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Archive for the ‘Change of government’ Category

This post has been updated as of 1/11. See italics below.

Yesterday Council member Dave Ward and incoming Mayor Debbi Lester delivered a document to City Hall, signed by both of them, directing that an item be added to the agenda in Executive Session at Wednesday’s Council meeting: “Review Employee Performance.” The closed session is scheduled to last 2 hours at the conclusion of the meeting (at approximately 7:50 p.m.), and already included two other matters, “Current and potential litigation” and “Collective bargaining negotiations.”

Under the Council/Manager form of government, the only employee whose performance may be reviewed by the Council is the City Manager.

The Ward-Lester action occurred less than 24 hours after the Council retreat on Sunday where the new Council committed to conducting themselves under the collaborative and transparent principles of the Governance Manual.
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“Time is not your friend.”

So wrote the pseudonymous “Mrs. Johnson” in an email to Bainbridge City Manager Brenda Bauer yesterday, telling her that she can resign from her City position in exchange for assistance finding a new position, or wait to be fired and “not have our our support.” Claiming that Bauer’s time with the City is “coming to a close”, Mrs. J told her she has no choice on whether to leave her City employment, but still has time to choose the terms—voluntarily or involuntarily.

The emailer, who writes as if s/he is in-the-know with a majority of Council and can offer assurance as to the actions the City will take, is apparently hoping the City can avoid the terms of Bauer’s employment contract. That contract requires the City to pay severance of six months’ salary if she is fired without cause (“cause” is defined by the contract). If she could be induced to resign, she would get nothing.  (more…)

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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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UPDATED: As of 4 p.m. on May 20, with 200 additional votes left to be counted, the Kitsap County Auditor reports that the change in government  is passing with a vote of 69.76%. The school bond is still just short of the supermajority, at 59. 57%. Over 9000 people cast votes on these measures (9205 on the form of government vote, and 9414 on the bond). On another note, our change of government vote was featured on KUOW today, with Mayor Kordonowy and change of government campaign member Bob Fortner giving their comments by phone. Click here for the audio.

The voters have spoken and they want real change in local government. Last night’s unofficial vote count from the Kitsap County Auditor gave the change of government measure an impressive lead at 71.4%, out of  7511 votes counted. The school bond measure is falling short of the required 60% supermajority, at 57.68%. Results will be updated today at 4 p.m. when ballot drop-offs and late mail-ins will be counted. 

Change-of-government supporters celebrated at the Treehouse last night, noshing on pizza and salad and marveling at the wide margin of victory. Council members Debbie Vancil, Kim Brackett, Bill Knobloch and Barry Peters were in the crowd of about fifty. Shortly after the results were in, state Representative and former Bainbridge Councilor Christine Rolfes, dropped in. Rolfes sponsored a bill in Olympia that enabled the change-of-government measure to be on the ballot in May, instead of during the general election in November.   

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After months of waffling, I’ve finally decided I’m voting in favor of changing our City government to the council-manager form.

I’ve gone back and forth on this question because it wasn’t clear to me whether the City’s problems are structural or simply the result of two terms with a divisive mayor, abetted by eight years of ineffectual Councils.

If we vote to adopt the council-manager form of government, we probably won’t see any big changes right away. After the election is certified, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy will become the eighth member of the City Council (if she chooses) until her term expires at the end of 2009. The often contentious 4-3 split on Council will widen to 5-3, because the current Council majority has been supporting Kordonowy’s policies all along. City administrator Mark Dombroski will, in all likelihood, keep his job. Citizens will still distrust City government, and we’ll continue to see the symptoms of that distrust: political controversies, large numbers of public records requests, and litigation between islanders and their government. (more…)

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The Council-Manager ’09 campaign posted a 4-minute video on its website this week, explaining the advantages of the council-manager form of government. I’ve been on the fence about change of government all along, but this video just might seal the deal for me. It’s professionally done, succinct and persuasive. Its most compelling point: our current form of government itself creates conflict, distrust and antagonism between the administration and the City Council. And for years, that’s been one of the biggest complaints from citizens about City Hall.

So…what do you think of it?

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I couldn’t make it to last night’s forum on change of government. I’ve heard that Carl Neu, the municipal governance expert who spoke at the forum, is a knowledgeable and engaging speaker. 

So I’m interested in hearing from people who attended. Did he answer your questions? Did you change your mind on whether to change our form of government? What were the main points raised in the forum? Was it well-attended? Will you vote for or against change of government?

You can share your thoughts or remaining questions in comments to this post. I invite Bob Scales, the only announced candidate for mayor so far, and people from the Change of Government campaign to weigh in as well.

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