all knew where we stood on the issue. We knew going into the general meeting that it had enough support and votes to pass.

    I even commented on the car tab story, that I found it interesting that most of the comments where on that particular item when in fact the general council meeting with the overall budget items had a much greater impact on citizen pocketbooks and reduced public services than the $20 car tab fee would and that story received significantly less comments.

  5. Steven Gardner Says:

    Let me clear up my point. I think no one spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, because in large part Bremerton residents support the car tabs. Robert and Colleen bring up good points that I didn’t, that residents did weigh in at other meetings.

    If there is another case to be made on this, it’s that sometimes there isn’t a lot of passion behind the answer to a yes-no question. Voters in 2009 were given a yes-no option on car tabs and large numbers said “no.” But they said “no” to $30, and we have no idea how much of a struggle it may have been for some of them to arrive at that answer. Does being against a $30 car tab mean opposition to car tabs generally?

    Look at how easily I-1183 passed this year, even though two similar measures lost a year ago.

    Residents, at least a vocal bunch, are clearly not in favor of the staffing cuts the mayor suggested in her budget. The council isn’t either and has reduced those cuts by nine employees so far. It isn’t all because of citizen outcry, but that outcry clearly has had an impact.

    When it came time to vote on car tabs, I think the silence from the audience said a lot.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Caucus

  6. Ducttapeo1 Says:

    @Colleen

    “Many of us”

    That’s right! They must realize that an active majority will hold and vote them out.

    What I don’t understand is the amount of money spent to “beautify”, when the streets are so bad. I don’t live in Bremerton. I commute through it. And I will not patronize any establishment there until the parking is cleaner, monitored, and the streets are properly maintained. I used to have a monthly paid downtown parking spot.

  7. Larry Croix Says:

    As for attending public meetings. Many years ago numerous states had a poll tax–a fee the state required in order to vote. This tax was intended to prevent minorities and poor people from voting and as such was found unconstitutional.

    It infuriates me that citizens who attend public meetings of their governing bodies have to pay for parking to attend many of the meetings. No one in this county should have to pay a parking fee to address their government.

    Maybe more people would attend if they didn’t have to pay today’s poll tax.

  8. Jane_Rebelowski Says:

    Steven, You get paid to attend council meetings,a good majority of Bremerton residents need to take leave from their jobs in order to attend meetings. Keep in mind we are still allowed to send emails, attend district meetings, etc. Your newspaper encourages anonymous postings,my guess many who pretend to be residents of Bremerton under one fake name also claim to be residents of another town under a different fake name.

  9. Steven Gardner Says:

    If by “encourage,” you mean “allow,” then you are correct. And you’re probably right on that last point. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that most of those complaining in our comments section about the car tab fee won’t have to pay it.

    My point was that all the complaining in the comments section did not reflect reality. Lots of people were there last Wednesday to speak out on other issues. The car tab issue did not generate a crowd, or much in the way of comments at the actual meeting.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Caucus

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