Monthly Archives: July 2007

A Pledge and a Prayer

When I first began covering Bremerton it was following three years of being the Sun’s reporter on Bainbridge Island. There were a lot of differences between the two cities. The mayor doesn’t run the council meetings here but has a much heavier influence on policy. The meetings themselves start earlier and are much, much shorter.

There’s also a prayer and a pledge.

Contrary to what some of you may believe about reporters in general, it’s not my job to stir up controversy. So in a very large way I tread into this subject matter tenderly. If this is not an issue for someone, I don’t want to make it one. Nonetheless, there was at least one Bremertonian weighing in on the Bainbridge discussion, so I want to ask the question of what you think of Bremerton’s practice of saying the pledge and a prayer and having both on the agenda.

Cameras Closer

Cameras poised at intersections and school zones to catch red-light runners and speeders will likely be a step closer to reality Wednesday when the City Council decides whether to approve an ordinance and a contract to get the program rolling.

There have been lots of people here on this blog and other Kitsap Sun sites who’ve weighed in with their anger/disappointment/disgust/nausea over the idea, but I haven’t heard much about any opposition during the council’s public conversations about it.

On Wednesday the matter will be up for a public conversation. Based on my limited read of the council, I think it would take something extraordinary to sway the council not to do this program.

Then again, I haven’t asked everyone.

Besides, we also hear from a lot of folks who think the program is a good idea.

There are challenges to the constitutionality of the cameras in several states. The Minnesota State Supreme Court struck down cameras in Minneapolis


Be a Part of Kitsap’s History: The Kitsap Sun will observe the county’s sesquicentennial by compiling information on county history from residents and former residents. Share your knowledge (and historical photos) via e-mail to, or by mail to Local News Editor, Kitsap Sun, Box 259, Bremerton, 98337. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of photographs.

Bremerton Parking

A few days ago I read this comment from a reader of Lary Coppola’s West Sound Politics blog.

As Bremerton residents we actually prefer dining in PO. We were at Amy’s this weekend and noticed the sign showing their support for you. One little suggestion for yourself and the council, the reason we prefer PO over Bremerton is the parking in Bremerton is outrageous.

Ron Sher, who will develop the J.C. Penney building into a retail and condo complex assuming he and the Bremer Trust work out the sales agreement, said he hopes residents at the new site will be encouraged to live there without cars. The location near the ferry terminal, Kitsap Transit’s SCOOT vehicles or something akin to Flexcar should do the trick, he said. Condo owners at the site probably won’t get parking spaces with their properties, he said, which if true would force them to pay for one somewhere.

Meanwhile the Bremer Trust struck a deal with the city for 150 spaces downtown, to help finish the sale to Sher.

Those moving into the condos along the waterfront will have parking spaces, but the buildings themselves have replaced some paid parking stalls.

The mayor’s idea of parking meters got doused by downtown business owners, who said now is not the time to introduce those.

It’s not uncommon for parking to be a chief complaint in urban areas. I’m not familiar with the comparison to Port Orchard, but in Bremerton you do have to be conscious of the time you parked, if you can find something close to where you’re going. It’s no picnic in Poulsbo or on Bainbridge either.

It could be worse. We could be in Manhattan. The New York Times reports:

In Houston, $225,000 will buy a three-bedroom house with a game room, den, in-ground pool and hot tub.

In Manhattan, it will buy a parking space. No windows, no view. No walls.

What’s your experience of the parking situation and how would you fix it if you think it needs fixing?

Guess Who’s Coming to the Picnic

City Councilman Mike Shepherd is hosting a District 5 picnic on July 28, but one portion of the flyer makes you wonder if we’re not asking too much of fellow councilman Cecil McConnell.

Hotdogs and Hamburgers grilled by “Master Griller” and
City Councilor Cecil McConnell will be served as well as refreshments

If we really want to get people to retire from the council, I think term limits would be a more humane way to go.

Details about the picnic are available at the link below.

Continue reading

Fixing Your Street

It may seem a moot point to most people, but it was key to me. The city calls its Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative “a five-year plan to invest $30 million in Bremerton’s neighborhoods and strategies to fund the initiative.”

