Noise online; silence in personDecember 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.