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KRCC bypasses debate on PSRC membership

September 25th, 2012 by Chris Henry

John Powers of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance presented the newly revised “roadmap” for economic development in the Central Puget Sound region to the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council on Tuesday.

Kitsap officials had a heavy hand in drafting the Regional Economic Strategy, said Ed Stern, Poulsbo city councilman and board vice chair of the Economic Development District. That’s the body charged with revising the plan every five years so the region — made up of King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties — remains qualified for federal funding.

Stern had hoped that the presentation would include a forum on the relative merits of Kitsap belonging to the Puget Sound Regional Council, under whose umbrella the EDD now resides. It may seem like a lot of alphabet soup, but at issue is a longstanding argument in some camps that the interests of Kitsap County, with 254,633 residents, is overshadowed by the the three other, much larger counties, whose total population is nearly 3.5 million.

The PSRC is a quasi-governmental body that oversees planning for growth, transportation and economic development in the Central Puget Sound Region, which is unique in that federal transportation dollars it receives are allocated through recommendations from the PSRC, not through Olympia.

Alternatives proposed in the past have included leaving the PSRC and joining forces with the Jefferson and Clallam counties to the west or going it as a stand-alone entity. Former County Commissioner Jan Angel was part of the contingent arguing against membership in the PSRC. Former Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola found a lot not to like about the PSRC, including its Vision 2040 transportation plan, and yet he advocated keeping Kitsap’s “place at the table.”

According to Stern, a strong advocate of staying with the PSRC and a Democrat, the great PSRC debate crops up at each election cycle typically along party lines with some Republicans advocating separation. Stern had envisioned today’s meeting as a chance to ferret out any anti-PSRC sentiment among members of the KRCC board, which includes county commissioners, mayors, council members and tribal leaders. That forum didn’t happen.

“I was encouraging John to bring it up to put it to bed,” Stern said after the meeting. “But the leadership (on the KRCC board) already feels there’s consensus.”

In other words, the question of whether Kitsap should remain with the PSRC is not even remotely ripe for debate, as far the KRCC is concerned.

As for Stern’s theory about elections, Reporter Brynn Grimley was at this morning’s Eggs and Issues debate between North Kitsap Commissioner Rob Gelder, the Democratic incumbent, and Chris Tibbs, his Republican challenger. She said there was nary a peep about Kitsap’s membership in the PSRC.

Powers said Kitsap, though smaller than the other counties, competes handily with other PSRC affiliates. The Puget Sound Region is recognized as a player worldwide for its defense, advanced manufacturing and IT industries, all of which Kitsap County has, Powers said.

“Although we’re only seven percent of that population base (the whole Central Puget Sound Region), our output exceeds our population base,” Powers said. “I would submit to you as elected officials to join us (KEDA) in telling our story in the Puget Sound region and beyond, because we can compete on that stage.”

Powers said it makes sense for Kitsap to affiliate with the region to the west with which it shares so may of the same interests and attributes.

“We have a lot to contribute and offer to this region,” Powers said. “The logic is simple. Everyone knows there is strength in numbers. There are advantages in collaborating together.”

Debbie Lester, representing the Bainbridge Island City Council, noted that inadequate ferry service is one of the “choke points” standing in the way of Kitsap’s ability to compete with the other three counties and recognize its full economic potential.

Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson and Port Orchard City Councilwoman Carolyn Powers (no relation to John) both bemoaned the region’s lack of a central financial institution or development authority aimed at drawing or growing businesses. John Powers said that topic was discussed during the economic plan revision but it didn’t make the short list due to lack of resources at this time.

If any on the KRCC board who were present harbored separatist feelings about the PSRC, they did not share them.

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2 Responses to “KRCC bypasses debate on PSRC membership”

  1. Lary Coppola Says:

    While I’m not a proponent of Kitsap’s membership in PSRC, the simple truth is we have no stronger available option. PSRC hands out the transportation and other federal dollars for the entire region. Although we have a mere 7 percent of the population, we get slightly more (about 8 percent) of the money handed out. Were we able to become part of the Clallam-Jefferson Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RTPO), as the largest player, we would get a larger percentage of the available transportation money. The problem is, the total amount of dollars received would be less because a Kitsap/Clallam/Jefferson RTPO won’t begin to receive as much as King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties do. In this instance, a smaller piece of a much larger pie adds up to more dollars.

    Having represented all the Kitsap Cities except Bremerton at PSRC for one year, and as the alternate representative for 2 years, and serving on its Transportation Project Priority Committee for 2 years, what I strongly disagree with, is that PSRC holds sway over things like our Comprehensive Plans, and has the power to veto them if we don’t comply with the so-called “vision” of the other 3 counties. The problem with this is that both our “vision” and our NEEDS are substantially different than those on the I-5 corridor.

    Why Port Orchard voted against the Vision 2040 Transportation plan, was because the entire process seemed to have a predetermined outcome — which is to get us out of our cars. This is envisioned as being accomplished by tolling I-5, I-90 & I-405 (which has already happened), taxing you for every mile you drive with a Vehicle Miles Driven (VMD) Tax, and to turn existing lanes on state roads like Highway 16 and 3 into HOT lanes as has been done on Highway 167. It also advocates for giving municipalities the ability to toll their existing roads — roads that the citizens have already bought and paid for — and maintain with the taxes they already pay. We saw tolling the state’s main and secondary transportation corridors as a serious detriment to future economic development. In his enthusiasm for “regionalism” it appears to me John Powers (on whose board I also sit) may have missed this point.

    While light rail and other mass transit solutions such as buses work where there are mass citizenry to use them, Kitsap doesn’t have that kind of population base, and the geography and topography of our population centers make these solutions financially impractical. All one needs to do is look at how Kitsap Transit is struggling to prove that point.

    King County is the tail that wags the dog at PSRC, and in my view at least, Kitsap NEEDS to be independent of it, unless it is the desire of the majority of Kitsap residents to allow King County politicians to make the social engineering decisions that determine where, how, and under what conditions we will live here. The problem is — at least right now — is there’s no other viable RTPO to join, and no political will to create the alternative.

  2. Roger Gay Says:

    “Stern had envisioned today’s meeting as a chance to ferret out any anti-PSRC sentiment among members of the KRCC board, which includes county commissioners, mayors, council members and tribal leaders.”

    Mr. Stern here is one person who has anti-PSRC sentiment, me. I may not be in an elected position to join your fine group, but I do get to vote on some of the members staying in office. The PSRC is leading Kitsap Coutny down a pre-determined path that has been selected by King and Pierce Counties with little thought to what we in Kitsap County want or desire. As Larry says we would get less money by joining Clallam-Jefferson, but I think we would like the direction much better.

    It would make more sense to join with Mason, Jefferson, & Clallam Counties and move our effort to the west coast than dealing with the grid lock that King and Pierce County have become. It is to bad we have few if no elected officials who think out of the box. What we have are elected officials who follow the next shiny thing that dangles from King or Pierce County and yell squirrel!

    Count me as one who does not support PSRC or those who blindly follow it down the path. I read your 2040 vision and it was a joke for those of us in Kitsap County.

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