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Archive for March, 2012

Last Saturday at 3 a.m. the phone rang at my house.  Caller ID showed the cell phone number of one of my sons, who is in college in southern California.

But the voice on the other end was not my son’s. It was a crying girl. Before I could make out what she was saying, one of Jake’s housemates was on the line explaining that they were taking Jake to the hospital. They’d been walking home from an all-night campus eatery when they were accosted by three drunk men yelling racial and anti-gay slurs. One of them jumped Jake from behind and shoved him headfirst into the pavement. The attackers ran away.

Jake has a broken nose, some stitches on his chin and multiple lacerations and bruises. He’s recovering from the physical wounds. The invisible damage won’t heal as quickly.

Fortunately, he has many close friends and an entire campus of passionately caring students and faculty behind him. People have already organized gatherings to talk about the hatred and bias that still afflicts us all, whether based on race, religion, sexuality, or any other reason.

These events have been on my mind this week as I’ve tried get interested in the island politics I usually blog about. As controversial and entertaining as City Hall has been lately, none of it seems important. We are an island of privilege. We have little crime and our problems are ordinary—unhappy marriages and divorces, domestic violence, loneliness, rebellious teenagers, alcohol and drug problems, financial setbacks, illness. Even during hard times, we are mostly blessed beyond measure. (more…)

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Former Council member Bill Knobloch and City watcher Robert Dashiell can continue to exercise their rights to participate in local democracy, according to Bainbridge Municipal Court Judge pro tem Jennifer Forbes.

After hearing significantly different versions of their scuffle at City Hall, Judge Forbes denied both men their petitions for restraining orders against each other, saying she needed to see more than one isolated incident to justify restraining their constitutional rights of freedom of movement and freedom of association. She noted that both of them were likely to want to go to future City Council meetings and exercise those rights. (more…)

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The State Auditor’s office has dismissed a complaint filed against the City by former Civil Service Commission Secretary/Chief Examiner Kim Hendrickson. Her complaint alleged violations of whistleblower laws, open government laws, and Civil Service Commission rules, specifically targeting former City Manager Brenda Bauer and Council member Bob Scales.

“Your concerns regarding the City are outside our audit authority,” wrote Jan Jutte, Director of Legal Affairs for the Auditor’s office.  “Our office has no authority to examine compliance with civil service or local government whistleblower laws.” (more…)

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Nothing like a scathing editorial from the local newspaper to cut a City Council down to size.

The courteous, even deferential atmosphere of last night’s meeting was a marked departure from the “I’m the decider” stance taken by the Council majority since January. Gone were the dramatic votes, the lack of explanation for actions and the silencing of dissent.

Instead, meeting chair Steven Bonkowski gave Council member Bob Scales, who has been silenced repeatedly in prior meetings, ample time for questions and comments as the Council’s agenda moved along. Bonkowski and others in the Council majority responded to Scales’s remarks with obliging phrases like,  “Certainly” or “Of course.” (more…)

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Plotting to fire City Manager Brenda Bauer from their first days in office, and accomplishing the deed in their first six weeks, wasn’t radical enough for the new City Council. They had to fire her again last night in front of a crowd of stunned citizens and surly Council majority supporters. Bauer was given twenty-four hours to clear out, and will collect nine months worth of salary and benefits from the City.

By “new City Council,” let me name names, because all Council members are NOT equal in this swath of destruction at City Hall. The wrecking crew is  Debbi Lester, Steven Bonkowski, Dave Ward and Sarah Blossom.

Minority Council members Bob Scales, Anne Blair and Kirsten Hytopoulos walked into the Council meeting from executive session with the air of people who know they have little chance of salvaging the remains of Bainbridge Island’s reputation after a bad month of making the regional news for all the wrong reasons.

Noting that the majority’s action was a complete surprise so they had no prepared response, they labored to express their disgust and helplessness in the face of their colleagues’ behind-the-scenes maneuvering. (more…)

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The Citizens Park Task Force is a group of island volunteers who have been working on a plan with the City of Bainbridge and Kitsap Transit to beautify the Unocal site on the corner of Winslow Way and Highway 305. In response to concerns of some citizens that the Unocal site is in a hazardous condition, they sent out the following letter today, and included a report from Chip Goodhue, Task Force volunteer and licensed hydrogeologist, summarizing the evidence for the past 20 years about how the soils at the site have been managed, treated and disposed of.

Submitted by Bruce Weiland, bpweiland@comcast.net

  CITIZENS PARK TASK FORCE
March 13, 2012

TO: Bainbridge Island City Council Members and
Kitsap Transit Board Members:
RE: UNOCAL site

Over a year ago, under the leadership of Jim Chapel and Steve Davis, the Citizens Park Task Force came together for one simple reason–to beautify what is currently an ugly vacant lot at the corner of SR305 and Winslow Way. Our sole mission is to improve this crucial gateway parcel with some simple passive-use surface improvements, such as landscaping, paths and benches.

As we began to reach out to the community for ideas and support, we encountered almost universal enthusiasm for the project. To date, we have over 115 individuals and almost two dozen community groups or agencies on our member roster. Yet we remain an entirely volunteer group. No one is getting paid, and no one has any vested interest in the project beyond a sincere desire to improve Bainbridge Island.

We were please to find that elected officials were as excited about the project as are the citizens. The City of Bainbridge Island and Kitsap Transit (as owners of the site), and the Parks and Recreation District (as the proposed future manager of the site), have all passed unanimous resolutions in support of the project. Subject to final approval of the specific site design by all three governmental entities, we hope to raise all necessary funds this spring, break ground this summer, and cut the ribbon sometime this fall.

As the Task Force has advocated for this project, we have repeatedly sounded one main theme: Use of the surface as a passive, non-recreational green space must be safe and environmentally responsible. We have pledged to ourselves and the public that we will not proceed with this project unless this key condition can be met. (more…)

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Looks like another wild ride at City Council next week. The newly posted agenda has an executive session scheduled for discussing litigation (pretty much a standard entry these days). And there’s another, more ominous topic: “Review performance of an employee.”

Under our Council-Manager form of government, the only employee whose performance the Council may review is the City Manager. She’s already been fired, and has an agreement with the City to stay on until her replacement is in the saddle. That agreement allows the City to fire her at any time by giving her ninety days’ notice, plus six months’ severance. There is little else the Council is empowered to do to “review performance” besides fire her under that clause. If they do, we’ll be paying her nine months’ salary for no work. (more…)

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