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Press release from the City of Bainbridge Island today:

Consumer Fireworks Will Not be Permitted on Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island, Wash., (June, 2015) The Bainbridge Island Fire Department, with the support of the City of Bainbridge Island and the Bainbridge Island Police Department, announced today that consumer fireworks will not be permitted this Fourth of July.

The ban is due to the regions tinder-dry conditions, and concern that current conditions combined with hot and dry weather in the forecast make the island extremely susceptible to wildfires. At this time the community Grand Old Fourth firework show is scheduled to proceed.

In addition to being liable for any property damage that would result from an errant firework, those that choose to discharge fireworks in spite of the ban could be cited with a civil infraction and subject to a monetary penalty and default amount of $500 plus statutory assessments. A second violation would constitute a misdemeanor and could carry a fine up to $1000, or imprisonment in jail for a term not exceeding 90 days.

City Manager Doug Schulze emphasized the importance of the ban as a precautionary measure during this extremely dry fire season, “The City fully supports the Bainbridge Island Fire Department’s institution of the ban on fireworks for this season, and encourages Bainbridge Island residents to do their part to protect our island environment and public and private property by complying with the ban, and choosing to enjoy the public fireworks display instead.”

According to the Bainbridge Island Municipal Code Chapter 8.28, the Bainbridge Island Fire Department is authorized during periods of extreme fire danger to prohibit all fireworks. For more information on the ban, please contact Bainbridge Island Fire Department Chief Hank Teran at 206.842.7686. To report the discharge of fireworks, please call 911.

Last week, Council member Steven Bonkowski sent a letter to the press, trying to rehabilitate his reputation after his unlawful and costly violations of the Public Records Act. We sent the letter below to the Bainbridge City Council, the City Manager and the City Attorney. 

Dear Council, Mr. Schulze, and Ms. Marshall:

We read Steven Bonkowski’s letter to Inside Bainbridge this week, in which he attempts to re-litigate arguments he lost in court. His false statements are so significant that we think it’s important to correct them in writing. We also want to express our alarm that as a sitting member of the Bainbridge City Council, Mr. Bonkowski continues to substitute his own incorrect interpretation of the law for the judgment of two courts, suggesting that he is within his rights to continue the unlawful behavior that has cost the city so much money.

The following are false statements by Mr. Bonkowski:

Bonkowski: “I want the community to know that I did not conduct city business from my private email account, and I did turn over my emails to the city in a timely manner for the public records request.”

The facts: Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton held that the documents we sought were “related to the financial information that Mr. Bonkowski discussed at the June 5, 2013 meeting, and thus do come within the realm of ‘public records.’” In fact, when Judge Dalton discussed Mr. Bonkowski’s flawed reasoning in determining what constitutes a public record, she wrote the criticism that has been so often repeated in the press: “The Council members knew well what the Governance Manual requires, and any hesitation by them in turning over such emails is a grave concern for the people of Bainbridge Island.”

Moreover, Mr. Bonkowski did not turn over his emails in a timely manner, because, as Judge Dalton found, he “admitted to deleting records that were responsive to the PRA requests.”

The Court of Appeals supported Judge Dalton’s positions, writing that Bonkowski and Ward “undisputedly violated the Governance Manual by using their personal accounts for city business, by failing to forward emails received on their personal accounts to City servers, and by deleting emails which constituted public records, thus making it impossible for the City to adequately respond to Paulson and Fortner’s PRA requests.” Continue Reading »

Bainbridge City Council member and Deputy Mayor Val Tollefson wrote a letter to the editor, published on Inside Bainbridge yesterday, expressing his views on our lawsuit and the core importance of open government. It’s a welcome public statement from someone who was not on the Council when we filed the suit. As one of the plaintiffs, I can confirm his statement that “this suit could have been settled much earlier and cheaper but for the insistence but for the insistence by the involved Councilmembers that their Constitutional right to privacy was paramount to their obligation to the City.” I also agree with the the other views he expressed in this letter, particularly the importance of transparency in government.

Bainbridge Island recently settled a lawsuit brought by two of our citizens claiming that the City violated the Washington Public Records Act. The suit involved delays and ultimately failure of two members of the Council to produce email messages that they had received concerning City business on their personal email accounts. This suit was a very expensive lesson. The money spent should have been used for a constructive purpose for our City. Since the taxpayers won’t see any tangible benefit from these tax dollars, they are at least entitled to some comment. So here goes:

  1. The use of personal email accounts for City business was against City policy. This suit demonstrated clearly the problems that can result, and the City has tightened procedures to ensure that everyone doing business on behalf of the City has access to and knows they must use a City email account.
  2. This suit could have been settled much earlier and cheaper but for the insistence by the involved Councilmembers that their Constitutional right to privacy was paramount to their obligation to the City. I will ask the Council to take steps to ensure that Councilmembers agree that service to the City requires a reasonable limitation on that claim to privacy.
  3. Compliance with the Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Act are at the core of the City’s obligation to provide good, transparent service to the community. The citizens who brought this recent lawsuit performed an invaluable service to the community at great personal expense. Bob Fortner and Althea Paulson should be thanked for insisting that the City be held to account.

