Council won’t tie up to foot ferry proposition

POULSBO – Citing a long council precedence, the Poulsbo City Council decided this week to not comment on Kitsap Transit’s foot ferry plan.

In a five to two decision Oct. 8, council members decided not to take a stance on Kitsap Transit Proposition 1. The measure on the Nov. 4 ballot would add a three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax and a three-tenths of 1 percent motor vehicle excise tax in Kitsap County. Money raised would be used to add passenger-only ferries at Kingston, Bremerton and Southworth and later to other areas, of which Poulsbo is one.

As is council policy when considering taking a stance on an issue, speakers from both sides were asked to address the council.

Kitsap Transit Director Dick Hayes spoke in support of the proposition and Avon Card from the No New Taxes Coalition spoke in opposition.

Hayes said the smaller, 149-passenger boats the transit authority is planning to use would not create a wake like the Washington State Ferries boats and would burn less fuel, amounting to about one-tenth the pollution put out by the Chinook Fleet.

Kitsap Transit research indicates that about 25 percent of Kitsap County residents would use the new fleet at least once a year. Hayes added that the benefit for Poulsbo specifically would be about 500 cars off State Highway 305 at rush hour. The county as a whole would enjoy an increased tax base from commuters able to take jobs in the Seattle area, he continued.

“This is a tax, but it’s a tax that’s going to raise the quality and value of our community and we’ll get it back in spades over a short period of time,” he commented.

Card commented that she believes in the need for mass transit and foot ferries but not, “at all costs.” She said she felt the new taxes, especially the MVET, would be unfairly burdening those who can least afford them. Card also noted that the proposed $9 one-way fare for the new fleet is nearly twice the cost of the WSF auto ferry cost for a walk-on.

“Are these commuters just going to trot over to the foot ferry and walk on for $5 instead of $9?” Card queried.

A handful of council members indicated that they personally supported Prop. 1, but did not feel comfortable supporting the measure on behalf of the City of Poulsbo.

“I just don’t see how this would benefit Poulsbo,” Councilman Dale Rudolph said.

Councilman Mike Regis added that he did not think it was the place of the council to take a stance on this type of an issue.

“I’m reluctant to tell the people how to vote on sales tax,” he commented.

Councilman Jim Henry and Councilwoman Kathryn Quade were the dissenting votes to not take a stance on Prop. 1. Both cited the measure as a way Kitsap County could help pay for foot ferries in the same way King County is paying for mass transit from which many Kitsap commuters benefit.

“In this way, Kitsap County can join in a partnership in funding transportation that benefits both sides,” Quade commented.

But in the end, the answer was the expected, “no comment.”

“I don’t believe in all of my years on council we’ve ever taken a stand on an initiative except for schools and EMS,” Mayor Donna Jean Bruce commented on the decision.

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