Category Archives: Bremerton

Bremerton could sever its coordinating council ties

196HThe countywide organization that gets local governments working as a team in a quest for federal and state dollars could be on the verge of a losing its biggest city.

On Tuesday the executive board of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council voted 8-4 to maintain the status quo in determining how best to develop countywide policy when it comes to voting.  This concluded, according to Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, 16 months of disagreement primarily between representatives from Kitsap County and the city of Bremerton.  It’s possible that vote could spell the end of Bremerton’s membership in KRCC. Greg Wheeler, Bremerton City Council president, said this is sure to be a big topic at the council’s May 13 study session.

And in the end, no matter what happened Tuesday or what happens in the future, no one besides those in government might notice a tangible difference. This is a bigtime inside baseball dispute we in the newsroom were not sure was worth covering, because it was potentially inconsequential no matter how the board or the city council voted.

Under the existing interlocal agreement among the KRCC members, for any policy measure to pass there must be a quorum present and two county commissioners must vote “yes” and at least two cities must have a majority voting “yes” as well. All three county commissioners are members of the board. Bremerton has three members, Bainbridge Island, Port Orchard and Poulsbo each have two and the Port of Bremerton has one.

At Monday’s KRCC meeting Bremerton City Council President Greg Wheeler said the Bremerton City Council was not comfortable with what he called the county controlling the process.  He made a motion to change the voting requirement to a regular quorum. In that situation, if no county commissioners were in favor of a proposal but everyone else in the room was, motion carries.

Rob Gelder, county commissioner, said the county was the one agency in the room representing every resident of the county. And even if all the incorporated areas were taken out of the county’s resident count, it still represents two-thirds of the county’s residents, those who live in unincorporated areas. Furthermore, he argued, the county can’t act unilaterally, because two cities have to be on board for any measure to pass.

KRCC acts as a local conglomerate of interests designed to coordinate pursuit of state and federal funding. The group sets priorities and then acts more or less in unison with the Puget Sound Regional Council or the Legislature. It’s not always exactly like that, because as Wheeler said every member of either KRCC or PSRC is there to represent their government’s interest, but for the most part the group operates as if working as a team nets better results than trying to go it alone.

Wheeler said the issue first arose when in response to KRCC Executive Manager Mary McClure’s decision to retire. She was working for KRCC as a contractor and there was some talk of hiring staff instead. As part of that consideration the way local agencies paid for membership also came up. Wheeler said the cost of having a staff went up a lot, and the reconfiguration of the funding formula hit Bremerton pretty hard.

KRCC pulled the funding question, but the board voting formula remained an issue for Bremerton.

That’s not universal. Patty Lent, Bremerton’s mayor, said Tuesday she was against the motion forwarded by her city’s council and voted against it.

Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes, Port Orchard mayor, supported it, saying he didn’t think anyone would take advantage of the process. “We’ve been so cooperative, so I don’t see this little change making a difference,” he said.

Erickson disagreed, saying the KRCC board had been arguing these issues for 16 months. “We don’t get along very well,” she said. She said the change could eliminate the county’s voice completely, even though it represented everyone.

A hybrid proposal would have kept the current quorum requirements in place for major policy issues, but gone to a more simple quorum process for smaller matters.

Ed Wolfe, county commissioner, said he applauded the steadfastness and passion of Bremerton, but voted against the proposal. His biggest argument was that the issue has to stop taking up any more time. “It’s time to put this to bed and get on with the people’s business,” he said.

The “yes” voters included Wheeler, Daugs, Matthes and Axel Strakeljahn, Port of Bremerton commissioner.

The “no” votes came from Gelder, Wolfe, Lent, Erickson Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern, Bainbridge Island City Council members Anne Blair and Wayne Roth and Port Orchard City Councilman Jeff Cartwright.

Charlotte Garrido, county commissioner, was absent from the meeting.

Wheeler said Bremerton leaving KRCC is on the table, but said even if the city does leave it doesn’t mean it won’t still work in cooperation with the county’s other agencies. Should the city decide to quit its KRCC membership, it would take six months under the KRCC agreement to completely sever the tie, so the organization and the city wouldn’t be free of each other until the end of the year at the earliest.





Prayer on the agenda

On Monday the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 (They all seem to be 5-4 decisions these days.) that a New York town was OK in having prayers before their meetings, even if they are pretty much all Christian. To get more detail about that case you should read the AP story that ran on our site.

Monday afternoon I spoke with Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, because Bremerton is the only local government body I know of that puts prayer on the agenda. That it would appear anywhere in this area might surprise some people, because it wasn’t long ago that a Gallup survey reported our area was the seventh least religious area in the country. That was Kitsap specifically, by the way, not just the entire Seattle area.

