I’m checking in here, the day before Election 2011, on the issue
of term limits, raised during this campaign season by Dave Kimble,
a candidate for the Port of Manchester. Kimble has called for
reducing the term of port commissioner from 6 to 4 years.
Kimble, if you remember, is
making his fifth bid for the port commission. He has made it no
secret he is gunning not so much for his opponent, incumbent Dan
Fallstrom, but for longtime port commissioner Jim Strode, who beat
him in the late 1990s in a race so close it was called on a coin
Kimble, in an Aug. 15, Kitsap Sun
story on his term limit proposal, noted that Strode will have
served 30 years with the port when his term is up at then end of
“It sounds like it’s an election for me and Strode, but it’s
not. It’s joined at the hip,” Kimble said.
Kimble has said that, if elected, he would make it his job to
rock the boat and challenge the “good old boy network” he thinks
has developed on the port commission.
Fallstrom has pledged to take a steady-as-she-goes approach and
maintain what he describes as the fiscally conservative mindset
that the board of commissioners has historically held over its
Regardless of whether Kimble wins or loses, term limits would be
a good first step, he said.
“I like the idea of stopping career politicians from serving on
our port commission,” he wrote in a letter to the Kitsap Sun’s
opinion page Oct. 25.
Sitting commissioners, including Fallstrom, have expressed
concern that a four-year rotation could result in having two new
commissioners on the three-person board in certain election years.
That, Fallstrom and others say, could result in instability and
loss of institutional knowledge.
Kimble says term limits would make the port commissioner
position less daunting of a commitment, possibly attracting new
candidates. It also would result in more dramatic change-ups on the
board, which Kimble sees as a good thing.
Kimble inaccurately stated in his Oct. 25 letter that half of
the state’s ports have already switched to four-year terms.
a document on the Washington Public Ports
Association website, only 10 of the state’s 75 ports have
four-year terms. Five of those have five-member commissions,
reducing the potential for major change-ups in any given election
year. The other 65 have six-year terms.
The cost of the term limit election measure became an issue in
early August. The situation bears some similarity to Port Orchard’s
code city debacle.
If you recall, Port Orchard residents Gil and Kathy Michael
challenged the city council’s decision to change its form of
governance without putting the matter to a vote of the people. The
Michaels submitted a petition to place the code city proposal on
the ballot, but the timing of their submission meant the city would
have had to pay up to $30,000 for the election, because they would
miss the general election, when the cost could be shared with other
cities, the county, ports and school districts. The council
reversed its decision on becoming a code city, with the idea they
will take it up again in the future, possibly putting it to a vote
when timing would allow for a less costly election.
Kimble in early August asked the commissioners to put the
term-reduction measure to voters, but they said there wasn’t time
get it on the November ballot (the deadline was in late August) and
hold a public hearing on the proposal, which the port attorney
Kimble responded by launching his signature collection efforts.
In an email copied Aug. 8 to the Kitsap Sun, he said failure to
place the measure on the general election ballot could result in
special election costs to the port of $8,000, for a shared
election, up to $35,000. Kimble said he would ask the measure be
placed on the February, 2012 ballot.
Port commissioners also believed the cost of the election would
be high, according to Fallstrom, who said they discussed the issue
at their October meeting. The port’s total operating budget is just
more than $50,000. “It’d cripple us basically,” Fallstrom said.
In an email to Manchester resident Carol Kowalski, Fallstrom
said he believed having to pay the $30,000 could lead to a decline
in the port’s bond rating. That opinion made its way into a letter
to the editor (not in the Kitsap Sun) by Kowalski that was critical
In an his Oct. 25 letter to the Kitsap Sun titled “Port of
Manchester not the OK Coral,” Kimble said that the cost of the
election could be as little as $800 and “some individuals” were
On checking with Kitsap County Elections Manager Dolores
Gilmore, I found Kimble to be correct on the $800 cost. Gilmore,
53.12.175, noted that the measure “must be submitted (to the
ballot) at the next general election or special election that
occurs 60 days or more from the adoption of the resolution (if the
board were to initiate it) or submission of the petition.”
The law, in this case, appears to give the port the option to
wait on submitting the measure until the next general election,
when the port would share the cost of the election with multiple
other jurisdictions, Gilmore said.
The words “in this case” are critical, said Gilmore, who
emphasized that there are many types of petitions, each governed by
different RCWs, depending on the type of government agency and the
subject of the petition.
As with the code city issue, Gilmore said, the burden of
understanding the consequences of the law is on the petitioner,
because the burden of carrying out the law is on the city, county
or port that receives the petition … at a cost to taxpayers that
could range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand
Fallstrom was delighted to learn (from me during the week of
Oct. 24) that the port would have the option to delay Kimble’s term
limit measure until the general election. “That’s good news to us.
That’s the first I’ve head of it,” he said.
A couple other things both the petitioner and the port ought to
know, if they don’t already: Kimble has up to six months from the
date the first signature was obtained (Sept. 16, 2011) to submit
the petition. That would be March 16, not February, as Kimble
Second, the law is unclear in this case on how the petition is
to be submitted. The RCW says the petition “shall be submitted to
the county auditor.” It doesn’t say whether it’s to go first to the
port, which then is bound to submit it to the auditor, or if Kimble
can and should submit it directly. Gilmore said she would want
county attorneys to rule in on a definitive answer.
All this may seem like a lot of governmental geekiness, but a
lack of attention to just such a detail is what tripped up the code
city ballot efforts.
Kimble has multiple other complaints about the port. One that’s
still hanging fire has to do with an interlocal agreement that,
according to Fallstrom, allows the port to contract for small jobs
without going out to bid. Kimble believes it’s a circumvention of
public process and has lodged a complaint with the state Attorney
General’s Office. A spokeswoman for the SAO told me her office will
review the complaint, and I’ll keep an ear out for the results.
Check in with the Kitsap Sun tomorrow evening for the results of
this and other local races.