Tag Archives: Bremerton City Council

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.





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.

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.

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.

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.

Sign of Bremerton City Council fireworks to come?

During Wednesday night’s Bremerton City Council meeting, city council candidate Lena Swanson took a few minutes, fewer than she wanted, to raise a few issues.

Her comments came during the public comment period. City Council President Will Maupin did what he and every other city council president or meeting leader I have ever seen did before the comments. He asked participants to say their names and limit their comments to three minutes. Swanson appeared to be grumbling a bit about the time constraint, but soldiered on.

Swanson discussed how a few years earlier she and others had asked the city to put the same kind of flowers you find on Pacific Avenue in front of businesses on Callow. The city did, but isn’t anymore. A drive through downtown and on Callow after the meeting revealed her complaint to be true, that they are on Pacific and not on Callow. She wants them back.

“West Bremerton does exist, you know,” she told the council.

Swanson also complained about the upkeep on the dog park at Pendegrast Park, comparing it unfavorably with the park in Silverdale. She said the Bremerton park is muddy compared to the one in CK. She urged the council to find volunteers who can help dig the drain field to help with water runoff there. She said people like herself shouldn’t have to drive to Silverdale for a clean dog park experience, saying of Silverdale, “They’ve already stolen our tax base.”

The next part is where the fireworks started. She mentioned she had spoken to Faye Flemister, the other candidate for the city council seat Swanson is seeking. She said the two of them seem to see eye to eye and that she had until tomorrow to withdraw from the race. Then, as she said she think she would do a fair job, Maupin interrupted her to remind her the law says no campaigning in city council meetings.

Swanson responded, “I’m contemplating withdrawing my candidacy. You keep talking to me like that I might change my mind.”

As her three minutes were up, she said again that West Bremerton exists, but “we may even withdraw from Bremerton you keep treating us like stepchildren.”

Swanson left the meeting. The council said nothing

Until later.

Following a presentation about park improvements to Kiwanis Park, located between Fourth and Fifth Streets and Veneta Avenue, Maupin told the audience, “I just want to point out that this is a project in West Bremerton.” Members of the council laughed briefly, but loudly.

Maupin will not be on the council in 2012. Swanson, as of 1:15 p.m., had not withdrawn from the race.

UPDATE: Sign of Bremerton City Council fireworks to come? No. Swanson withdrew.