Archive for January, 2008

townmeeting.jpgThere’s a tasty irony in the fact that although Bainbridge Island doesn’t have either a civic center or a community gathering place, next week we’ll be reviving that cornerstone of old-time democracy, the Town Hall meeting. When the rest of the country is watching results of Super Tuesday, islanders will gather at the American Legion Hall to talk about local politics and issues. (more…)

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turtleingestingplastic_430x323.jpgI was undecided about the use of artificial turf on athletic fields when I went to last week’s meeting of the Bainbridge Island School Board. I’m a soccer, football and lacrosse mom. I understand the advantages of plastic over natural turf in lower maintence costs for cash-starved school districts, and increased resilience that allows year-round play in our soggy climate.

But I also appreciate the environmental concerns raised by Bainbridge parents like Sarah Lane, whose thoughtful essays on the hazards of artificial turf (and other environmental topics) appear on her blog, on a ledge.

Several board members seemed intrigued by artificial-turf opponent Chris Van Dyke’s suggestion for a voter initiative that would increase island sales tax by a half-penny to raise money for the maintenance of natural turf fields. But in the end, the board approved the plan to install artificial turf on the high school athletic field.

I came away from the meeting thinking the school board may have handed the community an opportunity for compromise: the island’s only stadium field can have artificial turf and we’ll bring the rest of our fields up to snuff with natural turf.

Then I read about plastic in “The World Without Us,” Alan Weisman’s best-selling thought experiment about what would happen to the Earth if humans disappeared. There’s a reason plastic holds up so well to athletes and bad weather. It turned my stomach–and turned me completely against plastic fields. (more…)

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cindy2.jpgSunday’s retirement party for Cindy Harrison, Bainbridge Public Library’s branch manager for the past 17 years, was a testament to the quiet power of her formidable literacy and diplomatic manner. As one of the most influential leaders on Bainbridge Island, Cindy has commanded respect and yielded results in a way that belies her unfailing humility.

BPL’s board president Val Tollefson read letters honoring Cindy’s achievements (for instance, she was awarded the prestigious New York Times Librarian Award last year) from Governor Christine Gregoire and Senator Patty Murray. Mindy Droke, legislative aide to Representative Jay Inslee, read a passage marking her contributions and inserted into the Congressional Record by Inslee. (more…)

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It’s not exactly money for nothin’ and chicks for free* but it is our island cable station. As the local media scene shrivels, we can’t afford to let another outlet go dark.

BITV has been re-tooling its mission over the last couple of years. It has long filmed City Council meetings for live broadcast on Channel 12, which lets islanders watch their government in action while snuggling in their pj’s (an awesome public service, considering how far into the night those meetings drone).  

They’ve recently added streaming and on-demand video. Now you can see re-runs of Council meetings by going to the calendar on the City’s website and finding the date of the meeting you want to watch. It’s invaluable in our town of fuzzy official memory and the general tendency in politics to re-work reality. (We don’t have a published record of “How your Councilmember voted,” for instance. Try to verify what Council did in a meeting if a dispute comes up later, and you’ll see just how short the official memory is.)

But BITV is another one of those amenities of civic life we take for granted unless it slips into oblivion. Right now, they’re renegotiating their franchise agreement with the City and if they don’t get a new contract, they may have to cut programming and operations as early as February.

Here’s what BITV says on its website about this critical issue: (more…)

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I’ve so far avoided blogging about the long-running and periodically explosive artificial turf debate on Bainbridge Island. But today, an interesting item from the anti-plastic turf group, “Plastic Fields for Never” dropped in my email box.

PFFN was founded by the guy sports fans love to hate, Chris van Dyke of “Citizens for More Important Things” fame, which has done battle against Seattle’s sports palace fever.

Last week, he braved legions of fired up football and lacrosse players and their more fired up parents at a Bainbridge School Board meeting. Van Dyke argued that the proposed installation of an artificial turf field at Bainbridge High School will be an environmental and financial nightmare.   (more…)

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Remember those sky-high premiums the insurance industry promised we’d all be paying if we didn’t reject Referendum 67 on last November’s ballot? 

To refresh (that was way back in 2007): After the state legislature passed a law authorizing treble damages against insurance companies that unreasonably denied claims, the insurance industry got R-67 on the ballot, putting the legislature’s bill to a vote. Voters were then subjected to a big-money campaign claiming that insurance rates would go through the roof because of a flood of frivolous lawsuits.

“Not only does R-67 raise auto and homeowners insurance rates, it applies to small businesses and doctors as well,” the Reject R-67 voter statement said. “That means higher medical bills and higher prices for goods and services. Laws should reduce frivolous lawsuits, not create more. Reject R-67!”

Fortunately, the voters didn’t buy it. They approved R-67, sensibly believing that even Big Insurance should honor its contracts.

And what has happened to those insurance rates after R-67? (more…)

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This post has been updated. Scroll to the end for details.

You may recall a November episode of Desperate Islanders, when a score of City Hallers decamped to Port Madison for a week-long tryst with corporate coach Amba Gale. Tongue waggers and bean counters clucked over the ill-timed get-away (in the midst of drafting the ’08 City budget), and its $24,900 price tag.  

One of the subplots of that drama was that a handful of private citizens were originally included on the guest list. They were hastily uninvited when a couple of Councilors and others questioned the legality of inviting selected members of the public to a City-funded workshop. A meeting was also held on November 6, just after the election, at which the Mayor, the newly elected Council members and the continuing Council members (except Debbie Vancil, who could not attend) and six private citizens discussed ways to create a “culture of teamwork” at the City. (more…)

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If you heard a mighty wind around 10 pm last night, it could have been the sound of buck-passing at City Hall. When explaining how councilmanic bonds went to market in December before the Council had an opportunity to review and approve them, the administration sprinkled a dash of mea culpa into large portions of revisionist legislative history, glossed-over details and presumed Council amnesia. 

The details of bonds and approvals are arcane and boring so if you want to stop reading now, I don’t blame you. Scroll down to the previous post and check out my pictures of graffiti instead.

For those who are still wondering how the City went into debt for a few million dollars before Council gave its approval, here’s what our leaders said.  (more…)

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blakely4.jpgBlakely Harbor Park is hosting an exhibition of new work by anonymous taggers. Featuring exhuberant studies of spray painted color that awaken the bleak January landscape, the paintings explore the absence that haunts abandoned structures. (more…)

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Once in awhile, the read-between-the-lines, Kabuki theatre-style of political speech in City Council meetings collapses altogether and onlookers get an alarming glimpse of City Hall carelessness that seems to border on chaos. The December 12 Council meeting was one of those times, when the Council was asked to approve an ordinance authorizing the issuance of $4.1 million in City bonds to pay for the purchases of the Williams and Meigs properties for open space as well as Winslow streetscape design costs and a parking garage feasibility study. But there was a small glitch: the bonds had gone to market that morning, before the Council had voted.

Council members said they hadn’t seen the bond documents before the start of the meeting. Several balked when they learned that the bonds included money for the soft design costs and the parking garage feasibility study. (more…)

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