Lent was not much familiar with the Supreme Court decision, but in her conversation about why prayer works here she touched on some of the questions the court addressed. One of the problems in the court case was the predominance of Christian prayers. Except for one brief period last decade, prayers or other facsimiles were not heard in the New York town. Lent said in Bremerton an effort is made to spread the task around, to contact different denominations, including non-Christian ones. That’s more than the court decided was necessary.

No other local government that I am aware of opens with prayers. When I covered the Bainbridge Island City Council they didn’t even recite the pledge of allegiance and there was a bit of a dust up when one council member suggested they start. The next election ushered in folks who were not opposed to the pledge and it’s now on the agenda.

This is not to say everyone is thrilled with the prayer in Bremerton, or probably the pledge for that matter. I know several years back I knew of someone who was raising an issue with the council, someone who was as committed to atheism as some are to religion. This person, however, wasn’t interested in letting a refusal to stand for a prayer distract from the main question on this person’s agenda. It’s a case of saving battles for another day, if ever.

Lent said that to her knowledge no one has complained about Bremerton’s regular prayer.

Politicians and 9/11: A time to remember, but not dwell?


This year’s 9/11 anniversary in Kitsap County was perhaps more poignant than in recent years, as a new monument commemorating the attacks drew thousands to Evergreen Rotary Park in Bremerton.

Dignitaries Wednesday included Fred Lewis, a 100-year-old World War II veteran, as well as local politicians including Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, whose city hosts the memorial.

As part of the dedication of Kitsap’s 9/11 memorial, Lent told the crowd they’d invited three special guests. She said they heard back from two.

George W. Bush, president when the attacks occurred, was asked to come. He declined, in a letter through a spokesperson.

Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani, mayor of New York City the day two planes crashed into the World Trade towers, wrote a letter back thanking Bremerton and Kitsap County for creating a memorial (which you can read on our web site.)

The mayor’s office sent Gov. Jay Inslee an invite through the governor’s web site and by mail, but they did not hear back, she told me before the event.

Inslee spokesman David Postman said that the office wasn’t able to attend 9/11 events “due to scheduling issues.” He said they did reply, to Corrine Beach, a member of the Kitsap 9/11 memorial committee. He sent me a copy of their letter as well.

Inslee issued a state proclamation declaring Sept. 11 “a day of service and remembrance” in Washington, and for “the people of Washington to honor the lives and memories of those lost through participation in community service and remembrance ceremonies on this day and throughout the the year.”

Inslee did also ask “that Washington State and United States flags at all state agency facilities be lowered to half-staff on Wednesday, September 11, 2013, for national Patriot Day, the annual memorial to the victims of the 2001 tragedy.”

Other governors, including Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and California Gov. Jerry Brown, like Inslee, issued proclamations.

Leading politicians closer to Ground Zero participated in events this year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rode a motorcycle with Billy Joel to the site Wednesday.

Some out west did too. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter recited names of 66 fallen soldiers at a courthouse memorial on Wednesday, though it was not specifically tied to 9/11. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval attended a 9/11 event in Fallon, one of Nevada’s strongest military towns.

In previous years, former Gov. Christine Gregoire, from what I can find, attended at least three 9/11 events: On Sept. 11, 2005, she attended the Washington State Fire Academy for a ceremony there. In 2011, she attended a commemoration ceremony in Auburn. In 2008, she attended an event at the firefighter’s memorial in Tacoma.

I made this inquiry to our governor’s office not as a criticism, but a curiosity. For instance, at 12 years after the tragedy, is it just not a priority for a governor of a state on the opposite side of the country to go to such events? What do you think?

Bremerton to have a one-month council member

Remember how we had to elect a member of Congress to serve in the First Congressional District for one month following Jay Inslee’s resignation? Same goes in Bremerton, it seems.

Despite the fact that the Bremerton City Council named an interim council member, Wendy Priest, following the resignation of Roy Runyon, county elections officials say there has to be someone elected to fill the remainder of the term. That election will be in November and the new person would serve from the day the election is certified, late November, until the day a new council is sworn in, early January.

Again, what makes this necessary is redistricting. The council boundaries will change beginning in January. In fact, they’ll go from nine council seats to seven.

statefilingFiling for races across the state and in the county has begun. To the right appears to be the first filing in the state, an 8 a.m. entry by Republican Bill Brunson of Legislative Distirct 7. As we pointed out in the story about the legislative race in the 26th District, odd-year elections are typically reserved for local races, such as city councils and port and utility commissioners.

