Councilwoman scrutinizes Bremerton’s red light cameras

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Bremerton City Councilwoman Leslie Daugs is taking on the city’s red light photo enforcement system. 

In a lengthy opinion piece published Friday, she scrutinizes the falling revenues from the program and believes that it has become a cost to city government, rather than a benefit for it. She acknowledges some “traffic calming” effects but believes it may be time for the cameras to go.

“It’s time to re-evaluate the best way to keep our citizens safe, and be good stewards of our tax dollars,” she wrote.

I talked with Daugs Wednesday night about why she’s taking on the cause. Daugs acknowledged that part of her motivation was a Kitsap Sun investigation that found last year the cameras are close to losing the city money, do little to enhance safety and are run by a company that has been embroiled in scandal of late.

She has also had concerns over the easy way many people get out of a red light ticket: just say you’re not driving. Her stats indicate that of the 6,609 tickets issued in 2014, 1,086 were dismissed.

We reported last year:

Like many photo enforcement programs around the country and the state, Bremerton’s was lucrative from its onset. The city took in $842,580 in 2008. Over the past five years, motorists have paid $4.3 million in fines, with $2.6 million going to Redflex.

But the amount collected dwindled to $570,775 in 2013. The drop in citations issued between 2012 and 2013 was the biggest ever — a decrease of about 2,500 tickets.

Factoring in the $432,000 the city pays each year to Redflex, the margins are thinning for the city.

“There is an obvious trend here,” Daugs says in her letter. “At this rate the cameras will soon cost the city money, rather than bringing in revenue.”

She believes the program has “harmed working families,” and despises the idea that governments would target the people simple to produce revenue.

“I am wary of replacing thinking, feeling, human police officers with the unblinking camera eye — and I object to exporting Bremerton dollars to Phoenix,” she wrote.

What do you think? Sound off below, or take our poll at right.

Story Walk: Come see the meandering Madrona with me

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If you’re not busy Saturday afternoon, have I got an offer for you. Have you ever hiked the 16 acres of trails in the Eastpark Nature Area? It includes a rare grove of Madrona trees (see above) in pathways that bridge Harrison Medical Center and the new Eastpark neighborhood.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 8.57.56 PMWe’ll talk about this magnificent conifers and walk this relatively unknown East Bremerton trail network.

Here’s the details:

What: Reporter Josh Farley leads a 30-minute hike through the Madrona grove and woods of the Eastpark Nature Area.

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where to meet: Parking lot near the Manette Mart, 2044 Lower Wheaton Way.

Note: Wear hiking attire and be prepared for a mile (or two) of hiking.

Background: The city’s parks commission has recommended the Eastpark Nature Reserve be renamed to to be the “Madrona Trails.” Signs will be added to its entrances at Lower Wheaton Way and on Nathan Adrian Drive near the Bremerton Family YMCA. The hope is to attract more attention to the park.

Hope to see you Saturday for this free talk and tour!

Here’s a link to our previous story walks:

Redwood Rendezvous in West Bremerton

Fourth Street’s Economic Divide

 

IN PHOTOS: The arrival of the USS Bremerton

The USS Bremerton arrives in Sinclair Inlet.
The USS Bremerton arrives in Sinclair Inlet.

The USS Bremerton pulled into Naval Base Kitsap Wednesday morning, beginning a visit by the Navy’s oldest active sub to its namesake city. 

The sub and its crew will be here for at least six days, even performing a park cleanup at “Hal’s Corner” on Wheaton Way at Sheridan Road — fitting, since the area houses the battery and anchor from the original USS Bremerton, a Korean War-era cruiser.

Here’s some photos that I took of her arrival, and some other great ones submitted by readers.

Not something you see everyday.
Not something you see everyday. I got this picture from Bachmann Park in Manette. 
Patrick Kerber got this great shot of the sub coming into Rich Passage.
Patrick Kerber got this great shot of the sub coming into Rich Passage.
Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura captured the Bremerton as she came into view in Kingston.
Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura captured the Bremerton as she came into view in Kingston.
PatZahn
Pat Zahn got a picture as Bremerton passed Manette.
And finally, Kevin Chambers got a pic while aboard the ferry to Seattle.
And finally, Kevin Chambers got a pic while aboard the ferry to Seattle.

