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
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,
“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.