The proposed Pierce County general services building needs to be put out of its misery.
For all intents and purposes, it’s on life support. The doctors are speaking in hushed, solemn tones, reduced to trying to make its final days as painless as possible.
There’s just no saving it. The humane thing to do is pull the plug on the idea.
When Superior Court Judge Kevin Hull ruled Friday that citizens Leslie Young and Anthony Miller lacked “standing” to sue Gig Harbor resident Jerry Gibbs, it was one more throttling blow for proponents (like myself) of the $230 million dream. Gibbs’ referendum effort will now move forward – despite its unfortunately unchallenged dubious legal merit – with trying to gather enough signatures to put the issue to a vote in November.
But whether Gibbs gets his signatures or not – which we won’t know for certain until July – the Pierce County Council, thanks to the political sideshow this devolved into, has already guaranteed that voters will get a chance to weigh in. We’ll cast a nonbinding advisory vote in August.
The vocal opposition, meanwhile, has already done its damage, long before a vote is taken.
Sure, County Executive Pat McCarthy – who’s long championed the building and, nearing the end of her eight-year tenure, likely sees it as a legacy issue – has authority to move forward with the project if Gibbs’ signature gathering falls short. Maybe she will.
On a project hijacked by absurdity, such a move would come from understandable exasperation and, perhaps, warranted stubbornness.
But that doesn’t make it prudent.
If the Gibbs’ matter had been settled last week, pushing forward and selling bonds might have made some sense. By early July, though, with only a month until voters cast an advisory vote, it most certainly won’t. For a county government accused (justly or unjustly) of having little concern for the will of the people when it comes to this project, proceeding with it would be a defining insult capping a regrettable chapter.
“I’m going to ask (McCarthy) not to do that, because I have a hard time picturing how that is going to go well,” first-term councilman Derek Young, a supporter of the project, tells me of the above scenario.
In fact, nothing about this project has gone particularly well, and expecting a miraculous turnaround this late in the game would move past optimism into unfettered delusion.
The vote(s) aren’t going to go well either, at least for anyone hoping to see the proposed building come to fruition. Gibbs knows that and, deep down, I suspect plenty of county officials do too.
“My hope is (voters) will get all the info and make a decision on all the facts,” councilwoman Joyce McDonald, who supports the building but also supports letting the voters decide, told me earlier this month.
“I think (supporting the building) would be a good decision by the people, but if they don’t as long as they’ve had all the info I’m happy with whatever they choose.”
Spoiler: Even with all the information in the world, voters aren’t going to sign off on this thing. Selling the merits of this project is something that should have been done on the front end. Expecting to win voters over now, with all the blood that’s in the water, simply isn’t going to happen.
Or, as Young more diplomatically puts it: “It’s hard to imagine a robust campaign” being launched in favor of the project.
The writing’s on the wall. We already know councilmembers Dan Roach, Jim McCune and Doug Richardson are against the building. And if the public comes out strongly against the proposed general services building during the August advisory vote, Young and McDonald have signaled a desire to listen to them.
In other words, grab a lifejacket. It’s time to jump ship.
As crazy as it sounds, maybe the best outcome in all this would be for Gibbs’ referendum effort to make the ballot and kill this project so our electeds don’t have to. At least that would be a straightforward demise.
The lesson: Sometimes smart ideas win the day and win over voters.
Sometimes they don’t.
It’s time to wash our hands of this mess and start over.