Rush job wasn’t necessary

The Port of Everett Commission has gone all maverick, doing something few others dare — putting a measure on the November ballot asking citizens to tax themselves for a new project — $15 million to restore the historic Collins building. Many cities and entities, including the city of Everett, are doing the opposite — postponing levies until the economy improves.

Those forging ahead, such as the Sno-Isle Library system, are doing so to avoid layoffs and service cuts. Sno-Isle is asking voters to decide whether to pay 40 cents per $1,000 of a house’s assessed value, up from the current 31 cents. In contrast, the port’s proposal would carry a one-time cost to property owners within the district of $1.06 per $1,000 of value. That’s $318 for the owner of a $300,000 home.

The commission voted on Aug. 11 to put the measure on the fall ballot despite the fact that no one requested the action. Building supporters say the abruptly proposed measure is designed to fail. Given the 60 percent majority required for approval, and the state of the economy, their claim has merit.

Regardless of where one stands on the fate of the building, and this editorial board has been skeptical about its viability, the commission’s handling of citizens’ requests deserves a little review:

In spring 2008, citizens asked commissioners to place a proposal on the fall ballot to expand the commission from three to five members, a request that was made and denied in 2005. After public hearings, commissioners voted in July 2008 not to put the proposal on the ballot, saying it was “too expensive” and there didn’t “appear to be enough interest.”

Connie Niva, who resigned from the commission this summer but attended the meeting where the Collins ballot measure was proposed, said she couldn’t believe supporters weren’t jumping at this chance. “We’ve been told in this room for years that the entire community supported this building,” she said. “Now there’s this huge sucking sound out there about giving the community more time. We owe the public an opportunity to end this process, to make a decision so we can move on.”

Well. Speaking of huge sucking sounds, how about the $400 million condo/retail/office project the port has been working on for years? The one promising a lot of public access. The one on hold because the developer went bankrupt. The one we all understand we need to give more time.

With that project on hold, there is no rush regarding the Collins building. Perhaps a different developer would work it into plans as a public market. But the original developer is out of the picture, leaving no firm plans in place, and emphasizing the oddness of this ballot measure.

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