This year, though, voters in the 26th Legislative District will get to participate in a high profile race. I plan to add more to the blog later about the nature of that race and why it’s high profile, as well as diving further into some side issues.

The county will update county filings beginning at noon. Candidates can file online now, but Dolores Gilmore, county elections manager, said there is still a need to verify a candidate’s eligibility before the filing is posted online.

10 a.m. update: Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent and Bremerton City Councilmen Adam Brockus and Greg Wheeler were among the first to file for re-election this week. Also running for Bremerton City Council, the first to file in District 5, is Dino Davis. In Port Orchard incumbent Jerry Childs filed, and Bek Ashby filed to run for Position 2. In Poulsbo Ed Stern is running for re-election. Ken Ames will run to retain his North Kitsap School Board seat, and in Central Kitsap Victoria Crescenzi filed to run for the seat she sought appointment to. In the South Kitsap School District Rebecca Diehl will run for the District 4 seat held by Kathryn Simpson. Larry Stokes is running to hold on to his Port of Bremerton seat. Fire districts and other port districts also have candidates.

Noon update: Becky Erickson is running for re-election as mayor in Poulsbo. Faye Flemister and Nick Wofford have filed to run to hold onto Bremerton City Council seats. Val Tollefson wants Bob Scales’ Bainbridge Island council seat. Jeanie Schulze will be running to keep the seat she was just appointed to, facing off against at least Victoria Crescenzi.

2 p.m. update: John Green is running for Debbi Lester’s seat on the Bainbridge Island City Council. In Bremerton Cynthia Triplett Galloway wants the First District seat. Robert B. Putaansuu seeks re-election to his Port Orchard City Council seat. So does Christopher J. Lemke for his South Kitsap School Board seat. In Manchester Steve Pedersen and James E. Strode both have seats on the Port of Manchester and the Manchester Water District seats. Pedersen, so far, has only signed up for the port board and Strode has only signed to run for the water district. I believe the next update will be the last one of the day.

5:30 p.m. Jerry McDonald joined the race for the Bremerton City Council seat Adam Brockus wants. Jerry Childs seeks re-election to the Port Orchard City Council. So does Jim Henry in Poulsbo. In the North Kitsap School District Cindy Webster-Martinson will run for the seat currently held by Tom Anderson. Bruce Richards is running for re-election for his Central Kitsap School Board seat.

More tomorrow.

Campaign season

Josh Farley writes:

It’s February, and you know what that means: the beginning of political campaign season.

OK, maybe that’s not the first thing on your mind. February’s supposed to be about groundhogs and hearts, while voting’s more more akin to pumpkins and the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. But those running are already plotting their courses to November. And while the fireworks of 2012 included a presidential and gubernatorial election and our state’s historic legalization of marijuana, 2013 will have some firepower of its own — at least at the local level.

In Bremerton, the city council will be reduced in size, from nine to seven, thanks to a staunchly voter-approved measure a few years back. Increasing the population of each district could make the races more competitive, in a city where it’s not uncommon to see council members run unopposed.

Greg Wheeler, first-term councilman currently representing district 5 (an area that includes a chunk of West Bremerton near Evergreen Park and a portion of East Bremerton near East Park) called me Monday to say he’s throwing his hat in the ring for what will be the new council district 4. That new district will encompass a big portion of West Bremerton, from the Port Washington Narrows to the Shipyard north to south and from Warren Avenue to about Hewitt Avenue east to west.

I asked Kitsap Sun political guru Steven Gardner if he’d heard of anyone yet filing with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission (candidates have to wait until May to file in the county officially) and he took a look at the PDC’s web site. Wheeler’s not there yet, but Adam Brockus, city councilman representing Manette, is — and he appears to be the first from Kitsap’s local governments to file.

Brockus, in seeking a third term on the council, is running for a district 3 seat that will expand to encompass downtown Bremerton as well as its existing Manette territory.

We’ll keep you posted as filings come in. I should also mention that aside from all council members being up, the terms of Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent and Municipal Court Judge James Docter are coming to an end this year. Before you know it, the campaign signs will be up.

Bremerton accessible playground gets huge funding boost.

Note: This could easily have gone on the Peninsular Thinking blog, but because of the conversation about state funding priorities at the end of this entry I decided to post it here.

We will have more information tomorrow about this, but wanted to get the early news out there.

Residents who have been trying to raise funds to build a playground accessible to handicapped children at Evergreen Rotary Park in Bremerton received word this week the city’s application for $211,350 in state grant funding was ranked the top project out of 44 applying for state money.

The decision was made by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board.

