Port of Manchester IDD: Take the Poll

Should the Port of Manchester form an industrial development district to buy land for a future community center? Read the post, then take the poll on the homepage of this blog.

Port of Manchester to Revisit IDD Tax Monday
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Manchester Library

Revenue would be used for land acquisition and debt service.
By Chris Henry
Port of Manchester Commissioners will vote Monday on whether to form an industrial development district, a taxing district affecting property owners within port boundaries. Revenue from the IDD would fund the purchase of a downtown Manchester property that could some day be developed as a community center.
The IDD, which does not require a public vote, would allow the port to move quickly on the purchase while property prices remain low, said Alan Fletcher, contract administrator for the port.
Strong resistance to the new taxing district at the port’s Aug. 10 meeting led the board to defer the vote and leave the record open for a month. Some who testified supported the IDD, but opponents loudly protested the tax increase and called for at least an advisory vote on the matter.
Under the IDD the port could collect up to 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in addition to the current levy (just more than 14 cents per $1,000 for 2009) for up to six years. Port commissioners estimate they would need to collect 20 to 25 cents per $1,000 to purchase the land.
Fletcher calculates the proposed tax would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $57.50 per year. The IDD tax is temporary and would expire at the end of the six years.
The proposed community center on the site eyed for purchase is part of the port’s parks and recreation plan, developed with community input. The center would be developed in the future in partnership with civic groups and would likely include an expanded library with space for community activities.
A portion of the IDD revenue would go to retire debt related to expanded parking at the port’s marina.
Port commissioners Steve Pedersen and Daniel Fallstrom, who were elected in 2008, expressed disapproval during their campaigns for the Port of Bremerton’s IDD, formed in 2006 to pay for the new Bremerton Marina. That IDD, which was not well publicized, became a political albatross for the Port of Bremerton.
Fallstrom in 2008 said Port of Bremerton residents should have had a say about the new tax that was set at the full amount allowed by law and in many cases more than doubled individual property owners’ payments to the port. Asked why he did not support an advisory vote for the Port of Manchester’s IDD, Fallstrom said, “It’s too late to do that this year, and cost for a special election would be $15,000, which the port can’t afford.”
Fallstrom added that Manchester’s IDD would not be as costly to property owners.
Residents who favor the community center have told the board they want to secure land for future generations rather than seeing it lost to development, Fallstrom said.
“What we’re trying to do is we have a great opportunity here to get things for the future generations at a great price,” he said.
Fallstrom would not say how he will vote on Monday.
“This is one of these hard decisions elected officials need to make. We’ll just wait ’til Monday and see what the three of us decide,” he said.
Pedersen said the board made extra efforts to seek residents’ opinions on the port’s future in part because of Bremerton’s debacle. He was a proponent of the recently formed port advisory committee whose input led the board to float the IDD. Responses from residents during and after the public hearing have given him pause.
“It’s really made me step back and take a good hard look at the authority and power to tax people, and I take that very seriously,” said Pedersen. “Just because an IDD is a tool, it doesn’t mean you take it out of the tool box and use it.”
Long-time commissioner Jim Strode, who is running unopposed in the upcoming November election, said at the meeting in August, “If I go down in flames for any decision we have to make, I’m OK with that.”

Here’s a map of the Port of Manchester:

9 thoughts on “Port of Manchester IDD: Take the Poll

  1. “If I go down in flames for any decision we have to make, I’m OK with that.”

    I’m sure the commissioner is speaking metaphorically, but… according to reports, the Port’s public input was overwhelmingly AGAINST the imposition of an IDD levy. Ignore that and you take us closer to the day when your metaphor is our reality. And I’m not “OK with that”.

  2. Asked why he did not support an advisory vote for the Port of Manchester’s IDD, Fallstrom said, “It’s too late to do that this year, and cost for a special election would be $15,000, which the port can’t afford.”

    Why didn’t the port commissioners put a “lid lift” proposition on the ballot for November’s election? It could accomplish the same thing regarding a revenue increase, if the voters approved it.

    Why did the commissioners wait to bring the idea of a tax increase up for their decision until it was too late to put any measure on the November ballot?

    To say that the cost of an election makes it impractical to ask the voters to approve increased revenue, one must first conclude that the voters would almost certainly reject the ballot measure if given an opportunity. If one believed that the majority of voters within the port district favored the idea, then the cost of having a measure on the November ballot would not be a problem–the lid lift would provide the small amount to pay the election costs as well as the dollars needed to implement the commissioners’ wishes.

    Is that why the commissioners chose to delay a decision until it was too late to put a measure on the ballot? Did they already figure out that the majority of voters would reject a tax increase?

  3. Bluelight,

    If a commissioner (or any other elected official) believes that what they are doing is in the best interest of the community, even if it isn’t popular, why would you have a problem with them voting their conscience? Isn’t that what you elect them to do?

