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At-large candidates kick-off political debates
At-large candidates officially kicked off the City Council debate season on Monday at a packed Fork & Spoon cafe over a live broadcast from the newly created Bainbridge Island Radio Club.
Kim Hendrickson, Steve Bonkowski and incumbent Barry Peters discussed their platforms and answered questions from attendees while patrons sipped wine and listened. The implications of the shoreline master plan update, utility rates and city staff functionality were the primary targets of conversation.
Peter Jayne, who moderated the forum, is also one of the radio club’s founders.
Jayne started the evening with opening statements from each candidate.
Bonkowski took the floor first and cited his financial background and desire to realign the city as triggers for why he decided to run for office. He moved to the island in 2007 after embarking on a 26,000-mile road trip to find the perfect coastal town for retirement.
Shortly after moving here, he felt that the island was beginning to change. Support to nonprofits was waning, roads weren’t being maintained and the economic future of the island was and still remains uncertain.
“One of the first things we need is a sustainable financial plan for the city,” said Bonkowski. “In order to do that the city needs to do less. You can’t continue doing the same things and spend less money. We spend a lot of money on lawyer fees and those fees are driven in part because we don’t listen well enough to the citizens.”
Hendrickson outlined her past experience as a political science professor and a move that brought her to the island from Washington, D.C. Her passion, she says, is urban politics, civic issues and understanding what makes cities tick. As a citizen activist, volunteer and currently serving on the city’s civil service commission she said she is both pessimistic and frustrated by current operations, and optimistic for future change.
“My frustration comes first from the way our city handles our financial affairs,” said Hendrickson. “When it comes to spending tax payer money, rate payer money, I don’t think there is enough scrutiny and focus on end results. I am still seeing too much emphasis on overhead and consulting costs.”
Peters, who was elected as an unopposed candidate in January 2008, said the job isn’t easy but he is encouraged by all the positives the city has accomplished. Positive examples, he said, were the 2008 open space bond and the all-volunteer Waterfront Park kiosk that was orchestrated several weeks ago.
“I’m proud of the fact that we have cut millions from the budget every year, and I’m proud of the fact that this year’s budget has a $2 million surplus,” said Peters. “We are rebuilding reserves and paying attention to those hard realities that you wish you didn’t have to deal with. There are so many issues of balance that are at the heart of being a council member and that’s what I think I’ve gained in four years of service.”
Bonkowski said the city could improve its financial standpoint by separating city operations with federal and state mandates and reducing what COBI does beyond mandated regulations. He supports transferring the water utility to Kitsap Public Utility District, and looking to reduce staff overhead at City Hall.
Bonkowski said he hopes to balance public good and access to beaches with private property rights. He also wants citizens to know and understand the actual costs of projects from the onset, using the waste water treatment plant as a negative example.
Hendrickson said she wants to improve the City Hall culture and the strained relationships between police, city officials and the community. She wants to improve city government from the bottom-up and urges the community to move beyond strategic planning and focus on actually implementing projects and change.
Hendrickson also said that she won’t support tax increases or bonds until the city can prioritize and prove that it can spend and manage money well.
Peters said he wants to achieve a 45 percent reduction in city water utility rates in hopes that the city can maintain its cross-trained water/sewer workforce.
He said he feels a duty to protect private property owners during the shoreline master plan update to ensure new regulations don’t exceed what’s required by law.
He also wants the city’s Planning Department to be trained in customer service and the city to continue the strategic planning process it embarked on this year with Deputy City Manager Morgan Smith.
The audio transcript of the forum is available at: www.bainbridgeislandradioclub.org. The internet radio station was formerly known as Southend radio founded by Jayne and Morgan Terry.