What I thought important was that the city was already planning to spend around $18.7 million. Plus, if the council maintained the status quo on the budget, that’s another $4.5 million. So a total of $23.2 million of the $30 million could reasonably be assumed to be in the works anyway. The most important piece of news, I believe, was the $6.8 million the city hopes to get in new funding. The mayor hopes to get it through a voter-approved tax increase and a $20 increase in the motor vehicle excise tax, more commonly known as the car tab.

The council has a few choices to make on the car tabs, specifically whether to ask for voter approval. The 2007 Legislature gave the city the right to impose the tab without a vote, but no doubt some will demand an election. I’m guessing that between now and the end of the year we’ll also hear from some who will suggest the council should proceed without one.

A lot will depend on what the county does. The county has first crack at the extra $20, but I heard from city staff that the county could ask voters for more than $20, but won’t impose anything without a vote.

Whatever happens, the city promises extensive outreach and communication about the car tab proposal. Given the impact the Port of Bremerton’s property tax increase had, the city better.

Some of the city’s proposal to raise the money comes from a telephone survey the city had done earlier this year. Of those surveyed, 62 percent said they’d approve a $50 property tax increase for six years to pay for parks maintenance and street repairs, with nothing spent on new projects.

On another question residents were asked how residents preferred to pay for an additional $1.4 million a year for basic road maintenance. “No way” was not an option. Car tabs got the most support with 44 percent. You can read the survey by clicking on the links below.

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Remembering Vietnam Vets in Bremerton

A 3/4 scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall will be at Miller-Woodlawn Memorial Park off Kitsap Way in Bremerton from Friday to Sunday. Brynn Grimley wrote about it in a story that ran Saturday.

“My brother’s name is on the wall,” (Susan) Jimison said. “So I asked my cousin’s husband to take me out.”Jimison’s older — and only — brother, Mark, was killed during the Vietnam War. He was a helicopter pilot.

On Nov. 11, 1986 I was an intern with Scripps League Newspapers in Washington, D.C., writing stories for small papers around the country. On that day another reporter and I were working, but didn’t have much to cover for the locals, so we made our way over to a ceremony at the wall.

I had been to the wall before, but never among a group who had actually been involved in the war. As a group they seemed separate, grittier than those speaking that day. Much like the group that escorted the replica to Bremerton, a lot of the vets I saw that day were in leather gear.

It rained, hard, and it was cold. One of the speakers mentioned that most people thought the rain in Vietnam was always tropical and didn’t realize that sometimes it rained in weather as cold as the day we were there. When you’re an observer, you watch for reactions. The fellow vets agreed.

Sen. John Kerry was among the speakers. So was Edward Kennedy, though I don’t remember Kennedy there. Chuck Norris spoke. Federal Express flew in 58,132 flowers, one for each name on the wall, out of which was fashioned an American flag.

I got some details about the flowers and Kennedy’s appearance from a Nov. 12, 1986 story that ran in the New York Times. The rest is from memory. The Times story included comments I think many would find relevant today.

“If you can hear me, brothers,” said Fred W. Smith, a Vietnam veteran who is chairman of the Federal Express Corporation, which flew the flowers for the flag from Texas and California, “we promise you that when the inevitable test comes again, the young asked to risk their lives” will have the nation’s commitment “or we will not let them fight at all.”

“Some say the cause for which we fought was not worthy of your lives,” Mr. Smith said. “We pledge to you we will not let those who disparaged our efforts and your sacrifice escape this fateful truth: freedom has a terrible price. Millions now live in tyranny, many in the lands where we fought. We leave it to each conscience as to who was right and who was wrong.

“But we know this: our reason and our riches will not save mankind from a darker fate if we people are not ready to defend the principles upon which democracy rests.”

Throughout the wall’s stay here, people will be reading the names of those listed on the wall.

On the Waterfront

It is no small event to see people moving into the downtown condos. Those responsible for downtown Bremerton’s shift have used the condos as a symbol of the neighborhood’s rebirth.

On Friday morning I got a tour of The 400. Billie Heittert, pictured to the right, was nice enough to let us take a photo of her and talk to us about her move from Silverdale. What made the place for her was a glass door between her living room and the patio. Because of the door she can sit on her couch in the living room and still enjoy the view you see in the photo.

