Tag Archives: Port Orchard City Council

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.

Port Orchard mayoral and council races debated

Last week, the Kitsap Sun editorial board heard from candidates for the city of Port Orchard at-large position. Video of the debate between Ben Pinneo and Jerry Childs is posted on our website (and below).

Editor David Nelson, on his “From the Editor’s Desk” blog, fills in candidates’ comments where the tape cut off early.

Today, the ed board will hear from mayoral candidates Tim Matthes and incumbent Lary Coppola, and from candidates for position 5 Amy Miller and Cindy Lucarelli.

I sit in on the debates, but I’m not involved in any discussion of endorsements, which come from the editorial board. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask the candidates, call by 3:30 p.m. (360) 792-9219 or email chenry@kitsapsun.com.

For more on this election season, see the Kitsap Sun’s Election Guide.

Should Port Orchard Relinquish its Role in Hearing Land Use Appeals?

The Port Orchard City Council last week heard testimony on a contentious land use issue — should a Gig Harbor advertising company be allowed to put eight billboards within city limits?

The issue grew thorny after the city initially turned down the applications, submitted in batches last spring. James Weaver, director of development, took the most “stringent” interpretation of the city’s code, which is allowed and called for in another part of the code, he said. The billboard company owner appealed to the hearing examiner, and now the case has come before the council.

Like most cases that reach the appeal stage, there are a number of questions in play:
Did Weaver correctly interpret the code? (The city’s hearing examiner says so.)
Should the billboard company’s application be vested under old rules, even though the city has since passed an ordinance banning billboards? (The hearing examiner agrees with the owner here.)
And was the city’s ban on billboards a violation of constitutional rights? (The hearing examiner declined to rule on this question.)

During the hearing, the attorney representing the billboard owner questioned the council’s ability to rule on the case since none of them are attorneys. He railed against the process by which the city countered his appeal, bringing the matter to the council. He called the actions of City Attorney Greg Jacoby and attorney Jennifer Forbes, representing the city, “frivolous” and “in bad faith.” He said the process had gotten unnecessarily drawn out and was wasting taxpayers’ money.

“I see a lot of blank faces here,” William J. Crittenden told the council. “Do you think your money is being well spent?”

Before 2008, the council used to be the first stop (not the second) in hearings on land use issues. The change was made, in part, because of the tremendous amount of council time involved in preparing for and conducting the hearings. The city now uses a hearing examiner for preliminary review of land-use applications. Where open-record public hearings on such issues were formerly held before the city council, the open-record hearing is now held before the hearing examiner. If the hearing examiner’s ruling is challenged, the appeal moves to the city council.

In a work study meeting, Feb. 15, before the billboards hearing, Councilman Rob Putaansuu questioned whether the council should be involved at all, or whether the city should switch to a model as such the one adopted in 2010 by Kitsap County. Appeals that formerly came before the county’s board of commissioners now go directly to Superior Court.

Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer proposed the change, because he said having the board hear appeals created confusion among the public. The board can only rule on whether the hearing examiner has erred. Their ruling does not necessarily reflect the position the board would have taken on a proposed project, Bauer said.

Hearing examiners generally are attorneys, and they are required to have extensive knowledge of land use codes. A city council or board of commissioners, on the other hand, oversees matters on a wide range of topics, meaning they are arguably less well-equipped to navigate the labyrinth of motions, counter-motions, arguments and counter-arguments that make up the appeal process.

Putaansuu suggested as much, and he reminded the council that, although they’ve only heard one other matter since going to the new system, it, too, turned nasty. A proposed birthing center was turned down by the hearing examiner over neighbors’ concerns about traffic (a needed re-zone was denied). The council initially backed the hearing examiner’s decision. They agreed to revisit the proposal, however, as part of a legal settlement with the owners of the center, who took their case to Superior Court and threatened to challenge the city’s comprehensive plan before the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board. The city ultimately approved the center.

Jacoby told the council that cities vary in their methods for hearing appeals. Appeals in Gig Harbor and Fife go straight to Superior Court. The Poulsbo City Council, like Port Orchard, hears appeals.

“It’s sort of an issue of how much control the council wants to have over the process,” Jacoby said. “There’s no right answer, but we can certainly change it.”

The council could appeal any ruling of the superior court with which they disagree, Jacoby said.

Most of the council said they would support a resolution switching the process up. Councilman John Clauson said he could go either way.

As for Crittenden’s criticism of the process, the council sat in shock as he bad-mouthed the city up one side and down the other, particularly Jacoby.

“I’ve been treated like crap by your city attorney for six months,” Crittenden said.