We wrote about the idea in November when April Mills and Rebekah Uhtoff began raising funds for the playground. Both are parents of disabled children. Uhtoff’s son Gabe is in a wheelchair. Mills’ son Teddy has spina bifida.

The playground has wide pathways, for one thing, but is also made of synthetic materials to avoid causing problems for kids with latex allergies, a problem for kids with the same condition as Teddy’s. Mills and Uhtoff have always wanted to emphasize that that the playground is available to all kids, not just the handicapped. It just has features that make it possible for kids of all kinds to play together, something that isn’t possible on traditional playgrounds.

In 2011 the park was approved for a $162,000 Community Development Block Grant. I believe private funding would handle whatever’s left, but that’s a detail I need to run down.

Part of the process of getting the state grant involves making a presentation to state officials. Uhtoff and Mills attended, as did Colette Berna from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Bremerton’s score in the list of 44 projects was far and away the highest. The funding board considered the need, the scope of the project, the design and local support. Bremerton’s park received 63.89 points. In second place was an integrated playground in Gig Harbor with 59.22 points.

Bainbridge Island’s Rotary Park development project scored fifth with 53.33 points, the county scored 12th for South Kitsap Regional Park expansion and Port Orchard finished 32nd for Paul Powers Park development and 43rd for McCormick Village Park. The higher the project is on the list, the more likely the funding.

The Legislature has the authority to change the order of projects, but typically doesn’t. In most years Bremerton’s project would be a shoo-in for funding. Even Kitsap County, coming in 12th place, could have reason to be optimistic. We will have a new governor next year, though, so it might be a little tougher to predict now how a new state chief executive might look at funding priorities for projects like these.

Bremerton’s new PW director knows floods

Flooding would be a good thing to know about in Skagit County. That’s probably why it’s the focus of a story in the Skagit Valley Herald in its story about Chal Martin’s departure to take the public works job in Bremerton. Martin applied for the position and came in second to Katie Allen, who has since decided to leave so she can run the city she lives in.

Martin gets bona fide props for other things, too, though it still is in relation to flooding. From the story:

Colleagues and friends say his expertise and ability to collaborate among government agencies and organizations and his dedication to resolving (emphasis mine) the area’s flood issues have left Skagit County in a better position overall.

Side note: I like that the Skagit site is called “goskagit.”

It helps to be in the room

The pictures you see here are of recently, as in the last week, filled potholes at the base of speed humps on Marion Avenue in Bremerton. For a long time the potholes here have been a nasty encounter in front of the Frances Haddon Morgan Center.

The timing of the fix might be instructive. On Wednesday the Bremerton City Council, acting in its role as the Benefit Transportation District board, met to discuss how to spend the money the city will soon begin getting on Bremerton resident vehicle license tabs. In July residents, Bremerton city residents only, will begin paying $20 a year extra when they go to license their cars or trucks. That money will go to the city’s street fund. The district board will decide each year how to spend it.

Wednesday’s meeting was an effort to set priorities before money begins trickling in. Maintenance was the overwhelming choice, which might seem obvious to you, but there were other options that could get some play in the future as well. And by maintenance the focus is on the city’s Pavement Management Index, a scoring system that grades the conditions of a road. Other factors the council considered were how well traveled a road is; cost to repair; proximity to schools, parks and hospitals; whether there is a bus or bike route; the complaint frequency; geographic equity and coordination with other projects.

The pavement index was the overwhelming pick, with a preference for roads considered “fair” or better. Roads rated worse than fair will need more than a little maintenance, so much that any TBD money would quickly be exhausted. The second-strongest priority was a scoring system put together by the city’s Public Works department, allowing that city staff will often have the best idea what needs work in town.

As part of the conversation Carol Arends, city councilwoman, opened a discussion about potholes. “Every district has potholes,” she said, launching into a description of the ones pictured here. They’re a danger, she said. Other council members knew of this particular set of holes.

Jim Orton, streets manager, said his department knew of the problem here and that the site was on the city’s list for fixing.

The city has spent $10,000 on potholes this year and plans to spend about $100,000 by the end of the year. “They’re hard to keep up with,” Orton said. “But we’re trying to fix as much as we can.”

On Sunday I happened to be driving down Marion and noticed the holes Arends complained about had been filled in.

Methadone clinic conversation from the one-time suitor

One of the voices I had hoped to have in the story about methadone clinic zoning the council will consider Wednesday was Ron Jackson, director of Evergreen Treatment Services. I called him and he called me back three times and we never connected. Jackson, you will recall, was the one who wanted to locate a treatment facility here, at the request of the Kitsap County Health District and with the blessing of Mayor Patty Lent.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Jackson said when I mentioned that two of the zoning proposals the council will consider Wednesday would allow a methadone clinic to go in the Skookum Building, which was Jackson’s idea.

