Archive for December, 2011

Bainbridge Island Council member Kirsten Hytopoulos will soon propose an island-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. The ban has the full support of our local grocery store, Town & Country, which has had a bring-your-own-bag incentive program for several years.  Plastic bags blow from hands, garbage cans, and dumps.  They end up in our ditches, beaches, forests and waterways. Many make it to the Pacific Ocean, caught by ocean currents in a giant collection of plastic known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of Texas. Plastic doesn’t decompose but instead breaks up into ever smaller polymers. Birds, mammals and sea creatures eat it, get tangled in it, suffer and die from it. Or they don’t die, but instead land on our dinner plates, and WE eat the plastic. Bon appetit!


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When Doug Crist was Bainbridge Review editor during the Darlene Kordonowy years, I had a lot of heartburn over his Kordonowy administration boosterism, particularly his favorable editorials about her Winslow Tomorrow program. I was also shocked when the Review accepted Jeffrey Sneller’s attack ad on Kim Brackett as she ran for City Council. When Dennis Anstine took the reins, I was relieved at the prospect of a more open-minded and down-to-earth editorial philosophy. But we didn’t get fairer reporting, just a different bias.

Here’s a copy of the letter I sent today to Anstine and his reporter Richard Oxley, with a cc to his bosses at Sound Publishing (including, ironically, Mr. Crist).

Dear Richard and Dennis:

I’ve had my disagreements with the Review over the years, particularly with the previous editor. But even as I disagreed with his editorial positions and the Review’s advertising decisions, I acknowledged and appreciated the editor’s skill as a writer and journalist. I am writing today over issues with the Review’s professionalism and journalistic standards.

Dennis, you’ve made no secret of your biases and loyalties in local politics, and you have every right to your opinions. Readers expect and want to see the views of the local newspaper on the opinion pages. Increasingly, though, you have let those opinions bleed into the news, which is quite apparent in your decisions about coverage, placement and quotes, among other reporting techniques. In the past month alone the Review has quoted Councilman Knobloch extensively in a report on a Council meeting discussion, even though Mr. Knobloch was not at the meeting.

You also posted an article about the “Knobloch memo” on your website, but did not include it in your print edition only a day or two later (I can’t pinpoint how long because your website has re-dated the article to 12/23.) Although you did not include the potentially unfavorable article about Mr. Knobloch, you ran a front page story about the public record request made by Councilman Bob Scales, with the lede, “Council member Bob Scales has filed a public records request involving fellow council member Bill Knobloch that targets his personal email accounts and private communications with various members of the Bainbridge Island community.”

This sentence reveals a jarringly ill-informed understanding of the Washington Public Records Act. I believe a good grasp of the principles of the PRA, which is used so often these days, is a fundamental requirement for any news organization, especially if it is writing about a records request.

In a nutshell, there is no such thing as “private communications” between community members and government officials involving the performance of a government function (unless they fall within one of the narrow exemptions of the Act). Even a records request itself is a public record. The Act covers all writings in any form, including public or private email, recordings, Facebook accounts, notes, etc. You can imagine the reason: open government would not be served if officials could circumvent the Act by hiding communications in personal accounts.

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At last week’s City Council meeting, four new Council members–Sarah Blossom, Dave Ward, Steven Bonkowski and Anne Blair–were sworn in, and four others–Hilary Franz, Barry Peters, Bill Knobloch and Kim Brackett–were bid warm good-byes. Sadly, the occasion was marred by some good old-fashioned political hackery. A memo (posted below) surfaced at the meeting, purporting to give advice to an unnamed voting bloc of four on the incoming Council, on such statesmanlike topics as the lying habits of City employees, how to force a management shake-up at City Hall, and how to sandbag Council opposition. 

According to information obtained by Inside Bainbridge, outgoing Council member Bill Knobloch was behind the memo. Inside Bainbridge quotes City Manager Brenda Bauer as saying Knobloch used the copier at City Hall and “immediately after he left, [a] staff person who walked past him into the room to use the copier found the document in the originals tray. They shared it with another staff person or two who came into the copier room, and then it was given to me.”

When contacted by Inside Bainbridge, Knobloch denied responsibility, saying, “I am not the author of that document.” Knobloch added that “we should not be conjecturing about something that we had no way of knowing,” and repeated that the accusation was “totally false.” Inside Bainbridge reported that he “questioned the reasoning behind sharing the document at the Council meeting: ‘What good is that especially since it was a festive evening?’” I’m willing to entertain the idea that he didn’t write it, or wasn’t the only author, but at the very least it seems clear he was involved with crafting and conveying the message.

I got my hands on it after the Council meeting and was so disgusted I wrote the email below to members of the new Council. I promptly received two or three emails from another citizen who has been active in trying to shred the City for the past couple of years (I can’t bring myself to name him, but let it be said he loves to clog our inboxes with his anti-everything musings.) This citizen gave it the old spaghetti on the wall trick, throwing up as many defenses as possible to see what sticks. His argument boils down to one point: this is politics, honey, so get used to it.

As to the voting bloc to whom the memo is addressed, an educated guess would be the three new members whom Knobloch publicly endorsed: Dave Ward, Sarah Blossom and Steven Bonkowski. The identity of the fourth might be gleaned from the public reaction of Debbi Lester, who has been aligned with Knobloch on several hot button issues in the past few months, such as divestiture of the City’s water utility and the swamp surrounding the in-sourcing of the Civil Service Commission’s Secretary/ Chief Examiner position. After I read the memo, I communicated with Councilors Hytopoulos, Scales, Franz and Peters, who were uniformly disgusted and outraged. In contrast, Lester made light of the episode when contacted by Inside Bainbridge, saying, “Everybody should go have some eggnog and chill out.” (more…)

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