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Posts Tagged ‘Inside Bainbridge’

Bainbridge City Council member and Deputy Mayor Val Tollefson wrote a letter to the editor, published on Inside Bainbridge yesterday, expressing his views on our lawsuit and the core importance of open government. It’s a welcome public statement from someone who was not on the Council when we filed the suit. As one of the plaintiffs, I can confirm his statement that “this suit could have been settled much earlier and cheaper but for the insistence but for the insistence by the involved Councilmembers that their Constitutional right to privacy was paramount to their obligation to the City.” I also agree with the the other views he expressed in this letter, particularly the importance of transparency in government.

Bainbridge Island recently settled a lawsuit brought by two of our citizens claiming that the City violated the Washington Public Records Act. The suit involved delays and ultimately failure of two members of the Council to produce email messages that they had received concerning City business on their personal email accounts. This suit was a very expensive lesson. The money spent should have been used for a constructive purpose for our City. Since the taxpayers won’t see any tangible benefit from these tax dollars, they are at least entitled to some comment. So here goes:

  1. The use of personal email accounts for City business was against City policy. This suit demonstrated clearly the problems that can result, and the City has tightened procedures to ensure that everyone doing business on behalf of the City has access to and knows they must use a City email account.
  2. This suit could have been settled much earlier and cheaper but for the insistence by the involved Councilmembers that their Constitutional right to privacy was paramount to their obligation to the City. I will ask the Council to take steps to ensure that Councilmembers agree that service to the City requires a reasonable limitation on that claim to privacy.
  3. Compliance with the Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Act are at the core of the City’s obligation to provide good, transparent service to the community. The citizens who brought this recent lawsuit performed an invaluable service to the community at great personal expense. Bob Fortner and Althea Paulson should be thanked for insisting that the City be held to account.

—Val Tollefson City Council, North Ward

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I wrote yesterday about the big money that went into our election, and hoped that we could put that kind of money toward local non-profits this year too.

I neglected to mention another, crucial part of our community well-being: our local media. As we all know, the news business has been destroyed by the Internet and is now scrambling to figure out a business model that works in an age when everyone expects their news for free. Paywalls may yet be the future, but I don’t know many islanders who have subscribed to the Kitsap Sun since they started using theirs. I read it at the library if I’m particularly interested in one of their stories, but I don’t intend to subscribe for the privilege of reading Kitsap Sun articles and their Bainbridge-hating commenters.

And that points up the problem with paywalls—-the product has to be unique and very attractive to entice readers to pay, now that we’re all used to free news.

Yet this election surely has demonstrated how important the news is in our community. Without the Bainbridge Review and Inside Bainbridge, we would have only the most partisan of information. In the past month, if people had only the Trippwire, the Bainbridge Notebook and various personal emails on which to base voting decisions, I don’t think anyone could have made a fully-informed decision. I am fully aware of the limitations of my blog, and don’t pretend to be a real news source. I write columns and opinion pieces on subjects that interest me, based on the best information I can find. While blogs like mine serve a purpose, they cannot take the place of news organizations. (more…)

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Inside Bainbridge posted an informational article today about T-PAC and the Quality Bainbridge effort to raise money to support Roth, Tollefson and Townsend.

Two PACs to face off in Bainbridge City Council Election

Here are recent articles the Bainbridge Review has posted about T-PAC and Quality Bainbridge:

Grassroots group to launch new political committee to push back against Tripp campaign

Activist outpaces most council candidates in raising money for November election

Tripp starts political action committee to support slate of three candidates for Bainbridge City Council

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The following article of mine was published by Inside Bainbridge on July 18, 2013. I am re-publishing it here to have it archived on my blog.

Documents released by the city pursuant to a public records request reveal that Arlene Buetow, Central Ward City Council candidate, lobbied four members of the Council at their private e-mail addresses on behalf of her homeowners’ association. Shortly after she sent three e-mails to the four requesting an exemption from the city’s business licensing requirements, Councilmember Dave Ward made a motion to do just that at a regularly scheduled council meeting.

On April 14, Buetow sent an e-mail to the personal e-mail addresses of Councilmembers Steven Bonkowski, Sarah Blossom, Debbi Lester, and Ward—who constitute a quorum of the Council—attaching a memo explaining her objections to a recently adopted ordinance that included homeowners’ associations among those entities that must obtain a business license. Buetow, who identified herself as president of the Tiffany Meadows Homeowners’ Association, said the license requirement subjected homeowners’ associations (HOAs) to “superfluous and unnecessary staff review.” She argued that the Council never meant to include HOAs in its ordinance.

On April 15, she sent another message to the four Councilmembers at their personal e-mails, writing, “Dave Ward asked me to provide details on the timing of this Ordinance through Council and how that relates to the Notice being sent out to the ‘affected parties.’” She attached portions of previous Council minutes at which the licensing provisions were considered and adopted.

Although I submitted a Public Records Act request for Councilmembers’ e-mail records, as of July 17 I had received no records showing how Ward communicated his request to Buetow. In fact, I have not received any e-mails from Bonkowski, Lester, or Ward on the topic of the HOA business licensing provision. (more…)

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