Since Bremerton made the location of methadone clinics the subject of a six-month moratorium, Jackson has looked at three other locations in other counties, but state funding, or more accurately the idea that state funding could be withdrawn, has him putting on hold any expansion plans. “I need to see what the Legislature is going to do with the budget, because the mission of the agency is to provide services regardless of someone’s ability to pay,” Jackson said.

Jackson also is not sure there is an appropriate building in the Bremerton areas the council will likely approve. He looked for property up in the freeway corridor area and near the hospital and did not find something he thought would work. Skookum was the right place, he said, but as it turned out it was missing a key ingredient, too. “The one characteristic that it didn’t have was neighborhood support,” Jackson said.

Inside video of Bremerton’s 10-screen movie theater construction

The story about the parking on Fourth Street will get more attention in city council meetings and certainly here at the Kitsap Sun. The bids are in for the changes proposed for the eastern half of the street.

The overall design, as mentioned in the story, calls for elements that are supposed to make the area more attractive for shoppers. Whether that happens is another question. Gary Sexton, Bremerton’s redevelopment projects administrator (on contract) showed me around the garages and the theater Monday. The theater is supposed to open in late May, early June. The apartments planned for on top of the Burwell Street garage could begin construction around the same time.

The city council is supposed to approve the winning bid for the eastern portion of Fourth Street construction at its meeting Feb. 1.

Here is a video of the inside of the theater, including some still shots.

Bremerton mayor opts for an expanded interview process for PW director

More than a week ago four candidates for Bremerton’s vacant public works director position came to Bremerton to undergo an interview process unlike others from the city’s recent past.

Two of the candidates were here from Colorado. The other two were from this state. City staff members, city council members and others made up four interview panels each candidate had to face. Those panels shared their feedback with the mayor.

The four candidates also took part in a public reception in the evening. Ultimately, Katy Allen was hired.

I received two complaints from residents about the process. Both said it was too big an expense during tough economic times, especially when the city at that time was proposing layoffs for utility employees. I asked the Mayor Patty Lent about that. She said it was a process she and the other county commissioners employed when she was doing that job. As for the expense, she said it was part of the contract the city had with Prothman to have this kind of interview event.

It is not the first time I have seen one like this. On Bainbridge Island the city hosted four candidates for police chief when Matt Haney ultimately got the job. Times were better then, but the complaint I heard that time around was it seemed a pointless process when it seemed the mayor there was intent on hiring Haney. He did get the job. His runner up, Alex Perez from the Inglewood, Calif. Police Department, was eventually hired in Longview, where he worked for seven years.

Cecil McConnell, a city councilman who was one of those on the interview panels, said the process was probably a long one for the candidates, but he seemed to like that he saw the candidates and was able to personally compare them. He eventually thought two of them, including Allen, would be great hires.

At the same time, I would say in my experience in looking for work I expected there to be a competitive process to be the candidate ultimately picked. The game changes when there is travel involved. I was turned down for lots of jobs when I interviewed close to home. I went six for six in the jobs I traveled for. (By that I mean I traveled for six interviews and was offered jobs at all six.) The point there is not to brag, though I am kind of proud of that record, it’s to show that in my experience a company doesn’t have someone travel into town if the job doesn’t seem certain. At the executive level (I think a public works director is way more executive than a beat reporter) it may be less likely.

What are your thoughts? Was this a good use of money? The candidates were viewed side-by-side before one was hired. It seems like that would be useful. Do you think it’s worth the extra expense, or should the mayor have arrived at this point without it?

Maupin calls for Bremerton salary cuts

Bremerton City Council President Will Maupin sent a letter to Mayor Patty Lent and Financial Services Director Becky Hasart calling for major changes in the city’s 2012 budget. He also leveled an interesting claim about how department directors were instructed to address the changes with the council.

“This year, the Council was not afforded the opportunity to provide input early in the process and I understand that department heads were warned to not argue against the administration’s budget on threat of being fired.” — Will Maupin

Maupin faults the administration and the council for how the budget has been handled and said he looks forward to a meeting today (Monday) to hammer out some details before the council approves the final spending plan on Wednesday, which in theory could change.

Among the changes he calls for are a 15 percent reduction in executive salaries, the assumption of furloughs for city employees and a reduction in layoffs down to less than 10.