—Val Tollefson City Council, North Ward

After the Marysville-Pilchuk school shooting last week, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote a column calling for criminal penalties for adult gun owners who leave a gun unsecured, if a child under sixteen harms someone with the gun.

Of course he caused a storm of emotion on both “sides” of the gun argument. This morning there are 559 comments on his article, most passionate, angry and one-sided.

Each time a child finds a gun and shoots someone, whether accidentally or intentionally, both sides go to the media and yell at each other. The gun rights camp usually argues that responsible gun owners don’t leave their guns around, their kids know damn well not to touch them without adult supervision and the real crime would be punishing responsible gun owners for the stupidity of a few bad parents. The gun safety crowd has multiple arguments about sensible regulation, which boil down to “…if one person can be saved by a new law, it will be worth it.”

It’s hard to know if one person can be saved by a change in the law. The gun lobby has effectively used this lack of certainty to argue that nothing should be done.

In my opinion, the decision to adopt reasonable regulation should be less about proof and statistics–which can be manipulated by both sides–and more about common sense and life experience.

My experience as a mom showed me that even the most ardent anti-gun parents can’t control what their children encounter. When our kids were little, there were no guns in our home and we gave plenty of lectures about gun safety. Imagine my surprise when I found a handgun on a closet shelf in my fourth-grader’s room. Turns out a little buddy of his snuck a BB gun into a backpack for a sleepover at our house and forgot to bring it home with him. As my parental inquiry went deeper, I learned that, unbeknownst to me, the kids had been shooting at boxes at the friend’s house during after-school play dates.

Boys, right? Continue Reading »

imagesUpdated at the end of the post:

Denise Garcia, the tireless and awesome Bainbridge ambassador to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense-WA, sent a note this morning about last night’s city council action on a resolution to support I-594.

“Just a quick email to let you all know about last night’s vote,” she wrote. “We had about a dozen Moms members in the chamber and two of us spoke.

“The council voted 6-1 to approve the resolution supporting I-594! Dave Ward’s was the lone dissenting vote. Bainbridge Island now officially joins Mercer Island in this important endorsement!”

Garcia quoted Mayor Anne Blair as saying, “Please extend my appreciation to the whole crew of folks who support this effort and encouraged, urged, pushed and cheered us on as we voted last night. Onward we go – now to get voters across the state to follow this pattern!” Continue Reading »

heatchangeUniversity of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass posted a series of maps this week showing impacts of climate change in the United States. His maps, based on climate models, indicate areas of the country most likely to be affected by rising sea levels, water availability, hurricanes and storms and heat waves.

His conclusion: “A compelling case can be made that the Pacific Northwest will be one of the best places to live as the earth warms.” 

Read Cliff Mass’s post here: Will the Pacific Northwest be a Climate Refuge under Global Warming?

Also coming across my desk today was an article about the city of Eugene, Oregon, which has just passed an ordinance seeking to cut community-wide fossil fuel use by 50% by 2030.

The ordinance also sets a goal for city government operations to be entirely carbon neutral by 2020, either by reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions or by funding local emission reduction projects. It requires city officials to prepare plans for achieving those goals, as well as periodic progress reviews and status reports. Continue Reading »

This letter was sent by Nancy Fortner to the local media, in response to the recent actions coming from the 23rd Legislative District Democrats.

I am an idealist with high standards and expectations to match. I value diversity, freely acknowledge that democracy is messy, and suffer no illusions that we must all always agree in order to be successful.

I do not know how many registered democrats live within the 23rd legislative district, but I’m pretty sure that the 140 of us who pay dues to be on the district’s mailing list represent a small portion of them, especially when you consider the sheer number of elected politicians and their accompanying family members and staff within the district included in that 140. I am also pretty sure that lots of people take note of information that all the local party organizations put out for public consumption, and expect it to be accurate and truthful. Judgements are made and votes are cast based on what people believe to be true and most closely aligned with their values.

To the 23rd dems board, and the dues paying membership, whether you are an elected politician, on their staff, or just a citizen like me: last time I checked, this is still a democracy and it may not be perfect, but I am here to say I am paying attention, and do not approve of dishonesty, lies or dirty politics. Stop it.  Continue Reading »

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