Islanders might just benefit from governor's ferry district proposal | Letters

Governor Gregoire's proposal for a ferry taxing district has not met with much local enthusiasm.

I understand why. But this taxing district might have some benefit to islanders IF it includes some specific provisions.

First among those would be preferential loading and fares for taxpayers in the district. This is quite normal for taxing districts, and indeed it is perfectly fair for those who do not pay taxes for a service to be charged higher fees for use of the district's resources and receive a less favored position.

Library districts, for example, can limit their services to residents of the taxing district, or can charge higher fees to non-residents who want access to the district services. Similarly with parks and recreation, and other junior taxing districts.

I for one would be willing to consider a ferry taxing district if it provided me with preferential loading rights and a significant fare discount in compensation for the taxes that I would pay, which other ferry riders from outside the district would not.

A second provision would be a high level of local control.

This would include local control not only over fares and service levels, but also oversight of ferry operations. Islanders keeping a close eye on effectiveness and efficiency of ferry operations with the ability to enact changes when indicated could both improve service effectiveness and help keep costs under control.

The example of OPALCO is an excellent example of the ability of local islanders to manage a critical infrastructure intelligently and efficiently. There is a great deal of talent here in the islands, which we could draw on if we had not just an advisory role but meaningful managerial input into the ferry operation.

Without these two elements, Governor Gregoire's proposal is merely another way to tax Washington citizens without providing any meaningful benefits in return. But with these two elements, and perhaps some others I have not yet recognized as necessary, the proposal might actually have some net benefit to county residents.

Christopher Hodgkin

Friday Harbor

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