A pier in our lifetimes?

The Oak Harbor City Council last week made it possible for long-time city pier supporters to realistically imagine the presence of a pier in our lifetimes.

The council unanimously and somewhat boldly decided to go ahead and spend an $836,000 federal grant on the uplands portion of the pier, which will jut out into Oak Harbor Bay from Flintstone Park.

Drawings presented at the meeting show an attractive building housing restrooms and a multi-purpose room, designed to visually complement the Island Transit center across the street. The city has set aside money in the pier fund that can be used to cover the remainder of the cost, estimated to be around $1 million.

City administration, supported by such community groups as the Windjammer Committee and Harbor Pride, came up with a credible plan to use the federal grant money even before the pier itself is affordable. The city needs another $11 million for that. But time was running out on the grant offer. It was indeed a “use it or lose it” situation.

The beauty of the project is that the restroom building is needed with our without the pier, but its presence should also attract more federal dollars in the future. Congressman Rick Larsen, D-Second District, was instrumental in helping the city land the grant. He will find it easier to acquire more federal money once he can show part of the project is under construction.

The risk to the City Council members is that they might eventually look foolish, having built restrooms associated with a non-existent pier, but it’s a chance worth taking. The new building is needed anyway and it will keep the pier project alive.

The council’s decision received a hearty “hip, hip, hooray!” from Helen Chatfield-Weeks, the sprightly cheerleader for the project. She and others have spent more than a decade guiding the project along, and they deserve to see some success in the form of new construction beneficial to city dwellers and tourists alike.

With the city and community groups now working together so successfully, the city will ultimately get its pier. Whether it happens in our lifetimes depends, of course, on how much time we have left.

State spending needs trimming

As the campaign season gears up, those seeking to represent the 10th District in Olympia should put on their thinking caps and come up with some specific ways to reduce state spending.

Just about everyone agrees state spending is bloated, up more than 30 percent since 2002. And in 2002, it was not exactly a streamlined operation. For years the Legislature has been adding more programs and expenditures as a growing economy kept pumping new money into state coffers. Now, judging by the shaky national economy and its inevitable impact on Washington, the party is over. When the Legislature convenes in January 2009 it will have some serious cutting to do.

Candidates all say the state needs to set its priorities, and generally agree that the Washington State Constitution mandates that education is the number one priority. But they don’t say what isn’t a priority, and what should be cut. We’re sure voters would like to hear some ideas on this subject.

Cutting budgets and entire programs is never fun. The caterwauling from affected constituencies is ear-shattering. And if they get a whiff of a candidate’s intent before the election, they’ll work hard to see that he or she is never elected. But far more citizens will likely appreciate candor and vote to put someone in office who represents their views.

So show us some lists of state programs that may be good, but are not essential in tight financial times. Otherwise, what should be an exciting election year will be just as dull as all the others.

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