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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Blossom’

Today, the New York Times has a story about a report on climate change just released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest non-governmental general science membership organization.

AAAS convened a task force of climate science experts, economists, community leaders and policy makers for its “What We Know” Initiative, to address the continuing lack of public awareness of the full spectrum of climate risks. Scientists from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Woods Hole and other research institutions are guiding the effort to educate people about the scientific evidence on climate change, raise the alarm about serious risks and consequences to the planet, and debunk myths and misinformation.

The report contains no new science. Instead, it is clearer and “more accessible than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date,” the Times writes. The initiative is intended to cut through public confusion, and identify:

The Reality–Surveys show that the public is somewhat concerned about climate change, but believes there is still significant scientific disagreement about the causes. This is FALSE. According to AAAS, “Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.”

The Risk–AAAS writes: “Earth’s climate is on a path to warm beyond the range of what has been experienced over the past millions of years. The range of uncertainty for the warming along the current emissions path is wide enough to encompass massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems: as global temperatures rise, there is a real risk, however small, that one or more critical parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes.”

Worst case forecasts include severe food shortages, rising seas that would inundate coastlines, extreme heat waves, droughts and floods, and massive extinction of plants and animals.  (more…)

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trick-or-vote-graveyardI’m now sending daily nag-texts to my three 20-something sons to vote and mail their ballots. Like most Americans, they’re not much interested in local elections, even though the government decisions that affect us most directly are made at the local level.

For the past decade, the turnout on Bainbridge in local elections has been in the neighborhood of 40%. By contrast, the island’s turnout for the 2008 presidential election was over 90% in many precincts.

Low turnout can happen when voters don’t think their vote will have much consequence. Several council candidates in the past were unopposed. Christine Rolfes and Bob Scales walked on in 2003. Hilary Franz and Barry Peters were unopposed in 2007.

Most races hand the winner a convincing victory. The closest race in the past two cycles was the 2009 matchup between Bob Scales and Debbie Vancil. Scales took the race with 250 votes, which was a two percentage point advantage.

The Anne Blair/Melanie Keenan race was the most lopsided win in the past two races, with Blair garnering 1389 more votes than Keenan, beating her by 16 percentage points.

Turnout was lower in 2011 than it was in 2009. The numbers vary slightly by Council race, but in 2009, the Kirsten Hytopoulos/Tim Jacobsen race gained the most votes at 9959. In 2011, the most votes were cast in the Barry Peters/Steven Bonkowski matchup, with 9173 votes cast.

The year 2011 was also when the island saw the emergence of a special interest group promoting a slate of candidates. The Ratepayers Alliance rallied voters in Winslow, many of whom were angry over high water rates charged by the City. The Alliance was in litigation with the City and its members had urged that the City divest itself of the water utility.

Sally Adams, Alliance secretary, hosted at least one campaign event (to which I was invited, and still have the invitation) for the slate of Sarah Blossom, Dave Ward and Steven Bonkowski.  According to state campaign finance records, Sally Adams and Dick Allen (president of the Alliance) made contributions to Blossom’s campaign. Allen also contributed to Ward’s campaign. At the time that Allen made his contribution to Ward’s campaign, Ward was a member of the City’s Utility Advisory Committee, which was working on its recommendation to Council on whether to divest the City’s water utility.  (more…)

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This morning Bob Fortner and I sent out the following press release:

Bainbridge residents Althea Paulson and Bob Fortner filed a Public Records Act lawsuit in Kitsap County Superior Court today against the City of Bainbridge Island, and city council members Steven Bonkowski, David Ward and Debbi Lester. Bonkowski, Ward and Lester have been named in the suit both personally and in their role as councilpersons.

Paulson and Fortner made separate requests under the state Public Records Act for records about the council’s recent dealings with the city’s utilities. When councilperson Sarah Blossom produced responsive emails from her personal email account, it became apparent that Bonkowski, Ward, Lester and Blossom have been conducting city business from their personal email accounts.

Council members are given a city email address and, by city policy, are directed to use only that account for city business. Unlike Blossom, councilpersons Ward, Bonkowski and Lester have failed to turn their emails over to the city, in violation of city policy, as well as state law. There is no indication that the other three councilpersons, Kirsten Hytopoulos, Bob Scales and Anne Blair, have used their personal accounts for city business.

“The last thing we want to do is sue the city,” said Paulson, a former co-publisher of the Bainbridge Buzz news website, who now blogs about city politics. “But the way the Public Records Act is written, we have to sue the city in order to require rogue officials to obey the law. The city has produced documents from the city’s server, but in the two months since my request, the three council members still haven’t produced their emails.” (more…)

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Inflammatory emails released by the city pursuant to a Public Records Act request reveal behind-the-scenes strategizing and advocacy among some Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) members, frequent emails about city business from UAC Chair Arlene Buetow to certain council members’ personal email addresses, testy exchanges between Buetow and City Manager Doug Schulze, and scorching criticisms by Buetow of city staff, UAC colleagues and citizens with whom she did not agree.