I’ve called both Maupin and Lent for comment and received voice mail. I presume they are meeting now. We’ll have a story later (in print Tuesday). The letter follows.

Patty & Becky,

The purpose of this memo is to provide input on the budget and the budget process to help finalize this year’s budget and to help avoid the same mistakes in the future.

I think that the administration, myself and the entire Council have made mistakes during the development of this budget. The budget contains several controversial proposals and was developed by the administration with very little input from the Council and department heads. Past budgets have been a team effort between the administration, the Council and the department heads. This year, the Council was not afforded the opportunity to provide input early in the process and I understand that department heads were warned to not argue against the administration’s budget on threat of being fired.

At this point, some of the administration’s proposals for revenue enhancement have been approved by Council for the 2012 budget. In the future, things like increases in PILOT, increased parking taxes, shifting funds to the street department, significant numbers of layoffs, etc., should be discussed with the Council before budget preparation begins.

Since the budget was delivered to the Council late, the Council accepted the task of changing or eliminating some of the elements of the administration’s budget proposal while trying to keep it balanced. In retrospect, the Council should have decided which of the proposals were acceptable and which were not and should have sent the budget back to the administration for further work. We should not have tried to do the administration’s work for them.

As I discussed with Becky on Thursday, here are some of the elements the Council wants incorporated in the revised budget proposal:

Salaries for high paid members of management, including the mayor, should be reduced by a meaningful amount (about 15%) through furloughs or other actions.
Furloughs should be used for other employees to avoid layoffs.
The executive budget should be examined to make sure it contains only required expenditures in this difficult economic period.
The budget should assume salary concessions by labor unions.
The budget should assume additional contributions to health insurance costs by employees.
The budget should assume no layoffs in utility fund positions and that a utility rate study will be done in early 2012.
The budget should include fewer than 10 layoffs in the general fund.

Although we did not discuss these items, I would like them addressed:

Retain a total of four positions in the electronics division.
Present a plan for executing street repairs, including the number of positions to be retained, considering that we approved funding for streets from parking tax, stormwater PILOT and $20 car tab fees.

Another issue we discussed on Thursday is that the Council requests that the administration prepare a narrative explaining the principles behind the elements included in the budget. The Council never received a briefing on what the administration was trying to accomplish with the 2012 budget. We only received an explanation of the individual elements. The Council still does not know why the budget included laying off as many people as was proposed while maintaining staff and management salaries at high levels. This narrative should include a discussion of the long term (the next two or three years) plan for PILOT, parking taxes, furloughs, health insurance costs and layoffs.

I think the action taken by the Council last Wednesday to delay action on the budget gives us a chance to make significant changes which will benefit all the citizens of Bremerton. I look forward to meeting with you on Monday afternoon to review the administration’s new budget proposal. I hope the proposal is something we can both support and present to the entire Council with a recommendation to approve.

Will Maupin
President, Bremerton City Council

Noise online; silence in person

The Bremerton City Council, as many of you have read, passed a $20 car tab fee Wednesday night. For all the gnashing and flailing going on in the story comments section, you would think it was highly controversial.

When the council was considering it, though, the masses that had earlier packed the first-floor chambers of the Norm Dicks Government Center were mostly gone. Sure, you could say the meeting was poorly advertised, and that it was late. But the meeting when the council considered the idea in July was well advertised and was held while the sun was still shining outside. (That’s easier to do in the summer, and impossible this time of year.) No one came to discuss it either time.

Wednesday’s meeting had a large contingent on hand to advocate in favor of additional funding for the Admiral Theatre, a smaller group there to support a $25,000 expenditure for the Youth Wellness Center and the largest group of all there to grill the council on its 2012 budget.

When it came time for the car tab discussion one Bremerton citizen, Bob Dollar, was there to ask a single question about how long the new tab would last. A few others had stayed but had no comment. All the debating was left to the council.

And yet, when the council finally made the move it had considered a few times before, the boo birds lept to their keyboards, having failed to leap to their feet before.

And that’s kind of the point. During this budget cycle most of the comments about car tab fees have been residents saying the council should do it.

My thought in July, when hardly anyone (Myself included. I was on vacation.) showed up for the meeting when the council was discussing the issue the first time, was that Bremerton residents were essentially giving the council permission to do what it did last night.

Sure, Bremerton voters said “no” to a car tab fee in 2009, a $30 fee. But based on the lack of outcry every time the council has discussed a $20, or $15, tab since, the second message seems to be “If you’re going to ask me, I’m probably going to say, ‘no.’ But if you do it without asking, that’s probably fine”

Nowhere here am I saying that what the council did Wednesday was right or wrong. But residents had their chance to make their thoughts clear on the subject, and the silence was every bit as loud as the arguments against the 2012 budget proposal the council put off approving Wednesday.