 

The USS Bremerton is coming to Bremerton

The USS Bremerton. (Wikipedia photo)
The USS Bremerton. (Wikipedia photo)

Bremerton will get a visit from the submarine that bears the city’s name this week. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine, currently home-ported in Pearl Harbor,  will dock at Naval Base Kitsap for a short visit.

She last visited Bremerton in May 2012, almost three years ago. While here, the crew plans to meet with local dignitaries, host recruits and even volunteer in a park cleanup.

Navy Submarine Group 9 Spokesman Brian Badura gives a good description of what subs like the Bremerton do:

Fast-attack submarines like Bremerton are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships, carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, support aircraft carrier and expeditionary strike groups, and engage in mine warfare.

The sub, which carries more than 130 sailors, is the oldest in the U.S. fleet. It is the second vessel in Navy history to bear the name Bremerton, and the 11th submarine of the Los Angeles class.

The first USS Bremerton, a Baltimore class heavy cruiser, saw action in the Korean war.

One final factoid that probably only I will find intriguing is that the Bremerton was commissioned on March 28, 1981 — which happens to be the day this blogger was born.

BPD doubles women officer ranks — by hiring 1

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Michelle Greisheimer was sworn in at last night’s City Council meeting as Bremerton’s newest police officer. As a woman, she is a rarity in the department of about 60 officers.

She is one of only two fully commissioned officers, meaning her hiring doubled the ranks.

“I’m ashamed to say it’s true,” said Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan, who has trumpeted the need to bring in officers that reflect the community they serve since he started here two years ago.

The chief and Mayor Patty Lent also included $24,000 in the city’s budget this year to hire cadets to perform clerical tasks at the department. They must be enrolled in a postsecondary educational program like Olympic College, but the idea — aside from the administrative help — is that it would be a “new way of recruiting and hiring nontraditional candidates for law enforcement.”

Greisheimer, an Ohio native, worked for Seattle police for eight years — working at the Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square precincts — before moving to Chandler, Arizona, where she stayed for seven.

Prior to her career in law enforcement, she had joined the army and was stationed in Puerto Rico and Georgia before deploying to Kuwait, Strachan said.

 She married Christine, her partner of 10 years, when same-sex marriage was recognized in Arizona last year. The couple consider the Pacific Northwest home and jumped at the chance to relocate here with their young sons.

How important is it to you that Bremerton police hire women officers? Or, for that matter, people of differing backgrounds?

A last word on first time “Give ‘em Hell, Harry” was heard

Photo by way of Bob Brown.
Photo by way of Bob Brown.

There’s still some dispute about where President Harry S. Truman first heard what would become his perennial rallying cry: “Give ‘em Hell, Harry.” But don’t tell that to Douglas Hudson of Bremerton.

He was there.

Hudson’s father took him to see Truman when the president spoke from the Elks Club, on the corner of Fifth and Pacific downtown, on June 10, 1948. Hudson was six. It was standing room only down the entire block, “as far as I could see,” though he was standing atop a newspaper box, he recalled.

RELATED: Which presidents have visited Kitsap County?

“During his speech he paused to glance at his notes when a man a short distance to my right, easily within 50 feet, yelled out ‘Give ‘em hell, Harry,'” Hudson said. “I heard the man as clear as a bell and recall Mr. Truman looking up in our general direction as he said ‘I will, I will.'”

Hudson was confused by the man’s yell, which is part of why he says it stands out in his mind. He even recently visited Truman’s library and childhood home in Independence, Missouri and asked about the phrase. The docent there could neither confirm nor deny the claim.

He’s not the only one. Shelagh Venard of Bremerton called to tell me her late husband, George, was there too.

“George used to say, ‘you know, I was there, I heard it,'” she recalled.