The views throughout the building are pretty impressive. The complex has a top-floor corner residence still available. There were eight corner spots available and they were among the first 13 sold, condo sales manager Walt Grennan told me. For some reason, the one top-floor residence became available again. From the unit’s balcony you can pretty much see from the Olympics to the Cascades, with Rainier peaking over South Kitsap. Friday was a postcard day. The water sparkled, until you looked closer to shore, where it became clear as water in a glass.

As the story suggested, downtown business owners are hopeful the condo opening continues the momentum. Urban Zen owner Catherine Marsh said news of the condo development influenced her to open downtown more than two years ago. For many business owners it is a waiting game. Each little piece that brings more people into town justifies the investment, but downtown is far from the bustling place needed for downtown to be an easy decision yet.

That wasn’t true late Friday afternoon. The place was hopping in a way I’ve never seen it. The Pink Cadillacs drew a big crowd on the boardwalk and the First Friday Art Walk had lots of folks filling galleries and sidewalks.

Will Bainbridge’s Story Play Out in Bremerton?

Of all the conversations I have with Bremertonians, I’m having a hard time coming up with anything that sparks a reaction quite like the Bremerton tunnel does.

There is a story Thursday about the tunnel groundbreaking scheduled for Friday and the comments are lined up in bigger numbers than I might have expected a day after a holiday.

The print headline uses the term “big dig,” which one commenter referenced. That was the term used for a project in Boston estimated to cost $2.8 billion in 1985. That grew to $14.6 billion by 2006. Bremerton’s 959-foot version is estimated to cost $30.7 million now. Construction costs often rise during projects and are especially volatile now, so many don’t trust that the cost will be under $35 million.

The way U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, and Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman tell it, the two were walking near the ferry terminal when Dicks asked aloud if a tunnel could solve the problem of too many cars driven by people just wanting to get out of downtown tying up streets where people might want to stay and shop. Specifically, a tunnel would make things easier for people walking around downtown, proponents argued.

“It is fundamental to creating a pedestrian-friendly environment in downtown Bremerton,” said Gary Sexton, the city’s redevelopment projects administrator. “We have essentially two streets — one going in, one going out — used for pedestrians and vehicles. It is the same problem being faced by every urban waterfront city of how you recapture the waterfront streets that became parking lots or were dramatically widened to accommodate vehicles.”

Opponents argued for street overpasses and the like, saying there were cheaper options that would not cost as much. They lost, and many of them haven’t forgotten about it, evidenced by some of the comments at the end of Thursday’s story.

The project has its share of supporters, or at least people who think it’s a good idea. The Chamber supported it, though there were some on the board who were against it.

In an editorial board meeting among candidates to replace Wendy Priest on the Bremerton City Council, the candidates’ views reflected some of the ongoing discussion about the project.

Trent England said he thought the federal money being used for it may symbolize poor federal practices, but said if he would have been on the council at the time the idea was presented it, he would have supported it. He said the benefit is small compared to the price tag, but when the council was faced with accepting millions or nothing, millions is the right choice.

Carlos Jara, a downtown business owner, said he initially thought the tunnel was a waste of money. After years of walking to work, however, he has become a supporter.

Virginia Starr suggested getting a crossing guard or installing some lights to solve some of the immediate problems, then discussed why people want to get out of Bremerton so quickly.

Roy Runyon was not at the meeting, but was among those in 2005 who wanted the question to be put on the ballot. He said a majority of residents wanted that and didn’t get it, saying it’s an example of how the council didn’t listen. On the tunnel itself, he said it’s out of any opponent’s hands at this point.

Here’s where the Bainbridge Island connection comes in. When I first joined the Kitsap Sun in 2002, Bainbridge had just installed a roundabout at High School Road and Madison Avenue. During the debates leading up to its installation, critics of the idea were vocal and sizeable. The council opted for the roundabout anyway. By the time I got there, some of the people who were previously among the most critical had become some of the roundabout’s biggest supporters. During the three years I covered the island I often heard people say “I was wrong” about that.

Any chance that’s going to happen here?