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Well-off Island City Now Ailing

Kitsap’s prosperous island city is in a world of hurt, city council candidates agreed during a public forum on Bainbridge Island Monday.
“Why is the city so messed up?” asked Bob Scales, a candidate for the North Ward council position. He likened the city’s finances to a giant Ponzi scheme.
“Things need to change at City Hall,” said Kirsten Hytopoulos, a South Ward candidate.
Heightening their concerns was the BI City Manager Mark Dombroski’s sudden resignation announcement. The candidates had learned of his decision just hours before the 7 p.m. forum at the Bainbridge High School Commons.
“We need to live within our means,” said incumbent North Ward Councilwoman Debbie Vancil. “We need to bring in an interim city manager and we need an audit.”
Her comment drew applause from the audience, which numbered about 100 people. Kim Abel, former mayor of Port Orchard and vice president of the state League of Women Voters, moderated the forum. She cautioned audience members to hold their applause until the end of the session.
Tim Jacobsen, a CPA and South Ward candidate, said that if elected he would use his financial skills to help bring fiscal stability to the city.
Once flying high with grandiose visions for a Winslow Tomorrow project, the city is now struggling to keep up with basic infrastructure repairs. It is also faced with a lawsuit brought by the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance.
One question from the audience asked whether the city should grant a density bonus to developers as a way to raise funds.
All the candidates rejected that idea.
“We already have a lot of empty condos,” said Debbi Lester, a Central Ward candidate.
Most of the candidates agreed the city needed to diversify its economic base, relying less on real estate development to bring in tax dollars.
In response to another question, most said they liked the idea of attracting more tourists.
But Dee DuMont, a Central Ward candidate who once lived in Port Townsend, cautioned against getting too dependent on tourism because it, too, is a “fragile resource.”
Cosponsors of the forum with the League were the BI Chamber of Commerce and the Kitsap Sun. BITV filmed the forum and will be airing it at a later date.
The LWV Kitsap’s next public forum will be tonight in Poulsbo. Candidates for mayor and city council will meet at 7 p.m. at the council chambers. The public is invited to attend and to submit questions for the candidates.

From left, Debbie Vancil, Bob Scales, Dee DuMont, Debbi Lester, Tim Jacobsen and Kirsten Hytopoulos attended the LWV Kitsap candidate forum on Bainbridge Island Sept. 28.
From left, Kevin Dwyer of BI Chamber of Commerce, standing; candidates Debbie Vancil, Bob Scales, Dee DuMont, Debbi Lester, Tim Jacobsen and Kirsten Hytopoulos at the LWV Kitsap candidate forum Sept. 28.