Scales suspends campaign for mayor

Former city councilman Bob Scales has suspended his mayoral campaign to focus his attention on the debate over whether Bainbridge should change its form of government.

Scales said he has been kept out of public discussions about next month’s change-of-government election because he is a candidate for mayor and supports retaining the mayor-led form of government.

“The council-manager campaign has refused to engage anyone with another point-of-view,” Scales said. “I’ve said ‘let’s not present one side of the story. Let’s mix it up.’”

If supporters of a manager-led government won’t include him as a candidate, maybe they’ll include him if he suspends his campaign, Scales said.

Linda Owens, manager of the Vote Council-Manager campaign, disputes Scales’ claim that her group is unwilling to debate him.

“If someone wants to organize a public event (through) a civic organization, we’d be there,” she said.

The Vote Council-Manager campaign has opposed Scales’ presence at informal discussions about the manager form of government.

“If we’re hosting a coffee at someone’s house, that’s not the venue for a debate,” she said.

Scales also charges that the Vote Council-Manager campaign has opposed informal discussions in which other supporters of the mayor form might be present.

Island voters will decide on May 19 whether to replace the elected mayor position with a city manager hired by the City Council.

Scales plans to stop raising money, disable his campaign website and suspend all other campaign activities until the May 19 election. He may renew his campaign if voters decide to retain the mayor-led form of government.

“I’ll use my personal time to make sure this issue is presented,” he said. “I want to bring out the facts.”

Scales said the campaign to abolish the elected mayor position has presented incomplete information about how a government led by a hired manager would change City Hall.

At a recent event promoted by supporters of a manager-led government, the three featured speakers – municipal government consultant Carl Neu and two officials from the city of University Place – expressed strong support for manager-led governments.

“They presented a very rosy picture of the council-manager form but ignored the fact that we already have a hybrid government that, in theory, is the best of all worlds,” he said.

Unlike many mayor-led cities, Bainbridge has city administrator who runs the city’s day-to-day operations, somewhat like a manager under the council-manager form. A key difference between the two positions is that the administrator works under the direction of the mayor and the manager is under the council’s control.

Scales said the Vote Council-Manager group is not making clear what will happen if the May 19 ballot measure is approved. With the mayor position abolished, City Administrator Mark Dombroski would automatically become the city’s manager and Mayor Darlene Kordonowy would become an eighth councilor until her term ends.

“This is the worst possible time to change our government,” Scales said, referring to the current roster of elected officials and administrators he and some supporters of the council-manager government blame for many of the city’s problems. “We don’t have the leadership to make (the manager form) work. None of the people at City Hall will change if we change our form of government. Things will stay the same at a time when we really need change.”