Posts Tagged ‘Bainbridge government’

After months of waffling, I’ve finally decided I’m voting in favor of changing our City government to the council-manager form.

I’ve gone back and forth on this question because it wasn’t clear to me whether the City’s problems are structural or simply the result of two terms with a divisive mayor, abetted by eight years of ineffectual Councils.

If we vote to adopt the council-manager form of government, we probably won’t see any big changes right away. After the election is certified, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy will become the eighth member of the City Council (if she chooses) until her term expires at the end of 2009. The often contentious 4-3 split on Council will widen to 5-3, because the current Council majority has been supporting Kordonowy’s policies all along. City administrator Mark Dombroski will, in all likelihood, keep his job. Citizens will still distrust City government, and we’ll continue to see the symptoms of that distrust: political controversies, large numbers of public records requests, and litigation between islanders and their government. (more…)

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The Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance sent out the following press release this afternoon:

Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance filed suit in Kitsap Superior Court against the City of Bainbridge Island, Wednesday, April 22. At issue is how the city has used, and plans to use, fees paid by 2,200 water utility and 1,800 sewer utility customers. In addition to portions of Fletcher Bay and Rockaway Beach, city utility ratepayers live within the Winslow core area from New Brooklyn south to Eagle Harbor and from Sportsman Club Road/Finch to the eastern shoreline.

In a statement issued at the time of filing, Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance Secretary, Sally Adams, said “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. Under law, COBI utility ratepayers may only be charged for services they receive. They may not be charged for costs that benefit other public projects.” (more…)

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During public comment at a City Council meeting in mid-February, Senior Center Vice President Joan Treacy noted that in the City’s councilmanic bond issue last fall, the Council included $250,000 to begin work on an expansion of the Senior Center. Nearly a half-year later, the Senior Center has not seen any of the proceeds. “Where is our money?” she asked.

Finance wizards

Finance goblins

It was a question heard ’round the island, at least among serious City watchers who worry about the City’s solvency, given its borrowings from the water utility, staff layoffs and the budget cuts still necessary to weather the financial downturn.

As the City’s financial crisis has deepened, many of our most cherished plans and programs have been trimmed or eliminated. We can argue whether a new Senior Center should be started now, and whether it should become a higher priority than other projects still waiting in the wings. But when the City borrowed money by issuing bonds for the express purpose of putting money toward the project, the decision was made, and the City has no choice but to spend the money for the Senior Center, as promised in the bond contracts and offering documents (or pay it back).  (more…)

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The Council-Manager ’09 campaign posted a 4-minute video on its website this week, explaining the advantages of the council-manager form of government. I’ve been on the fence about change of government all along, but this video just might seal the deal for me. It’s professionally done, succinct and persuasive. Its most compelling point: our current form of government itself creates conflict, distrust and antagonism between the administration and the City Council. And for years, that’s been one of the biggest complaints from citizens about City Hall.

So…what do you think of it?

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I couldn’t make it to last night’s forum on change of government. I’ve heard that Carl Neu, the municipal governance expert who spoke at the forum, is a knowledgeable and engaging speaker. 

So I’m interested in hearing from people who attended. Did he answer your questions? Did you change your mind on whether to change our form of government? What were the main points raised in the forum? Was it well-attended? Will you vote for or against change of government?

You can share your thoughts or remaining questions in comments to this post. I invite Bob Scales, the only announced candidate for mayor so far, and people from the Change of Government campaign to weigh in as well.

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Last night Council member Kim Brackett dropped a bombshell during Council deliberations on cuts to community organizations. Explaining that she had not been able to attend the Council retreat in January, she said it was her understanding that at the retreat, City Administrator Mark Dombroski said community organizations were “feeding at the public trough.” She asked if that was a true account of what he said.

Before she received a response, both Mayor Darlene Kordonowy and Councilor Barry Peters intervened to cut off discussion. They should have let Dombroski answer. (more…)

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Yesterday, the Council wrestled with ways to cut another $3.5 million from its budget, directing staff to reduce labor costs by $1 million, sell $1 million in surplus property and cut another $1.5 million from expenses using a Council-developed set of priorities. But, according to the Review, Council acknowledged that cuts alone cannot stabilize our foundering City. Among other ideas, they talked about the possibility of moving the island’s municipal court to City Hall, out-sourcing police services to Kitsap County and minimizing long-range planning. 

Over the past several years, City Hall has been wracked with conflict and rancorous dissent.  Council members have vehemently disagreed with the administration and with each other. The public has shown up to Council meetings in larger and angrier numbers. Trust in City Hall has been shredded. As citizens have grown frustrated with their government, displays of temper and disrespect have sometimes substituted for true participation in the democratic process. In my 15 years on the island, this is a low point in civic life. (more…)

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At Tuesday’s Council Finance Committee meeting, City Finance Director Elray Konkel served up some straight (though belated) talk about City finances. And the news is grim.

With caveats about the difficulty of making projections in such a dramatic economic downturn, Konkel’s message was basically this: City revenues for the first quarter of ’08 are 50-60%–about $800,000–under budget. If the trends continue and no spending adjustments are made, this year’s budget shortfalls could be as much as $2.1 million in tax revenue and another $400,000 in utility funds.   (more…)

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