Pare down the 'to-do' list

The announcer at our Grand Old Fourth parade gamely described one political candidate, striding confidently down Winslow Way, as being for “good jobs” and “good education” in Kitsap County.

And indeed, we thought, what fine things to be for...until we asked ourselves whether we could recall any candidate ever being against jobs or education, at least in so many words.

Who, after all, doesn’t support Truth, Justice and the American Way?

Similar thoughts sprang to mind this week as we read through the Bainbridge Island City Council’s draft “goals and objectives” for 2003. While there are some honest-to-goodness, concrete objectives (of which more in a moment), the document has a fair number of ideas that can best be described as banalities.

Take, for example, the stated finance department objective of “providing high quality service to customers of the city and to the public,” or the council’s self-imposed plan to “develop an ongoing list of emerging issues with appropriate priorities.”

Do we disagree with those objectives? Plainly not. We would like to believe that these things have been done for years – in fact, are done every year as a matter of routine. That being so, we wonder how such restatements of the obvious can be of any use in the upcoming city budgeting process.

Discarding the self-evident (which would cut the seven-page document by at least a third), the draft goals and objectives become a lot more interesting – particularly those for public works projects, which are not only specific but are listed in priority order. There, though, we find ourselves puzzled by the apparent preference for the grand and nebulous over the concrete and do-able.

The first priority on the list is to “develop open-space maintenance policies” – no doubt an important issue, as the city is about to spend $8 million on new public lands. Then follows locating a site for and designing a boat haul-out facility – a seemingly attractive project, until you realize that it has foundered for years because the state ferry system won’t lease any of its maintenance yard at an attractive enough rate to make economic sense for a private business owner. This is going to change suddenly in 2003?

Then come the items “initiate energy and clean air policies for the city,” “monitor surface and groundwater levels,” and “form a public utility commission.” Laudable, we suppose, until one looks down the list at Number 12 – “build a new bathroom facility” for Waterfront Park, to replace the decrepit one recently torn down.

We ask: Does anybody really think something as nebulous as “develop clean air policies” is a priority with most islanders? More so than a functional restroom at a popular park?

Grand gestures are fine. But local government is mostly about the un-glamorous, small and specific projects that affect people’s lives. The council should leave the bromides for those still aspiring to office; our city needs a “to-do list” that’s specific, manageable and concrete.

We don’t need platitudes. We do need a potty.

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