In our opinion: Don't wag the dog

Facing a 2012 budget shortfall of more than $2 million, the Bremerton City Councilmembers are likely to cut a few of their staffs’ positions after Mayor Patty Lent offers her proposal for the 2012 city budget.

Along with budget shaving techniques such as skipping cost of living increases for city employees and possibly closing some city parks, the city council will be asked to consider passing an ordinance to stall the city’s five-year-old One Percent for the Arts program for two years.

The proposal to put public art into limbo has traction in the halls of the Norm Dicks Government Center even though city leaders and staff admit that the ordinance to be offered up, which, if passed, will stop purchases of public art by the Bremerton Arts Commission, will not actually affect any change for those facing layoffs or the 2012 budget.

City leaders instead say the move would be one mostly of appearance – a bit of plastic surgery. It’s perhaps too ironic to notice the move to halt public art in one of the few cities in the state to host, and largely boast about, an “official” Arts District.

Raised by taking one percent of every city funded construction project, and donations, the one percent money can only be used to buy or maintain public art in a public space. The $40,000 currently in the one percent account cannot be sent to the police budget in effort to keep a cop on the street or to keep a city clerk behind a desk.

With no real effect on the 2012 budget problem, or 2013, the city’s only reason to suspend one percent is to pacify the taxpayers, rather than educate them. It’s a bit too much on the smoke and mirrors.

We disagree with the tail waging proposal on the principle that citizens are smart enough to understand that city department budgets are often not interchangeable.

While the city could realize a savings of $10,000 for every $1 million in construction projects if the funding mechanism for the one percent program were also stalled for two years, the city would be better to see the needs of taxpayers and city employees’ job security by seeking to hold down over all costs of poorly-bidded construction project that often see 10 to 30 percent cost overruns after final city councile approval.

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