Buetow assumed the chairmanship of the UAC in March of 2012 and is now running for Bainbridge city council.

Under her leadership, the UAC’s mission has expanded well beyond the scope of the city’s UAC ordinance. She regularly emailed council persons Sarah Blossom, Steven Bonkowski, David Ward and/or Debbi Lester at their personal email addresses, with extensive comments on utility issues. Those four council persons often vote as a bloc on a variety of contested issues. When they were running for council, Ward, Blossom and Bonkowski were critical of the city’s management of utilities. Their candidacies were supported by the Ratepayers Alliance, a group that sued the city in 2009 over utility issues. Sally Adams, secretary of the Ratepayers Alliance, was occasionally included as a recipient of Buetow emails.

Except for routine matters like scheduling and a thank-you note to Anne Blair, Ms. Buetow did not include council persons Bob Scales, Kirsten Hytopoulos or Anne Blair in the emails produced to me.  (more…)

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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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At the June 5 council meeting, councilman Steven Bonkowski tossed aside an item on the agenda to consider whether to enter into an agreement with the Kitsap Public Utility District to manage the city’s water utility. Without any prior notice to the council or the public, Mr. Bonkowski took the podium and made his own presentation concerning water rates and the utility’s reserve. He proffered six motions for council consideration, including cutting water rates by 35% and refunding $3 million of reserves to ratepayers. Mr. Bonkowski took great exception to the analysis contained in a memo from City Manager Doug Schulze, saying it “misrepresents many issues,” and “failed” to respond to various aspects of council’s direction. The Bainbridge Review’s article about it is here. The Inside Bainbridge article, with more detail, is here. 

At the June 19 meeting, the council discussed Bonkowski’s proposals and put the rate reduction on the June 27 agenda. Council member Bob Scales said he may not be available that day and that it was customary for votes on significant issues to be scheduled when all seven council members will be present. Mr. Bonkowski said that the views of each council person were already known and indicated he would add the item to the agenda at the June 27 meeting.

I sent the following email to council today.

Dear Council:

It was discouraging to hear at last week’s council meeting Mr. Bonkowski’s opinion that the presence of dissenting colleagues is unnecessary when the council votes on important water utility decisions. That position is contrary to general principles of democratic process and also appears to violate Section 8.5 of your Governance Manual, which gives dissenting council members the right to state their reasons for dissent on the record.

This is not the only recent violation of good process and best practices by council members, and by citizen committee members appointed by the council majority. I have learned via emails obtained in a public records request, that before Mr. Bonkowski made his June 5th water utility presentation, he obtained help and research from UAC member Eric Turloff. Mr. Turloff’s out-of-view assistance was conducted with the knowledge of UAC Chair Arlene Buetow, and UAC member Jeff Kantor, as well as council member Dave Ward, all three of whom were cc’d on several emails. This is in direct violation of BIMC Ch. 2.33 (which governs the Utility Advisory Committee). That ordinance provides that “The committee shall act in an advisory capacity to the city council…” The ordinance does not allow for a few committee members to act in advisory capacity to a few council members. Rather, the committee must act as a whole to advise the council, also as a whole. Further, section 2.33.060 provides: “Meetings shall be open to the public.” Discussions via email, phone or in person by a quorum of three members of the UAC would be a meeting which was not open to the public, and thus violative of section 2.33.060.  (more…)

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By Bob Fortner

Last year’s Council “fixed” the water utility problems…high rates were reduced to those proposed by the KPUD, overhead was reduced and a trial period was established. The Utility Advisory Committee would review operational data quarterly and report to Council in June 2013.

Without waiting for or seeking operating data, Council members Bonkowski, Ward and Blossom with the support of Mayor Lester are pursuing early re-engagement with KPUD regarding management or ownership of the City’s Water Utility. Using 5 years of financial reports, Bonkowski alludes to data on the other city utilities compared with water to support his contention that all is not right with utility management and therefore the early re-engagement is justified.

Perhaps in his relative newness here, he fails to factor in that the previous Finance Director was dismissed in August of 2010 after 6 years of fiscal obfuscation which contributed to our near bankruptcy. Bonkowski may have found what he believes are discrepancies or a “straw man” to justify divestiture. Basing the reengagement decision on an analysis of those records, without a previous examination of current data, seems inconsistent with his experience in the business world. (more…)

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