But an article in the Sun from 2001, written by Larry Miller, contests that Truman first said it here:

“…according to archivist Dennis E. Bilger of the Truman Library in Independence, Mo., the “Give ‘em hell” rallying cry was first heard five days later, during a Truman rally in Albuquerque, N.M.

That would explain why The Sun’s account of Truman’s Bremerton rally reported that someone yelled, “Pour it on, Harry!” but made no mention of the “hell” remark.

Another Truman Library researcher has said the catchphrase originated in Grand Island, Neb., during a Truman campaign event June 6, 1948.”

 So, which is it? Nebraska? New Mexico? Bremerton? Or perhaps somewhere else?

Fredi Perry Pargeter wrote in “Bremerton and PSNY” that while the official recollection of newspaper reporters wanted to avoid using a “naughty” word, hence the “Pour it on” reference.  (Editorial comment: I mean think about it — “Pour it on” … Really?)

“It is this author’s opinion that the newspapers and those who officially recorded the President’s remarks that day did not want to use the four-letter word in official transcripts or newspaper accounts.”

So: Give ‘em Hell Harry did originate here.”

And I say we leave it at that.

What will it take for a Fourth Street turnaround?

The Roxy: in the middle of it.
The Roxy: in the middle of it.

The new idea for a “residential oasis” on Fourth Street is intriguing. It rests on a simple notion: If several commercial buildings have fallen stagnant on the street block, between Pacific and Washington avenues, then why not try a residential approach?

Bremerton Architect Steve Rice’s idea for residential lofts, which compliment the 22-year-old flowering pear trees on the one-way boulevard, already has some traction in that the City Council had been seeking an idea for economic development downtown to which to reallocate federal dollars.

Fourth Street’s alter ego, between Park and Pacific, is bustling with street life, making the older section contrast all the more.

So what will it take to complete the turnaround? Here’s the four main ideas I’ve heard floated. Not that they are not mutually exclusive, that is, they could occur in some combination.

Residential Oasis: The newest candidate is still early in its concept. But the basic idea would be to help property owners convert spaces — likely lofts — to quirky residential units. Federal dollars could be spent to provide loans for upgrades on buildings that require big code improvements — seismic upgrades, fire sprinklers and the like.

Cost: Possibly little to the city (federal dollars from HUD could help) though property owners would have to step up. 

The payoff: More people living downtown, which means more vibrancy, more money spent, taxes paid and more lights on in the darkened corridor. 

Take out the trees: This was the original idea, put forth by the property owners and Bremerton Public Works Director Chal Martin. Property managers on the street have maintained that the trees’ canopy and leaves leave it dark and give it a spooky feel that few retailers are willing to brave. Adding lighting could help brighten the street, too.

Cost: Taking down the trees would be paid for by the city or the property owners (or some combination).

The payoff: We would find out if owners and managers there are right — that the street would become far more marketable to commercial businesses looking to relocate. But fans of the trees have countered that the buildings themselves, whose facades have aged, might still not be that attractive. Further, the city also must at some point mitigate the risk of having the sidewalk buckle from the trees and someone getting injured. 

Make it a two-way street: The meandering bend to Fourth, installed as part of the 1993 improvement project, even has the added negative effect of making sure motorists are watching the street rather than getting a chance to look around the storefronts. Plus, in only going one way, you’re losing a lot of chances for drivers to see it, a turnoff for potential retailers.

Cost: Doing that kind of concrete work won’t come cheap.  

 The payoff: More motorists and parking that might pique retailers’ interest, leading to more tenants, profits, tax money, ect.  

Pedestrian plaza: The most obscure idea for the street is just to shut it down completely to traffic, leaving a short stretch for people to get to the hotel near Washington Avenue. A pedestrian plaza could be used for outdoor concerts and public events and might just achieve “that resort feeling” former Mayor Louis Mentor was going for in 1993.

Cost: Reconfiguring the city block will also not come cheap. 

