Opinion

A tepid ‘Yes’ on sales tax levy for law, justice/Olsen for bench

A tepid ‘Yes’ on sales tax levy for law, justice

Let’s face it: it’s hard not to support “law and justice.”

So on its face, Kitsap County’s proposed 0.15 percent sales tax hike (3 cents on a $20 purchase) to put more police officers on our streets has an innate, visceral appeal.

And Bainbridge Police know exactly what they would do with the money: add two patrol officers dedicated to traffic enforcement; put a cop back in local schools as a liaison to local youths; add a detective to work with vulnerable seniors, increasingly the target of scams and identity theft; and hire a half-time security officer in the municipal court and a new technician to deal with a backlog in the evidence vault.

The tax hike was proposed by Kitsap Prosecutor Russ Hauge, who would get a few new deputy prosecutors in his office; the tax would expire after five years. Given the nobility of the cause – law, justice, etc.– what’s not to like?

Well, the funding mechanism for one thing. As anti-tax

crusades cut into public services and the Legislature shies away from meaningful tax reform, county agencies and other interests increasingly eye the sales tax as an alternative revenue source. Over the past five years, Kitsap voters have approved two sales tax hikes (for bus service and a new 911 dispatch center) and defeated two others (passenger ferries, “special events” facilities/ball fields), while a statewide sales tax hike to support public schools failed last year. The cumulative effect has been an increasingly regressive tax structure that puts a disproportionate burden on those of lesser means.

Leaving tax philosophy aside, what happens when the

county sales tax for cops and prosecutors expires in five years? Unless it’s reauthorized, our city will have to dig up the money to maintain the new positions, or they’ll go away. Forward-thinking, this measure is not.

Do we support more cops on the street? Yep. But we’re not sure this is the best way to pay for them. We’ll give the sales tax measure our endorsement, but it’s an unenthusiastic one – law and order notwithstanding.

Olsen for bench

Also appearing on the Sept. 20 ballot is the race for the recently created Kitsap County Superior Court Position 8. Incumbent Sally Olsen of Bainbridge Island defends the post to which she was appointed by the governor last December, challenged by Port Orchard attorney Jonathan R. Morrison.

We’ve long argued that when picking a judge, voters should seek out the counsel of those in the legal profession who work with the candidates in the courtroom. Who better knows

their skills and qualifications? If both prosecutors and defense attorneys think they’ll get a fair shake before the bench, you’ve probably got a good judge.

By that standard, Sally Olsen is the clear choice and earns the Review’s endorsement. Judge Olsen is the overwhelming preference of the Kitsap County Bar Association. Fifty of 55 bar association members who participated in a recent Judicial Preference Poll rated her as “Highly Qualified,” and five “Qualified.” She has also earned the endorsements of former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, three state Supreme Court justices, a formidable number of area judges and attorneys including the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney’s Union and top county officials from both parties.

By contrast, Morrison received just one vote for “Qualified” and – tellingly – 48 for “Not Qualified,” with six abstentions among bar association members.

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