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Originally published January 30, 2009 at 3:58 PM | Page modified January 31, 2009 at 6:26 PM

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Guest columnist

Legislature should create an Office of Boating

An Office of Boating for Washington state will improve services to boaters, increase efficiencies and eliminate gaps and overlaps. It would establish a director of boating, who will be responsible for prioritizing services and expenditures to better serve boaters.

Special to The Times

THE time has come to create the Washington State Office of Recreational Boating. Three states (Oregon, Ohio and California) already have departments of boating. In Washington, we have spread the boating programs across seven different agencies.

I am convinced that combining these efforts into an Office of Boating will cause the state to improve services to boaters, increase efficiencies as well as eliminate gaps and overlaps. Most important of all, it would create a new position I will call the director of boating, who will be responsible for prioritizing services and expenditures to better serve boaters.

This goal to create an Office of Boating is a huge undertaking. It qualifies unconditionally as a BHAG (BEE-hag). If you are not familiar with the acronym it stands for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It was created by Jim Collins, the author of the book "Good to Great."

He says, "A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clean finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal."

In order to accomplish this goal, everyone involved in recreational boating will need to get on board as well as legislators, the governor and countless employees of the relevant state agencies. This kind of significant change will be unsettling for many, who will work against this approach from the get go. Others will see the potential for savings and efficiencies.

Here is why I think this goal is achievable. Over the past nine years, we have laid the groundwork by working with the members of the Legislature to pass pro-boating legislation. We have created a unified voice for boaters and industry through the creation of the Washington Boating Alliance in partnership with the Recreational Boating Association of Washington, yacht clubs and various boater groups. We have educated legislators on our issues and identified those who have the greatest interest in boating. We have created a database of boaters through the Seattle Boat Show attendees, whom we have mobilized in the past to lobby the Legislature in support of our efforts.

Bottom line. We are ready to go.

But what about the huge financial deficit the state is facing? Won't that make the efforts to create an Office of Boating impossible?

My answer is no. I think this is the perfect time to look for efficiencies and savings. The Legislature is now in session. Over the past two months, we have contacted more than a dozen key legislators seeking their support and input. Anyone going to Olympia with their hand out this year will be out of step with the challenges of our current economy.

Of course, all of us boaters want to see boating programs and services to grow. But in challenging times, boating programs need to be evaluated just like everything else in the budget. Better there is a director of the Office of Boating charged with the responsibility of prioritizing spending rather than having the budgets cut across seven different agencies, where boating is just a blip on their overall responsibilities.

A few years ago, the state embraced a planning concept called "Priorities of Government" (POG). In a nutshell, POG suggests the state prioritize spending to provide the activities that are most crucial, eliminate gaps and overlaps, and improve services to the taxpayers of the state. I am suggesting the state can better serve its 350,000 owners of vessels by applying POG principles specifically to boating.

Creating an Office of Boating is a tangible way for boaters to help our legislators meet the economic challenges in front of them and lay the foundation for improved services to boaters as the economy recovers in the years ahead.

Michael Campbell is president of the Northwest Marine Trade Association in Seattle, which represents the recreational boating industry. The NMTA owns the Seattle Boat Show. He can be reached at michaelc@seattleboatshow.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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