Tag Archives: Kitsap Sun

Bye for now, Bainbridge

Bainbridge Conversation readers,

When it comes to covering Bainbridge Island, I’ve joked with some of my colleagues that I should have cut back on all the journalism in college and spent more time studying law and hydrogeology. That’s because the big stories on Bainbridge often feature one or both of these topics, and having a better understanding of their complexities would have served me well during the eight years I’ve reported on the island.

Well, now I get my chance.

I’m shipping off to Boulder, Colo. to study those very things – plus a whole lot more – as a Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado.

It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. The basic idea is the university throws its doors open and lets me and the other four fellows take whatever classes will make us better environmental reporters. I’m planning on studying environmental sciences, environmental law, and I may try and squeeze in some writing and photojournalism courses. I’ll also attend conferences, go on field trips, participate in fellowship seminars and work on a research project.

With the other fellows hailing from the Los Angeles Times, Spokesman-Review and Associated Press New Delhi bureau, I can tell you that I’m still pinching myself that they let in a kid from the Kitsap Sun.

Speaking of the Sun, the paper has been amazingly supportive every step of the way, and have pledged to take me back when the fellowship ends in May.

I’m leaving the Bainbridge beat in the talented and highly-capable hands of Tad Sooter, whose byline has been appearing regularly in the Bainbridge Islander and Kitsap Sun. He’s worked for the Bainbridge Island Review, North Kitsap Herald and was the editor of the Kingston Community News.

I’ve admired Tad’s work for years, and I’m glad the Sun’s readers will be seeing more of his stories and photos.

You can read Sun editor David Nelson’s column about my departure and Tad’s new role here.

Please welcome Tad as he takes over this blog, and begins his rounds around the island. You can reach him at tad.sooter@gmail.com

Bye for now,


VIDEO: At-Large City Council candidates

Click the above video to hear the City Council At-Large candidates’ discussion with the Kitsap Sun editorial board. Topics included the city’s financial challenges, transferring the Winslow water utility to KPUD, how best to manage staff, among other issues.

See the video of the board’s meeting with the Central Ward council candidates here.

The Sun’s endorsements for both races will be in Sunday’s paper.

The deadline for mailing or dropping off ballots for the primary election is Aug. 16.

Bainbridge Islander on Facebook

Like everything and everyone else (including your grandma and your five-year-old niece), the Bainbridge Islander is now on Facebook.

Unlike this blog, which gets updated once or twice a week (or month), our Facebook page has news updates, links, photos and non-anonymous reader discussions about all things Bainbridge each and every day (except on weekends, and sometimes not on Fridays or when we’re really busy on deadlines).

Get there by following this link: http://www.facebook.com/BainbridgeIslander

You can also find it by entering “Bainbridge Islander” in the Facebook search box.

Oh, and it only works if you’ve setup a personal Facebook account. Might as well if you haven’t already. Your mom, your boss, your ex, your kid’s soccer coach and that guy you sat next to in 10th grade chemistry class are already there, waiting for you. Fun times. Besides, how else are you going to know what that chemistry class guy thinks about the chicken teriyaki salad he just ate?

What happened to the police blotter?

You might notice the Bainbridge police blotter is a bit short on detail this week.

That’s because the Bainbridge Island Police Department has a new policy of withholding narrative descriptions from the incident reports they make available to the press on a weekly basis. In place of a narrative is a one- to two-sentence summary.

Access to incident narratives, which provide the bulk of a report’s information, now require that the Kitsap Sun and other members of the press file a public records request for each incident.

The police have up to five days to respond with either the records or an estimate of how long it may take to release the records.

In essence, the press will now receive much less information than in the past unless we go through a time-consuming records request process. The one- or two-hour task of reviewing and reporting on the weekly log of incidents could now take a week or more.

Why the change in policy?

Bainbridge Commander Sue Shultz said she, City Attorney Jack Johnson and Police Chief Jon Fehlman determined that providing less information makes the department more efficient.

“We have less staff to work with,” Shultz said. “This is a way to slim down the product.”

The policy change came after the Kitsap Sun questioned Bainbridge police’s redaction policy, pointing out that it was inconsistent with open records laws.

State law allows police to black out the names and personal information of victims and juvenile suspects on police reports. However, Bainbridge police have had a policy of blacking out all names, all personal information, all street addresses – even the names of businesses, brands, prescription drug makers and consumer products. Vehicle brands were left in, but prescription drug brand names were almost always blacked out.

The scope of redacted information has grown through the years, making a report’s narrative difficult and sometimes impossible to follow.

We cited the relevant state laws and asked that changes be made and obtained an opinion from the state Attorney General’s office that reinforced our position.

We also suggested that redacting less information may actually save police time. Reports from weekends are often unavailable to the press on Mondays because of the amount of redacting police clerks were required to do.

We stressed that the Bremerton and Port Orchard police and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office all provide information in a similar open manner without requiring a formal public records request.

After about a month of discussions with Bainbridge police, Shultz notified us her department would alter its procedure to better comply with state open records laws.

We agreed with her that the names of witnesses, victims, social security numbers and narratives involving children and ongoing investigations should be withheld.

We were surprised, then, to find that the narratives were withheld when we next checked the stack of reports.

Shultz said the city attorney’s review of open records laws indicated that the department is not required to provide the narratives unless we file a records request.