    I think I am elected to vote using my conscience and intellect. I’m not elected to take a poll and see which way the wind is blowing and vote accordingly.

    My vote in November goes to the candidate whom I think has an intellect and a conscience that is most in sync with my own about the role of government, law, and order. I will not always agree with how they vote on a particular issue. But I refuse to adopt the mentality that my elected officials are elected to always do what the majority of their constituency wants them to do.

    If that were the case, we should change to a true democracy… where everyone votes on every issue requiring a decision. But alas, the United States is a representative republic, where we vest the voting into our elected officials who shouldn’t consider whether it is more popular to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but should consider what is best for the citizenry.

    Then, if the majority aren’t satisfied with how that elected official exercised that vested authority, they can vote him/her out of office.

    I’ve had people tell me that if I don’t vote a certain way, I’ll not get elected again. My response has been pretty consistent… “let those chips fall where they may”. I don’t always agree with Jim Strode, but on this, I agree with him 100%. He is taking responsibility for how he will vote and understands that the chips will fall where they may the next time he is up for election.

    Kathryn Simpson

  4. Kathryn, when voters elect their representatives, are they entitled to rely on what the candidates say prior to the election?

    Read the article for which Chris Henry provided a link in the blog entry:

    Acting in accordance with one’s conscience ordinarily requires that one keep his word.

    So far as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing about the circumstances which would justify changing their minds about imposing a tax increase without voter approval of the increase by the people living within the port district.

    A lid lift approved by the voters could provide exactly the same amount of money over exactly the same period of time. There is nothing that requires them to use the “IDD” tax authority. (At least the Port of Bremerton commissioners could show that the only practical way to get enough money to fund the expanded marina was to use that tax power. Their evasion of the voters’ right to put it on the ballot was inexcusable, but they had a reason for using the IDD tax.)

    When a candidate says one thing while campaigning for election, then does another after being elected, even though nothing has changed to justify the flip-flop, conscience isn’t a word I would use to explain what is done–at least, not in a favorable context.

    The “IDD” tax is designed to fund harbor improvements and industrial development in “marginal land,” but the proposed use is the opposite of economic development. It’s very strange to see people who are apparently intending to prevent economic development by using a tax for the opposite of its purpose.

    The goal of putting a community center and library building on land to be purchased by the port doesn’t even appear to be within the state law’s objectives for a port district. But, if the voters approve a lid lift with that goal in mind, it would seem OK to construe the law’s meaning liberally to allow them to do so.

    What allows the port commissioners to avoid going to the voters for an OK? Not their campaign promises. Not any need to use the IDD rather than a lid lift. Nothing.

  5. What I object to, Kathryn, is the charade of public “input” on a foregone decision. If the input goes they way they want, the politicians trumpet they are following the “will of the people”. If the input doesn’t go the way they want they are “voting their conscience”.

  6. Bob and Bluelight,

    If a politician contradicts themself, I can understand concern. I wasn’t speaking to a person being contrary to their previous statements. I was speaking of how how I want my elected officials to decide how they vote on things.

    As for a ‘charade’ of public input on a foregone decision, I would be rather upset by that (and have been from time to time). But I will also say that sometimes it seems like an elected official is in a “can’t win” situation with some voters. Anything they say is perceived to have selfish motives. Frankly, that is why it seems so easy to me to just do what I think is best… at least if I get pummelled, I’ll get pummelled for being honest. 😉

    Kathryn Simpson

  7. And bullet ONE on the Port of Manchester’s “mission statement”?

    The Port of Manchester is committed to…

    wait for it…

    wait for it…

    wait for it…

    “being responsive to community input”.

  8. Chris, you are referring to the “industrial development district” as a “taxing district.” It is not a taxing district.

    The additional property tax would be levied by the port district, not the industrial development district.
    “(1) A port district having adopted a comprehensive scheme of harbor improvements and industrial developments may thereafter raise revenue, for six years only, and a second six years if the procedures are followed under subsection (2) of this section, in addition to all other revenues now authorized by law, by an annual levy not to exceed forty-five cents per thousand dollars of assessed value against the assessed valuation of the taxable property in such port district.”

  9. Bob, Blue-What-Ever, and remaining naysayers..

    I think it would be great to buy all the property the Port of Manchester
    considers to put aside for the future of the community – and then sell it all off to foreign investors to build the biggest, tallest, ungainly structures that pee-off the community the most. Then, this ‘Hamlet’ mentality finally gets what the people are howling for. Don’t you think Manchester can squeeze at least four more towering condo’s into it’s commercial district? We need a Dry Cleaners, Gas Station, larger Supermarket… heck, just let them build a Marina while they are at it. Sooo much better than a community center or other features in town that might serve the devout residents of this funky little Hamlet.
    Have a good day. See you at the Port Meeting hopefully. At least
    get involved and speak out rather than cower behind someone else.

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