No drinks anywhere in the ice arena

The first version of the story I wrote about the Bremerton Ice Arena managers wanting to sell beer and wine in the facility had a mistake that made it look like people could drink on the ice. They would not have been allowed to, but could in a lounge area and in the lobby.

Now it looks like they can’t anywhere, anytime soon. Arena managers are free to ask the National Park Service’s permission to sell at the arena, but even if the park service approves, the arena still may not be able to legally do it.

One of the two votes the Bremerton City Council took last week to allow the sales had to have one vote removed, that of City Councilman Greg Wheeler.

The council voted 5-4 twice to allow the beer and wine sales. One vote changed the city’s ordinance. The other changed the city’s contract with the arena. The second one is where Wheeler’s vote was invalidated. Wheeler’s wife, Sunny, works at the arena, which is considered a “remote interest,” according to City Attorney Roger Lubovich. That doesn’t affect the ordinance change, but it does with the contract. With Wheeler’s vote removed, it’s a 4-4 vote. Tie goes to the “no” side.

The contract would have to come back to the council for another vote, one without Wheeler.

In a story about the $75,000 bridge expense an alert reader posted a link to a previous story about that expense to make the case that the council should have known about it before, because it was in the paper before. I responded that the council was also surprised by the request for a methadone clinic, despite several stories in the Kitsap Sun stating Ron Jackson was looking for a site. I said it pointed out that members of the council must not read our paper, then added:

Before posting this I was a little concerned I’d be accused of being a jerk for pointing that out, but since they don’t read us, there is little risk. ;-

No one on the council ever said anything about that comment.

They also apparently didn’t read my first story about the ice arena, which included the following two paragraphs:

Wyn Birkenthal, speaking to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission in late September, said because the federal government gave the land to the city, the National Park Service also would have to approve the concession agreement.

The commission voted 6-0 to recommend allowing beer and wine sales at the center. Sunny Wheeler abstained because she works at the center. Her husband, Greg, is on the city council.

I don’t catch everything, and I didn’t check whether there would be a conflict here, but I brought it up for a reason.

Council members read parts of the paper, at least the headlines. There were complaints Wednesday night referencing the Kitsap Sun story about the mayor’s proposal for 25 layoffs.

Live Blog: Council study session

Two items stick out tonight. One is the ice arena request to be able to sell beer and wine. We wrote a story on that. For Friday I have planned another story on $75,000 planned as an additional expense for the Manette Bridge. At least one council member characterizes this item as a request for spending that has already happened. Join us.

Live Blog: Bremerton Council, Port of Bremerton, Vets Levy

We plan to live blog the League of Women Voters forum this evening. Two races and one issue are part of the two-hour event:

  • Bremerton City Council District 2: Cecil McConnell and Leslie Daugs
  • Port of Bremerton Commissioner District 3: Axel Strakeljahn and Shawn Cucciardi
  • Veterans & Human Services Levy
  • My ankles want better streets more than police

    Bremerton City Council members think they might be able to sit around a table and agree on long-term funding priorities. If they could it would mean that in one afternoon they would craft a list that would for years establish whether you would be able to:

    A. Drive down your street without your tires shredding and injuring that hippie down the street raising chickens without a license;
    B. Call police when someone has organized a sit-in on your lawn;
    C. Complain to the city about your neighbor’s odiferous flowers;
    D. Expect more than your neighbor’s hose when that bananas foster you were making gets out of hand;
    E. Calm your nerves by letting a playground be your babysitter while the recipe kicks in;
    F. Trust that even on a day that it snows you’ll be able to get to your job without relying on your neighbors’ dogs;
    G. Build an outhouse within 5 feet of your property line.

    It’s a question of priorities. I’m not sure an agreement on them could be hatched in a day without a poker game in which the winner gets to pick them. “We’d love to repave your street, m’am, but Brockus’ full house beat Runyon’s two pair.”

    This building laughed at me Tuesday night.
    During Tuesday’s conversation I thought to myself what priorities I might pick as the top ones. Like the council members, I see the value in just about every service the city provides. Some are more valuable than others, and if I was sure which value I would place at the top, I couldn’t tell you. For one, it would ruin my appearance of Olympian objectivity. Secondly, I’d be afraid someone would take me seriously.

    For a moment Tuesday night, though, my opinion was clear. It happened after the meeting. I walked back to the office and then took a quick break. I left to go my car, parked in a lot between Park Avenue and Warren Avenue.

