Monthly Archives: April 2009

Mayor vs. manager: a battle of bobbleheads


With wobbly necks and nodding heads, bobblehead dolls are an agreeable companion in any public debate.

Bob Fortner brought eight with him to Bainbridge High School for a Monday night debate over whether the city of Bainbridge should swap its elected mayor for a hired manager.

“Our current form looks like this,” said Fortner, a proponent of the manager form, as he set down a single bobblehead to represent the island’s mayor. Then, setting seven bobbleheads on a podium, Fornter continued, “This way is a broader representation of voters’ values, philosophies and interests.”

Fortner, an island business owner and longtime City Hall watcher, urged the audience of about 60 people to vote on May 19 to eliminate the mayor position and concentrate power with the seven-member City Council, which would hire a manager to carry out the city’s administrative duties.

Fortner’s debate opponent, island resident and University of Washington public policy scholar David Harrison, took the podium, swiveling the dolls around for nose-to-nose face offs. Their heads shook and bobbed to seven different rhythms.

“Because I’m a friend of Bob’s, I’m not going to have them kicking each other,” Harrison said, joking about the sharply divided council.

Whether mayor- or manager-led, the council will continue to tussle over conflicting views and agendas, Harrison said. The main difference, he added, is that a manager will have no authority to rein the council in or focus its attention on common goals.

“The single biggest problem with the council-manager form is that it won’t have the central focus for government that we desperately need,” Harrison said.

Fortner said eliminating the mayor position will spread power among the seven-member council, making government more accountable and transparent.

“We’ve outgrown the utility of a small town mayor,” he said.

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Jet spews fuel over Bainbridge

Fuel jettisoned from an ailing Boeing 777 rained down on Bainbridge Wednesday afternoon.

Residents reported smelling the fuel in Winslow and the south end of the island.

“(The odor) was overpowering for some people,” Firefighter Chris Schmit told the Kitsap Sun. “We had multiple calls, but we were unable to locate any liquid fuel on the ground.”

Read environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan’s report here.

See KOMO News’ video (below) of the jet spraying fuel and making an emergency landing. No one was injured.

Kitsap Sun backs BI’s mayor form of government

The Sun’s editorial board urged Bainbridge voters to stick with the city’s existing form of government.

According to the board, City Hall’s problems are rooted in personalities, the economy and divergent agendas rather than the city’s system of government.

“In our view the current situation is at the heart a personality conflict among elected officials and, at times, interest groups on the island. Conflicts are exacerbated now by a falling economy and incredibly unstable city budget. But relationship problems aren’t enough to justify a complete overhaul of government.”

Read the full editorial here.

Islanders will vote on May 19 on whether to eliminate the city’s elected mayor position and replace it with a hired manager under the authority of the City Council.

Police blotter: “You’ll see it in the Kitsap Sun”

During five visits to City Hall in one day, an elderly man – who was apparently frustrated about a development project he was working on – made unsettling comments about his guns and whether or not City Hall had police protection. When city staff asked him what he was talking about, the man replied: “You’ll see it in the Kitsap Sun.”

I’ve been scanning the headlines, but have yet to see our coverage of the angry man’s exploits. Stay tuned.

Also this week, Bainbridge police make good with a new “zero tolerance” policy on that hallowed Bainbridge tradition – Paint Night. The BIPD busted a crew of nighttime painters who were planning to decorate the high school water tower.

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Islanders challenged to cut energy use by 4 percent

An effort is afoot to encourage islanders to reduce their energy consumption by 4 percent. The reduction would likely offset the need for a proposed Puget Sound Energy substation.

“Is it a challenge? Yes,” City Councilwoman Hilary Franz said. “But there are a number of things lining up that make me think we can do it.”

Read Kitsap Sun environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan’s coverage of the island’s energy reduction challenge here.

A meeting to discuss the idea is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Bainbridge Commons, 370 Brien Drive.

Bainbridge-Seattle route named one of the best ferry rides in America

ferryrideBudget Travel magazine put the Bainbridge-Seattle route on its list of the most beautiful ferry rides in the United States.

Here’s what the mag had to say about the Bainbridge trip:

“Glide past sailboats and cruise liners on this quick hop across Puget Sound, with views of Seattle’s skyline and the snow-covered flanks of the Cascade Range. Weather permitting, you can even make out the 14,410-foot peak of Mount Rainier, about 100 miles away. Disembark on Bainbridge and spend the day exploring the island’s hiking trails and downtown cafés (try the caramel pecan French toast at Café Nola), then time your return trip to watch the dusk settle over Puget Sound, and the city itself.”

So put down your newspaper (unless it’s the Sun) on your next trip and take in one of the best views around.

Island TV pioneer dies at 83

KING-TV investigative reporter and Bainbridge public access TV pioneer Christopher “Kit” Spier died April 15 from complications related to Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Spier, who died at his Bainbridge home, led quite a life, as the Seattle Times recently reported:

Pick a decade in Christopher “Kit” Spier’s life, and you’d have the stuff of a television movie.

