King County Council’s Budget Priorities May Not Be Your Priorities

Unless, of course, you have a natural affinity for gravel pits.

Let me backtrack. King County, facing a $60 million budget shortfall for 2011, announced recently that it would be cutting 300 jobs…including 28 sheriff’s deputies. Even though that’s a small percentage of the jobs to be cut, Budget Chairwoman Julia Patterson says it will have an impact on public safety.

Enter the gravel pit.

King County officials and environmental leaders expressed confidence Wednesday they can raise $19.1 million in private and county dollars over the next seven weeks to turn a Maury Island gravel mine into a milelong shoreline park for kayakers, hikers and wildlife.

The Maury Island project appears to be high on King County Executive Dow Constantine’s list of priorities. This won’t be the first time he’s show a willingness to sacrifice public safety for a pet project.

You’d think the County Council would be at least a little bit embarrassed to announce their boondoggle sand and gravel pit purchase and some of the grimmer details of the budget within days of each other but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Apparently it didn’t occur to anyone on the Council or in the Executive’s office that County residents might be disturbed at the layoff of so many deputies while the $17 million purchase was announced with so much fanfare.

This situation appears to be a perfect illustration of why voters are becoming increasingly hostile to tax increases and wary of what their elected officials are telling them.

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4 Comments

Filed under KingCounty, Washington

4 responses to “King County Council’s Budget Priorities May Not Be Your Priorities

  1. Davidonkels

    You’re not surprised, are you? Is that pit still in operation?

    • paulag1955

      Surprised? Good Lord, no!

      From the article:

      Under an agreement announced Wednesday, the county would buy the land, which includes a partially excavated gravel mine, from CalPortland for $36 million. The funding package includes $14.5 million from the state and a no-cash agreement valued at $2.4 million allowing CalPortland to continue mining gravel from nearby county-owned property until 2030.

  2. Davidonkels

    An excerpt: “Although the deal would allow CalPortland, a Japanese-owned concrete producer, to mine gravel for use on Maury and Vashon islands, it ends more than 12 years of strife over the company’s plans to excavate a much larger pit and ship sand and gravel off the island by barge.

    The cost disclosed by the County for this deal is probably only a fraction of the true cost, which going include the increased cost for the gravel and other aggregates that would have been barged off the island, paid by contractors, government agencies, and consumers in King and Pierce Counties who will be forced to find other, more expensive, sources for those materials.

    The watermelon nimbies have imposed those costs on the population at large to indulge their own distaste for the undesirable side-effects resulting from the enlarged gravel operation.

    Of course, the gravel will come from somewhere, probably farther away. Much of the cost of these materials is in truck time. Gravel from other sources, probably in eastern King County, will cost more because it gets trucked greater distances, will result in increased diesel fuel usage, and cause greater road wear, just to begin.

    Those costs are invisible to most people, who see only the benefits of the wonderful park. That park, incidentally, would probably be just as, if not more wonderful if it were constructed on the land reclaimed from the larger operation.

  3. KingstonJW

    This is just another good example of why I can be grateful to live in Kitsap County…. not that we don’t have our issues but buying a park while eliminating key safety jobs in this economy is astounding.

    I bet they’ll sell this as a shovel ready project and count this as new jobs created. Oh fudge.

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