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Archive for January, 2009

I put a poll on the right-hand sidebar, just because it’s Friday and I found a new widget on my blog. 

Our city is in financial crisis. Some islanders think it’s time for a change of government, and have been working hard to put before the voters whether we should change from the current “strong mayor-Council” form” to a “City manager-Council ” form. Under the proposed form,  the Council would have the authority to hire (and fire) a City manager, who would be the chief executive of the City. With the help of Rep. Christine Rolfes, a bill that would permit a May vote on the matter is making its way through the legislature.

So what do you think? Do we need a new form of government or just a new attitude? Would giving the Council more power make local government more professional or more polarized? I’ll leave the poll up for a week or so…it’s totally unscientific but you can’t beat the price. Feel free to use this post as an open thread to comment on the City’s challenges.

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CouncilThere was an air of quiet crisis at the Bainbridge City Council meeting last night. Council Chambers was packed with somber citizens and City employees who’d just learned six of their colleagues had been laid off (with more likely to follow). People listened attentively as City Administrator Mark Dombroski explained the $1.2 million 2008 year-end cash shortfall, and the hole the City will be in if it doesn’t make deep cuts in the 2009 budget adopted just six weeks ago.

Dombroski recommended cuts in every department, including a $120,000 reduction to community services. Staff layoffs will be based on seniority. 

He said the new cuts will not be enough to fully fund the City’s reserve funds (which pay for things like unexpected storm damage). And he warned that City revenue could fall even further this year so staff will adjust the forecast every month, based on current conditions.  He urged the City to work on overhauling its operations, with the help of a task force of community financial experts, in order to “rightsize” the organization.

He also said the City must diversify away from dependence on taxes from real estate development. “We’re a wealthy city in what we own,” he said, “but we’re cash poor.” You can read his recommendations and Power Point presentation here. (more…)

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Posted below is a copy of the memorandum signed on January 23 by Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, showing that City Administrator Mark Dombroksi received a $4828 merit pay award for 8 months on the job. The memo was signed last week, after controversy about bonuses received by City management had already come to light. (more…)

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I’ve written before about my frustration with the local press for what seemed to me to be an overly cozy relationship with the powers-that-be. One might say the Bainbridge Review has sometimes taken its role as “newspaper of record” to mean “mouthpiece for the Kordonowy administration.”  

No more. Since Dennis Anstine took over the editorial reins of the Review, City Hall coverage has improved and Mr. Anstine’s opinion pieces have been increasingly critical of financial and managerial decisions that the Review might have rubber stamped only a few months ago. A  newspaper needn’t be a government adversary, but it should hold its community institutions accountable. “Thrilled” isn’t too strong a word for my reaction to this sign that our local newspaper is stepping up to its crucial watchdog role. 

Yesterday, the Review threw its weight behind citizen activists and the City Council minority (Kim Brackett, Debbie Vancil and Bill Knobloch) who have been calling out errors, misjudgments and inadequate information about City finances so blatant and long-standing that the average citizen can only wonder how well-intentioned and intelligent people have supported it this long. 

“The downward [revenue] trend was aggressively noted during the last six months of the year by at least three members of the council and a dozen or so activists who consistenly abraded the administration during the year for not acknowledging the obvious,” Anstine wrote. (more…)

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UPDATED: Bainbridge Police Chief Matt Haney has notified City officials of his resignation, effective in mid-February. Sources within the City say he has taken a job in law enforcement with the Colville Tribe in Eastern Washington. 

Haney was named Interim Chief in February of 2003 after the departure of Chief Bill Cooper. He was hired into the position permanently in May of 2004. He also served as Interim City Adminstrator in 2008, until the City hired Mark Dombroski to replace outgoing administrator Mary Jo Briggs. (more…)

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The Kitsap Sun reports today that City department heads received 2008 year-end bonuses totaling more than $25,000. The article says that although several Council members have questioned the wisdom of awarding bonuses while the City faces severe financial challenges, City Administrator Mark Dombroski defended the payments, saying the 2008 payout “was less than the two previous years, which saw almost $40,000 paid in 2007 and about $30,000 in 2006.” 

I am posting the authorizing memos signed by Mayor Darlene Kordonowy for year-end bonuses for 2005 through 2008, under the merit pay program authorized by the Council in 2004. According to the numbers in the memos, bonus payouts were the highest in 2007 ($31,632 to six employees), but significantly less than the $40,000 claimed by Dombroski. In 2008, the bonus payout total was $27,503 to six employees, including Kathy Cook whose bonus was pro-rated downward to reflect that she was hired into her position as Director of Planning in the middle of May. 

I do not yet have a memo identifying the amount of any bonus paid to Mr. Dombroski, who was hired at the beginning of 2008 as City Administrator, the City’s highest ranking employee. In previous years, the City Administrator’s bonus was authorized in a separate memo. To gain a more accurate year-to-year comparison, the City’s Administrator’s bonuses are not included in the above totals.

(more…)

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I took a picture of him once

obama25Yeah, I was there last February and I saw him through my binoculars.

That’s my claim to a little of the Barack Obama stardust, why I feel like I knew him when he was just some guy from Chicago. The pundits have been talking about the personal connection his admirers feel for him, and it’s true. All the other presidents seemed worlds away from real life, cloistered in their halls of money and power, but this guy…he’s going to be my president.

Of course that’s my imagination. But that’s what Obama does: stokes our ability to see and believe and work for things that do not yet exist. He can get us to imagine a less polarized, less fearful, less unjust world than the one we know. The skeptics say he hasn’t accomplished much in his career so far, and complain that his supporters are mesmerized by his words. But they miss the real reason he inspires so many millions. It wasn’t his resume, or his policy papers, or his track record that stopped me cold the night he won the South Carolina primary, when I first took notice of his candidacy. It was this: (more…)

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