The attorney’s reading is legally correct. However, the relationship between newspapers and police departments has often allowed reporters to read reports without filing a public records request to obtain each narrative. That type of agreement is in the interest of helping journalists report on the community fully and accurately, and minimizes the time spent by police clerks in redacting information or handling public records requests.

In the interest of transparency, and in continuing to provide readers the same level of coverage, we plan to file the requests on each incomplete report we believe may contain valuable information.

We are not accusing Bainbridge police of stonewalling us beyond what the law allows, but we are questioning why a change in procedure is necessary. We’ll continue to work with police to answer that question. The change does make our job more difficult to do, and we hope to find a solution that does not affect what our readers expect from us, and from its police department.

Police mum on why it took 77 minutes to check on Ostling

Five minutes to shoot, 77 minutes to allow medical aid
Head over here for my latest story on the Ostling shooting investigation. An analysis of the lengthy 911 dispatch log and other documents allowed us to piece together a timeline of events leading up to the shooting and the drawn-out aftermath. Police opened fire on Ostling five minutes after arriving at the scene, but it took 77 minutes to check on Ostling’s condition.

I called Bainbridge several times on Friday and Monday for an explanation about why it took so long. On Monday afternoon I was told by e-mail that police would not respond to the question.

For other recent stories stemming from documents we obtained from Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office investigators, head over here and here.

Police body cams
The Kitsap Sun’s editorial board weighed in on the issue in Sunday’s paper. The board notes that Bainbridge police and the Ostling family have given very different accounts of the Oct. 26 shooting, especially on some key issues, such as where officers and Ostling were positioned, and whether or not the ax-wielding Ostling had an officer in a vulnerable position when the second officer fired his gun.

The editorial board argues that video cameras mounted to police officers would have made the key details of the incident much more clear to investigators, and the judge and jury that are likely to weigh in in the not-too-distant future.

Here’s a bit from the editorial:

“A car-mounted digital video cam costs about $5,000 — versus about $900 for a body-mounted camera, which also can be removed and mounted on the dashboard. Worn on an officer’s chest or with an ear clip similar to a Blue Tooth, the body cams offer a close-up video and audio recording that provides an accurate and unbiased view of disputed incidents.”

To read the rest, head over here.

A new job, a lot like the old job

It’s about time I let you all know I have a new job.

It started Nov. 28, but as you can tell from my continued coverage of Bainbridge and my presence here on this blog, the new job is a lot like the old job.

I still cover Bainbridge (although I do it mostly from Bremerton), and I still work for the Kitsap Sun.

The difference is I’m now a full-time staffer, which means I get business cards and a computer and a nice little cubicle in this cheerful place reporters here lovingly call the Sungeon. Get it? Sun + Dungeon = Sungeon. It’s a fun place.

And I’m also spending a bit of my time (say around 25 percent) covering parts of North Kitsap: Kingston, Port Gamble, Hansville and that hotbed of action and intrigue, Eglon.

My most recent North Kitsap story was this profile of Icelandic ice cream makers in Poulsbo. I also shot the video that’s linked to it. That’s another new thing about the job – shooting videos and shooting more photos.

I am also doing my part to clear Bremerton’s streets of dog carcasses. But that’s another story.

I have a new e-mail address: tbaurick@kitsapsun.com, and a new phone number: (360) 792-9212.

Sun endorses Eagle Harbor dock plan

The Kitsap Sun’s editorial board urged the city of Bainbridge to accept Washington State Ferries’ $2 million offer and use the money to build a new Waterfront Park dock.

“Taking a lump sum now — particularly in light of how city capital spending has dwindled the past few years — to complete a project that will be popular among residents and visitors is the most prudent approach, and the best option for Eagle Harbor’s future,” the board wrote in a Sunday editorial.

The City Council is set to choose between the dock proposal and a boat haul-out facility proposal at Wednesday evening’s meeting.

For more on the issue, head over HERE.

Sun endorses Rep. Rolfes for re-election

The Kitsap Sun has endorsed Rep. Christine Rolfes, a Bainbridge Island resident, for re-election to the state House seat she’s held for almost four years.

Here’s what the Sun had to say about Rolfes and her Republican challengers, James Olsen of Bainbridge and Aaron Winters of Poulsbo:

“Rolfes clearly offers a more reasonable and thoughtful approach to the state’s problems than her challengers, and has been an advocate in maintaining a freeze on ferry fares during her term. Even one vote we take issue with — her endorsement in suspending I-960 last session — still remained in tune with the sentiment of her constituents, who overwhelmingly had opposed the initiative. Her challengers fall back on rhetoric too often, and neither demonstrate the ability to work in the collaborative way that the coming session will likely demand.”

To read more about the Sun’s endorsements for the state Legislature, and to see the Sun’s video interview with Rolfes, Olsen and Winters, head over HERE.

Kitsap Sun tells Inslee to “stay out of our pea-patches”

The Kitsap Sun’s editorial board today told Congressman Jay Inslee to plant his community garden money somewhere else.

Inslee, as outlined in a previous post, wants to create a federal grant program to help establish and maintain community gardens.

The editorial board argues that community gardens are best left to communities.

“Simply put, community gardens are working well because they’re grass roots, and they’re a good idea.

More to the point, they’re a good idea Congress should leave alone.”

Read the full editorial here.

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.