Opinion

City survey a waste of time and money ?

This just in: The majority of Bainbridge Islanders are old, well-educated, well-off, hard working, happy with the present but pessimistic about the future, worried about the island’s water supply and population growth, content with the current balance between city services and taxes, divided over the city’s performances of late concerning planning, development and its finances, want more bike lanes, walking paths, trails, affordable housing, keeping the island rural and pretty much the way it is right now.

So what’s new in the soon-to-be-released priority survey the city paid $25,000 to PRR to produce during the past month? Well, not a lot. Certainly the key findings are no more revealing than the fact that people generally live here because of individual choice and the capacity to decide their own future. Islanders see themselves as problem solvers, a quality that will be thoroughly tested in the future because of the rural vs. urban challenge that population growth will continue to generate on an island situated near a metropolitan area.

So, yes, it’s not surprising that the respondents (a random sample of 400 households and 552 online) are mildly distressed about the following issues threatening their quality of life, beginning with too many people flocking to a limited area, which, of course, causes such problems as: overdevelopment in rural or neighborhood areas, deteriorating infrastructure, increased housing costs, loss of open space, forest and farmlands, and traffic congestion.

There’s not much that can be done about people wanting to live here, especially since the city’s economy depends greatly on that influx. Otherwise, where’s the money going to come from to ensure that the island’s supply of quality water keeps on flowing, our infrastructures are maintained and our environment remains healthy?

Unfortunately, the survey was too general and didn’t ask enough hard, direct questions, such as: How does the city pay for the maintenance of roads that continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate? Should Winslow Way continue to be the city’s primary business district? Or would you like to see continuation of the trend toward High School Road being an equally important commerce center? What’s to be done about Winslow Way parking? Is it a problem? On and on.

Instead, we get these softball questions with answers that can be misconstrued or twisted in a variety of ways because they are too broad. Why? Is it because city leaders have no intentions of making decisions on specific issues based on what the public has to say because they can’t trust the answers? For example, while 60 percent (of the respondents) of our households generally make more than $100,000 a year and represent the majority of the property taxpayers, who’s to say that the 12 percent who make less than $50,000 annually per household aren’t the vocal majority? Sure, most people aren’t against bike and walking paths, but would you really prefer them over not fixing roads that are so lousy that they could cause you to drive into Puget Sound some day.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that our leaders have their own agenda and aren’t really interested in listening. After all, the public spoke when it elected the politicians, so just get out of their way and let them govern. True, they do get confused sometimes with too much information and can’t decide what’s most important.

But that doesn’t stop them from doing surveys so they can at least say they’re trying to do the right thing.

Isn’t that the way it works?

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