Mayor Lary Coppola challenged Crittenden’s “rudeness.” “He’s acting like a spoiled child,” said the mayor.

Shortly afterward, Coppola banged his gavel and cut short Crittenden’s testimony. “That’s over. We’re done,” Coppola said angrily.

When Crittenden continued his tirade, Coppola got up and walked out of the hearing. (The mayor does not rule on an appeal, only the council, so his absence did not delay proceedings.) He later said he felt he had to excuse himself in order not to say something inappropriate to Crittenden.

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers, later in the hearing, advised Crittenden that he would present a more convincing argument “if you would spend your time talking about the particular questions that are pertinent to this whole case as opposed to talking about our counselors spending a lot of money and time … Can you do that?”

“If my anger has spilled over on you, I apologize,” said Crittenden, who remained angry with Jacoby, Forbes and the process in general.

If nothing else, I guess, the change in procedure would spare the council similar tongue-lashings in the future.

2007 Campaign Promise on Taxes Has Port Orchard Councilman in “Bind”

What passes in most governments as a matter of housekeeping became the topic of prolonged discussion Tuesday, as the Port Orchard City Council voted 5 to 2 to take the annual 1 percent property tax increase to which it is entitled by law. The vote put Councilman Jim Colebank, who ran in 2007 on a platform of “no new taxes without a vote of the people,” in a tight spot.

To put the vote in perspective, the increase will cost the owner of a $240,000 home about $5 a year.

The city’s 2011 levy, with the 1 percent increase plus revenue from recent annexations and new construction, is $2,626,207. The 1 percent increase over last year’s levy represents $23,044 of that amount.

Last year, the council, after much debate, refrained from taking the 1 percent increase. They elected to make do with 2009 revenue levels out of consideration for residents struggling with the economy. The budget was balanced through cuts and use of reserve funds.

Recent history seemed to play into this year’s levy setting discussion, as the council again spent considerable time dissecting the effects of taking or not taking the 1 percent.

The pre-vote discussion kicked off with Councilman Fred Chang asking what the additional $23,044 would be used for. Chang questioned whether the increase was truly needed and said he’d be voting against the ordinance.

The city has deferred many projects and drawn down its reserve accounts to maintain a balanced budget, said Treasurer Allan Martin. Although the ordinance does not designate the 1 percent increase to any specific purpose, one of the expenses it might be used for is to replace one of the Port Orchard Police Department’s aging patrol cars, Martin said. (The city hopes to replace three patrol cars in the upcoming year.) Martin added that not taking the increase over a period of years would surely lead to layoffs, which the city has avoided so far.

One of the city’s known expenses for 2011 is a 2 percent cost of living increase for staff members. The increase is overdue and well deserved, said Mayor Lary Coppola, who noted Port Orchard operates with a staff of 68, much smaller than most cities its size. “Everyone works their butt off,” Coppola said. “If you had any clue what they do, you’d be shaking your head and, saying, God they need some help.”

Carolyn Powers added that one of the reason Port Orchard is in better shape financially that other local governments is the efficiency of its staff. “We’ve been very proud to say we’ve been holding our own. A big majority is because our staff has been doing a lot more more work and not getting more money,” she said.

Several council members commented on the prolonged effects of deferring projects and putting off replacement of aging equipment. Since inflation typically runs higher than 1 percent, the city’s cost to do business has been rising faster than its increase in revenue. Councilman Jerry Childs likened it to a slow leak in the budget. Although the 1 percent increase would not address all the city’s needs, it would help slow the leak, he said.

Childs too ran on a platform of no new taxes. But, he said, he also made a commitment to “protect and improve” city residents’ quality of life. Failing to properly maintain the city’s infrastructure and facilities would be irresponsible, he said. Child’s comments were echoed by other council members, including Powers, Rob Putaansuu and John Clauson, who speculated, “Most people would be willing to give $5 (the annual increase on a home of $240,000). I don’t think it’s exorbitant by any means.”

Colebank acknowledged the amount individual homeowners will pay as a result of the increase may not seem like much, but he is sensitive to seniors on fixed incomes and other citizens who might still be feeling the effects of the recession. Colebank said his campaign promise presented a “dilemma.” “It puts me in a real bind, because I really care about the people who are having a hard time. I can see this is going to pass anyway, so I might vote ‘no.'”

“I don’t think there is anyone at this table who wants to raise taxes, but we do have an obligation to provide the best service we can” said Powers. “I appreciate what you’re saying, Jim, but sometimes that’s a danger we’re taking when we say were never going to raise taxes.”

The Port Orchard City Council will hold a work study meeting on 2011 budget expenditures at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 216 Prospect St.