Silverdale incorporation overwhelmingly defeated

After several attempts to become a city, Silverdale will remain part of unincorporated Kitsap County for now.

Voters Tuesday rejected a measure to incorporate the Silverdale area in almost a 70 to 30 percent majority. Of the 9,696 registered voters in the incorporation area, 3,891 votes were cast and tallied by Kitsap County election officials. Results were announced just after 8 p.m.

Those voting not to incorporate totaled 2,718, (69.85 percent) while the "Yes" votes were 1,173 (30.15 percent).

"Those wanting to incorporate didn't get the opinions of residents," said Joyce Merkel, who led the "No" campaign. "They just listened to the chamber of commerce and went forward with this thing.

"Nobody wants this. This is the fourth time they've tried this and at $35,000 a pop it's a big waste of taxpayers money."

Merkel referred to the cost of the mail-in election which was estimated to be $35,000 by county election officials.

At a gathering of those who backed incorporation, John Taylor was surprised the measure went down.

"I thought we were gonna win it," he said. "I really did. It's what's best for the community."

But Rob MacDermid, a member of Citizens United for Silverdale, the group backing the campaign, wasn't that surprised.

"I'm not particularly surprised that it lost, but I am surprised by the margin," he said. "In talking to people over the last few weeks, I talked to people opposed to it. It seemed like the percentages were against us."

Across town, Edward Berg was with those opposed to incorporation. They gathered to watch election results Tuesday and he said it was a matter of not wanting to pay more.

"People didn't want more taxes," Bird said. He has been a resident of the Silverdale area for 64 years. "And no matter what anybody says, it would be inevitable. Becoming a city would cost us more."

Sam Foster, a retired shipyard planner, said he was glad to see the measure defeated.

"I'm happy voters could see through the guise that they (supporters of incorporation) were putting out there," Foster said. "They were trying to pull the wool over our eyes."

He said the measure fell because the group backing it "didn't have an agenda that appealed to people."

"They had no direction," he said. "They didn't get their points across very well."

Incorporation has been a hot issue in Silverdale for the last few decades. Beginnning in the mid 1980s, efforts surfaced to make the Silverdale area its own city. The last time the issue was before voters was 1999, when it passed by less than 10 votes. That election, however, was thrown out when it became apparent there were ballot irregularities and the following February, when the vote was re-done, the issue failed by a larger percentage.

This time around, Citizens United for Silverdale took on the charge, gathering signatures and getting the measure on the ballot. During the election campaign, opponents and proponents argued whether Silverdale needed to be a city for the sake of getting better services.

Those in support of the measure campaigned that as a city Silverdale would have the ability to determine how to spend the sales tax revenue it takes in, rather than leaving those decisions up to Kitsap County.

But those who opposed incorporation said services provided by the county were quality service and that if Silverdale became a city, the loss of sales tax revenue to the county would impact it so greatly that services for the remaining unincorporated areas wold be negatively impacted. They also said that as the boundaries were drawn, Silverdale would include areas that are rural in nature and should remain in the county.

Those who live in the area proposed to become the city were the only registered voters allowed to vote on the measure.

Merkel said if the proponents of incorporation try again, she would advise them to talk to people first.

"Hold meetings and hear people out," she said. "Spend time getting a feel for what people really want. Don't just tell us what you want. People don't react well to 'top down' measures. They want to be a part of the planning and have a voice."

Incorporation proponent Marcus Hoffman said Tuesday night that he has worked over the years on five successful statewide initiatives and that successful political campaigns require enough time to get the message out in order for it to resonate with voters.

"It's a governance issue and it's hard to explain," he said of incorporation. "It's not a soundbite. When you have to explain a complex issue and answer a lot of questions, that takes a year, not 30 days. If you present people with the information, they'll make good decisions. We just didn't present enough people with good information. If people don't know, they'll vote 'no.' "

Reporter Kevan Moore contributed to this story.



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