Friday, October 28, 2011
The well-preserved and impeccably Victorian tourist destination of Port Townsend, perched at the far northeast tippy-toe of the Olympic Peninsula, is experiencing a sign of the times -- a cash crunch.
The reasons for all the deficit, revenue, and spending problems plaguing localities all across the country are too well known already to rehash here: lack of revenue sharing from the fed to the states means states have less money to share with municipalities, but by far the biggest problem is declining tax revenues due to the collapse of real estate values in the Great Recession of 2007 to the present.
So now, with very low cash reserves and a $21-million-dollar debt, the city administration's political opponents are sharpening knives and grumbling that Port Townsend is on the verge of bankruptcy.
“I am not apologizing for the decisions this council has made,” (Mayor Michelle) Sandoval said at Monday night's City Council meeting, referring to city investments in utility and infrastructure upgrades. “We have shown leadership in tough times. The city is not on the verge of bankruptcy, despite the fact that the detractors in the community relish the thought of that.”
Infrastructure and utilities upgrades are certainly worthy of municipal spending since they put people to work, but if the two traffic roundabouts recently installed presumably to slow traffic on the city's main access road and highway into town are an example of the type of spending the mayor is talking about, I would question the city's choice of projects.
But I, like most of the people around here, have a lot more to learn about this situation, which has been kept quiet up until now.