The payoff: Festivals and other big events might come to downtown Bremerton. But the buildings on the street would still face the same problem: that motorists won’t see what it has to offer. In fact, they wouldn’t see it at all. 

Which option is your favorite? Or do you have another idea?

Vlog: The presidents who visited Kitsap

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Hayes stopped by Port Blakely. Taft and the Roosevelts, the Navy Yard. Truman toured Bremerton. And Clinton came to Blake Island.

In honor of president’s day, I brushed up on my Kitsap County presidential history and found out some fascinating tidbits about those rare times POTUS stopped by. I was lucky to have a copy of historian and journalist Fredi Perry Pargeter’s book “Bremerton and PSNY,” which devotes a whole chapter to presidential visits.

Here’s a rundown of the Oval Office occupiers’ visits and why they came:

Rutherford B. Hayes: In 1880, Hayes came by ship to Bainbridge Island, where he helped cut a 150-foot long tree at Port Blakely Mill.

Teddy Roosevelt: Not long after the shipyard was built, Teddy Roosevelt came to see it in 1903. Roosevelt didn’t stay long — half hour or so — and thus let down quite a number of onlookers who’d hoped to catch a glimpse of Teddy. But later on his trip, he journeyed to Tacoma, where a man from Manette — who had been a roughrider alongside Roosevelt — came to see him.

William H. Taft: Taft also visited the shipyard, this time in 1911. During the visit, he apparently remarked that Charleston, then an independent city, was simply too close to Bremerton and that the two should be joined together. They were.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: No. 32 visited Kitsap more than any other president. He came twice as assistant secretary of the Navy and as president came another two times. The first, in 1942, was done in secret for war planning. The then Bremerton Sun didn’t know about the visit until nine days after it had happened. The second visit was public and Roosevelt made a speech aboard the USS Cummings, a picture of which you can find prominently displayed at the Bremerton Bar and Grill. He held himself up to appear standing, though he was afflicted with polio.

Harry S. Truman: The Missourian came to Bremerton in 1948 and gave a stump speech at the corner of Fifth and Pacific. It’s widely believed, even by Truman himself, that it was here someone shouted the phrase, “Give ‘em hell, Harry.” While it’s in dispute, I’d say let’s just go with it.

Bill Clinton: In 1993, the former Arkansas governor brought together leaders from Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries on Blake Island. During the video we made, I misspoke — in an effort to be more causal, Clinton brought them all leather Bombardier jackets, not jean jackets, according to the Washington Post.

Additionally, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter are both believed to have come to Kitsap before they were president. And there’s a rumor that even JFK stopped by. But that will take some additional research.

Photo by Reuters.
Photo by Reuters.

Pendergast crash makes for one dark parking lot

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If you’ve been up to Pendergast Regional Park in the evening lately, you know the parking lot is quite dark. That’s because a driver lost control there recently and plowed into the electrical cabinet that controls the lights at the popular soccer and sports complex.

The Bremerton City Council took the unusual measure Wednesday night of voting to spend up to $75,000 to fix the cabinet as soon as possible. Why it was a bit peculiar was because the Council meeting is what is known as a “study session,” a roundtable discussion that goes over City agenda items the week prior to the more formal, televised meeting where they’re usually voted on. Study sessions typically do not offer time for public comment.

Chal Martin, the city’s public works director, asked the Council to make the emergency approval given that there’s not really an option — the cabinet must be fixed. And, for public safety, the sooner, the better. The Council agreed in a unanimous vote.

So what happened? Bremerton police tell me that a Belfair woman, 20, was speeding in the parking lot the afternoon of Jan. 28 when she lost control of her car, striking the electrical cabinet. It’s unclear whether a ticket was issued but the officer told me that it’s most likely one was.

The Council was also assured the City would be demanding the work be covered by the woman (or rather, through her insurance).

What Pendergast's parking lot looks like at night right now. Photo by Councilwoman Leslie Daugs.
What Pendergast’s parking lot looks like at night right now. Photo by Councilwoman Leslie Daugs.