Tag Archives: Bremerton City Council

Prayers, pledges and Bremerton politicians

Some years back, the first time I covered Bremerton, a committed atheist began attending the Bremerton City Council meetings pretty regularly. This citizen was not going because of any God issues, but as many of you know the council has a regular practice of opening its meeting with the pledge and a prayer.

Around the country the issue is coming up, according to an AP story online Wednesday in the Seattle Times.

All these years I’ve wondered when the day might come when someone would express offense at the regular request to deity. I kept it to myself, though, because we reporters like to be somewhat cautious about where we start fights. This wasn’t an argument I wanted to be blamed for initiating. No one complained.

In 2007, when Bainbridge Island’s city council voted to stop saying the pledge of allegiance, then Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman told the council, following a pledge and a prayer, that he was glad his city did both. Council members chuckled and said nothing more.

That may continue in Bremerton and even if a fight does happen it doesn’t necessarily mean the city would have to stop praying. But there is some question whether the city would be willing to spend the money to defend its practice in court. And the AP story suggests that the silence of whatever opposition there might be won’t continue forever.

“Lawyers on both sides say there is a new complaint almost weekly, though they don’t always end up in court. When they do, it seems even courts are struggling to draw the line over the acceptable ways to pray. Some lawyers and lawmakers believe it’s only a matter of time before the Supreme Court will weigh in to resolve the differences.”

Bremerton is the only local entity I know of that starts with prayer, but the state Legislature and Congress do it too. It’s not just some ancient tradition of American backwaters.

In the meantime I suppose Bremerton’s meetings will continue to be led by representatives from the city’s different religions and traditions. No one is objecting.


No free B&O ride for manufacturing in Bremerton, yet

The Bremerton City Council voted 5-3 against a proposal that would exempt companies designated “manufacturing” from business and occupation taxes. The measure would have gone along with another provision, one that passed 7-1, to raise the exemption level for Bremerton B&O taxes citywide. The exemption means the first $80,000 in gross revenues will be exempt from the tax, up from $60,000. That question didn’t seem to cause too much heartburn, except for Adam Brockus, who wanted to postpone the vote to Dec. 5 to be part of the budget process.

Eric Younger, city councilman, said the mayor’s budget already included the cut and the administration had already said it could live without the estimated $50,000 the exemption will allow Bremerton business owners to keep. The bigger long-term effect of the ordinance is that the exemption will go up by $20,000 every year unless the council moves to do something different.

The council also considered eliminating the B&O tax for manufacturing. The city gets no income from it now, so Roy Runyon thought it made sense to cut it completely. Eric Younger suggested this week and last week that the South Kitsap Industrial Area is going to eventually need $200 million in infrastructure investment, some of which could be paid by the city out of B&O funds. He said it could make sense in the future to eliminate the tax if that meant an employer would set up shop in Bremerton, but that it might not be a good idea to throw out that card now. He also said an IT cluster might be what settles in SKIA, so why would manufacturing get the break.

Companies on port property, by the way, do get the B&O tax break, something that was negotiated in getting the port to annex into the city, an example of a card being played during negotiations.

The council voted 5-3 against elimination of the B&O tax for manufacturing. Younger, Faye Flemister, Carol Arends, Nick Wofford and Leslie Daugs were in the majority. Runyon, Adam Brockus and Greg Wheeler voted for the exemption.

Tie goes to the status quo in Bremerton

Two 4-4 votes meant no changes to the mayor’s salary in 2014.

The Bremerton City Council considered two options. One, the one City Councilman Roy Runyon proposed lowering the mayor’s salary from about $124,000 annually to $115,500, was based on a series of comparisons Runyon made with five other like cities, and then by pulling the highest and lowest of those two. He came up with a range of somewhere between $100,000 and $126,000 and decided to split the difference.

A few council members didn’t like Runyon’s methodology. Leslie Daugs moved to lower the annual salary to $100,000. Eric Younger, going back to 2003 when the current method for determining the mayor’s salary was employed and accounting essentiall for inflation, proposed the salary be lowered to $107,000. Daugs agreed with that.

Runyon, Faye Flemister, Carol Arends and Greg Wheeler voted “no.” Younger, Daugs, Nick Wofford and Adam Brockus voted “yes.” Jim McDonald wasn’t there. A tie vote means the motion fails. So they went to the first motion setting the salary at $115,500.

More discussion, the council votes and the people saying “yes” and “no” change a little, but the result is the same, a 4-4 tie. Flemister, Wofford, Runyon and Wheeler vote “Yes.” Arends, Younger, Daugs and Brockus vote “No.” Wofford was the only one to vote “yes” both times. Arends, back on the dais after several weeks away, was the only one to vote “no” both times. Everyone else switched votes. So seven council members voted for some form of salary reduction, and yet the salary remains the same.

Before the final vote, though, Brockus praised the council’s thoughtfulness and took a shot at Bremerton’s neighbor across the inlet.

“We are not Port Orchard,” Brockus said. “I’m glad we are taking this in a more thoughtful manner than they did a couple of years ago.”

Before Port Orchard residents get all uppity about that comment, let’s recall that the Port Orchard City Council agreed to raise the mayor’s salary in 2008 from just under $20,000 a year to $62,150, with the caveat that they’d revisit the raise six months later and perhaps scale it back again.

Pesky thing, the law. A council can’t have a mayor’s wage reduction enforced until the next term. The city had to live with it, though from all I can tell it wasn’t that big a deal. Then again, Lary Coppola lost his re-election bid by five votes, and a lot of things can swing five votes.

The Bremerton council, in not cutting the wage, also neglected to kill off the one provision every council member seems to agree on, though my perception may be faulty. That provision is the mayor’s cost-of-living allowance. That’s what took the salary from about $83,000 in 2003 to $124,000 this year. No word Wednesday whether the whole question will be revisited.

McDonald adds info on B&O tax proposal

Following up on Wednesday’s story about the Bremerton City Council’s move to (eventually) kill off the city’s B&O tax, City Council President Jim McDonald contacted me Wednesday to provide updated information I didn’t have. We were unable to speak on Tuesday, otherwise this would have been in the story.

McDonald was the one backing the 2.5 percentage point credit option, having it go up 2.5 points a year. He’s now backing off. City staff had argued the credit complicated tax collections, an issue that was pointed out in the story.

What McDonald would propose now is an automatic 20,000 rise in the exemption floor every year. “You actually have to take action to not implement it (each year)” he said.

McDonald had opposed the exemption rise before because inflation would reduce the benefit over time if the exemption were not continuously raised by the council. Making the rise automatic addresses that point.

If the city were actively trying to annex beyond current boundaries, the tax would be a hindrance, McDonald said. Where that would likely come into play is south towards Gorst, he said. The city has built sewer infrastructure in that area. The Wheaton corridor north of Riddell, while it could probably generate enough sales taxes to make killing the B&O possible, is not on the radar. Much of that area is in an urban growth area, but is not affiliated with any city.

Business over Bremerton

As the sun set Wednesday the Bremerton City Council met in the conference room upstairs.

On the agenda: The 9/11 Memorial design; back-in parking on Fourth and Fifth near Kiwanis Park, a contract for work on Fourth between Park and Pacific; closing Broadway near Olympic College and approval of the expense related to a water main break in South Kitsap.

Those issues could be discussed over at the Caucus blog, but I thought the photo more appropriate here.