    (Sidenote: I love that Bremerton has a Park Avenue. “Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue.”)

    Between the Kitsap Sun building and the Navy parking garage, I decided to jaywalk. Sue me.

    A few steps into the street I met one of the city’s most prominent citizens, the pothole. My ankle turned hard enough that I fell all the way to the ground, right there on the street before the observant eyes of . . . no one. Nobody else was out there.

    My ankle hurt. It was worse than usual. I get ankle sprains a lot. I’ve been getting them since I was 14. I’m just lucky that way.

    This one was worse than usual. It wasn’t crippling, but it hurt. I pushed myself off the street and continued walking toward my car, cursing the whole time at those children of rude mothers from the Deity punished city that won’t repair the highly affectionate streets.

    “Streets should be the top priority!” my ankle yelled. “Quiet you!” I yelled back.

    I suppose it points out why we have differences of opinions on what the city’s priorities should be. Nearly everyone on the council will say police and fire as first and second. Roads will either be in third or fourth. Things like reserves and parks and planning get dibs, too. But something colors our opinions about the order. For me in that moment it was the throbbing pain in each step.

    That pain was worse on Wednesday. It’s better today. I’m moving around pretty well. If I was on the council, though, and we were meeting today about budget priorities, there would be a cry from under the table for better paved roads. On Monday I might have been less sympathetic. I’m not saying.

    This is all to say that if the council can decide in one or two meetings the spending direction it will take for the next several years, it will take getting agreement from council members who have also sprained ankles, damaged tires, seen their homes burglarized, enjoyed parks, planned development or needed medical aid at home. It isn’t just ideology that colors priorities. It’s experience, as well. To get them to quickly agree on what comes first, second, third, fourth and on would be quite a feat.

    Live Blog City Council — Oct. 5, 2011

    Tonight’s council meeting will include a discussion of the art piece. Given other news we’ve heard lately, there could be some other interesting stuff. That seems live-blog worthy. If you can’t make it to the meeting, and based on the average attendance at council meetings that is most of you, you can read about it here. Also I will have a story about the art piece for tomorrow’s paper. Look for it online later today.

    9/11 Memorial Committee response

    In response to today’s story about the 9/11 Memorial Committee, Bremerton City Councilman Jim McDonald sent this note out to the folks you see listed here.

    From: Jim McDonald
    Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2011 9:21 AM
    To: City Council; Mayor Lent; Wyn Birkenthal
    Cc: Dave Fergus; Roy Lusk
    Subject: 9-11 Committee Update

    Based on the recent press regarding the 9-11 Memorial Committee, I wanted to give you an update from the last report where I discussed the resignations.

    First of all, I was shocked and disappointed to see the accusations in the Kitsap Sun this morning by the former committee members. The remaining committee volunteers continue to do incredible things and expend a ton of their own time and money to this cause. You only need to look back to the 10-year anniversary event last month to see the types of things this group can accomplish.

    As the committee has grown and collected more funds, they have taken steps to improve the organization. Earlier this year (or late last year) the committee had been in contact with a CPA for assistance. The current treasurer has been working with the CPA to review the committee procedures. While the committee already had some good financial controls in place (like two people required to sign checks), they are also moving to improve the financial reporting by migrating from a notebook with receipts and bank statements to QuickBooks. This will allow for easier reporting and monthly reconciliation. By the time this is completed, they will have financial controls better than most non-profit organizations.

    While the focus the last couple of months has been on the successful Memorial and Groundbreaking ceremonies, Dave Fergus and Wyn Birkenthal have been recently discussing the process to arrive at the final design. I expect that effort to begin shortly. Once complete, I also expect that much of the labor and material needed for the Memorial will come from in-kind donations. For example, the trucking company that has been moving the two World Trade Center beams to all the events and parades has done it all for no charge. All the chairs and most of the cost for the expensive sound system were donated for the Memorial ceremony. Proceeds from concessions were donated to the Committee. The list of community support goes on and on.

    Since the resignation of the committee members, there have been more people attending the committee meetings and there have been more volunteers. In fact, at last night’s 9-11 committee meeting, we had a lot of the volunteers join the committee with comments that a lot more folks would like to be on the committee. To keep the organization from getting too big too fast, the committee passed a motion to limit the current size of the committee to 30 members.

    I remain totally convinced that this organization will complete the Memorial. The organization is filled with people with integrity and who remain extremely dedicated and passionate about this cause. As the City Council appointee to 9-11 Memorial Committee, I am very proud to be associated with this group. Please feel free to attend a committee meeting and see for yourself.


    Jim McDonald
    Bremerton City Council
    District 1