He knew what it was like to fight in a war, to start television stations, and direct and produce award-winning documentaries for TV. He played trumpet in a jazz band and turned a polluting sewage plant into an environmental gem.

Read the rest of the Times’ story here.

Island tree doc uses science and activism to save historic trees.


Tree expert Olaf Ribeiro’s Arbor Day tours of Winslow’s historic trees was fully booked, even with two added walks. If you missed the tour, you can still read the story (below) I wrote last week. For Larry Steagal’s photo gallery of Ribeiro in action, check out this link.

A change comes over Olaf Ribeiro when he touches the gnarled and scabbed bark of an old apple tree gripping a small patch of lawn on Winslow Way.

Suddenly he no longer sees the clinic and the busy sidewalk crowding the tree’s roots. The supermarket across the street and its vast parking lot disappear. In his mind’s eye, acres worth of Winslow streets, shops and restaurants give way to rows of apple trees much like the one at his side.

“All of downtown was an orchard,” he said, squinting at a view in the distant past. “Twenty acres. All that you can see here was apple trees. Why this one has survived is beyond me.”

Having an accommodating inheritor – the Winslow Virginia Mason clinic – is one key to the tree’s longevity. The other is Ribeiro, who has combined the passion of an activist with the know-how of a scientist to save some of Winslow’s oldest and most revered trees.

A plant pathologist for over 30 years, the Kenyan-born Ribeiro uses Bainbridge as his home base between globe-spanning, tree-saving adventures that have been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and NBC’s Today show. He’s advised arborists treating the Doomsday Tree, under which England’s Magna Carta was signed, and provides ongoing care for Britain’s Tortworth Chestnut, a tree said to have sprouted over 1,200 years ago.

“How long a tree lives depends on how you treat it,” he said.

Ribeiro gives his most dedicated attention – often free-of-charge – to the island trees he holds most dear.

The three towering trees outside the Bainbridge Historical Museum have been under the Ribeiro’s care for decades. He agitated at City Hall enough to save the former pet store property from redevelopment and worked to free the trees’ compacted roots from the store’s parking lot. Now the trees – an elm, a sycamore and an 88-foot-tall red oak – live on as reminders of a unique past.

“These trees were brought across the ocean from Britain,” Ribeiro said. “They’re the last of their size remaining in downtown.”
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Video: Discussion on Bainbridge Vote to Change Form of Government

The Kitsap Sun Editorial board hosted a discussion about the May 19 vote to change from a mayor-council form of government to council-manager. Dennis Vogt, an Island resident who led the effort to get the question on the ballot, spoke on behalf of the manager form. David Harrison, an Island resident and government policy scholar,  spoke to the existing form.

We apologize for the low audio quality in the beginning of the video. The sound increases about 11 minutes in. the conversation also becomes more lively towards the end.

– posted by Kitsap Sun web staff

Group sues city over sewer plant funding

The Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance filed suit today against the city over the funding plan for a new Winslow sewer plant.

The plant’s bond funding is expected to increase fees for utility ratepayers in the Winslow area.

“We greatly regret that the city has pushed the ratepayers so far that it became necessary to file this lawsuit to counter the misuse of utility ratepayer fees,” alliance member Sally Adams said in a statement. “Under law, (city) utility ratepayers may only be charged for services they receive. They may not be charged for costs that benefit other public projects.”

Check back later for more details.

Franz: Bainbridge must change its energy consumption

Councilwoman Hilary Franz submitted a guest column urging energy conservation to avert the need for a new power substation on the island. Her column is below.


This week, Puget Sound Energy held a public meeting at the Bainbridge Commons to discuss a proposed substation and transmission lines for Bainbridge Island.  As they shared at the meeting, PSE is bound by the electrical needs of our community. Due to the growth of our Island’s power demand, PSE is forecasting that they will need to begin the construction of a new power transmission substation as early as 2011.

I believe that our island is in the position of delaying or averting the installation of the proposed 25 MVA substation in 2011.  To get there, however, will take the commitment of all of our community to energy efficiency, changing energy usage habits, and alternative energy. It will require approximately 1 to 2 MW per year reduction in our peak demand. PSE announced at the meeting that they are willing to work with the community and develop ways in which conservation may be used to meet this ambitious goal. We should take them up on this offer.

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Winslow development clashes with the “Bainbridge aesthetic,” officials say


The design illustration above depicts what the prominent northwest corner of the Winslow Way and Highway 305 intersection may look like in the near future.

A new art museum would anchor the front end (depicted at right) of the proposed Island Gateway project, with about 60,000 square feet of commercial space and a new home for the Kids Discovery Museum to the rear.

The project’s plans call for the removal of the five-acre site’s three existing structures. All new buildings would incorporate green design and the overall site plan features elements to reduce stormwater runoff into Winslow Ravine.

The city’s Design Review Board balked, saying the project’s design doesn’t fit the city’s preferred aesthetic for downtown. The board’s move doesn’t kill the project. The project’s developers, owner Bill Carruthers and architect Matthew Coates, will meet with the board next week to hash out some new ideas.

For my full story on the project, click here.

Below is a site plan showing the full project.