We wish the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District had found something better to do with $18,000 than conduct a survey.
It's not that the results won't be informative. A scientific sampling is certain to paint a clearer picture of the community's priorities for new public projects.
The community forums that have been used to gauge public interests were important, but tended to identify the best organized and most motivated groups, rather than tap into the general public's feelings.
At this stage, however, additional focus on the individual goals of various interest groups runs the risk of driving wedges where we ought to be building alliances.
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Thanks to four years of work by the Regional Facilities Oversight Committee, the three cities are closer than ever to joining forces to pay for public amenities that benefit the entire community.
Shared costs make perfect sense, since the benefits of an aquatic facility or performing arts center would extend throughout the Tri-Cities and beyond.
It would be a bitter irony if our local governments finally came together and advocates for public projects remained divided.
But that's exactly what might result from a narrow approach to regional public facilities.
Would putting an aquatic center on the ballot alienate the performing arts lobby?
Or what if the first project out of the gate looks to benefit one city more than another? Would voters revert to the old parochialism that's stalled so much progress in the Tri-Cities?
Maybe not, but why tempt fate?
Public input already has identified four projects that enjoy strong constituencies and offer clear public benefits -- aquatics center, performing arts center, Hanford Reach interpretive center and an exhibition hall at the Three Rivers Convention Center.
More than 250,000 people reside in Benton and Franklin counties according to first 2010 U.S. Census bureau data released this month. That population base is sufficient to have it all, if we want it.
The legislation enabling the creation of a regional PFD also provides a way for voters to establish funding. Under the bill, the PFD board could ask voters in all three cities to approve a 0.2 percent sales tax earmarked for public facilities.
It would amount to 20 cents on a $100 purchase, but that's enough to move forward on most or all of the facilities Tri-Citians say they want.
The TCRPFD board ought to press forward with a request to voters to get funding to complete projects already identified as priorities.
It makes sense to add an advisory vote, if the law allows, asking voters to identify their top priorities for new public facilities.
But other realities also will influence construction schedules. The final strategy ought to be aimed at getting all the work done.
A sales tax increase will be a tough sell in this economy, even though much of it will be paid by visitors instead of residents.
The only hope is if a broad base of supporters rally behind the measure. Focusing on one group's project to the exclusion of others won't help.
Another survey threatens additional delays. The best bet is to cast a wide net before time runs out on this golden opportunity.