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Bainbridge port district commissioner race packed with 14 candidates

Voters will get a yes or no vote and a list of 14 islanders to determine the fate of the Bainbridge Island Port District in November.

Before Thursday's filing deadline, 14 candidates filed to run for the five-member commission. The Nov. 8 ballot will determine if the island will form another junior taxing agency, and if so, who will commission the district.

Port district supporters say they were shocked by the impressive turnout, especially since they had a short notice and a brief three-day filing window to get the word out.

"We certainly expected it would be hard just to get five people to file, and we definitely didn't expect this much talent," said Bainbridge resident Wini Jones, who helped gather nearly 1,500 signatures to put the port district on the ballot. "We have [candidates] with wonderful business experience, some with harbor commission experience, past City Council people. [Candidates] that bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and ideas to the table."

The race for the five port seats has the most candidates in the county, second to the Bainbridge city council race with 11 competing for four spots. The port, however, isn't legally allowed to narrow the list of candidates with a primary race.

In November, Bainbridge voters will decide by a simple majority whether to establish an island port district. On the same ballot voters will also decide who will fill the five commission seats. If port formation gets the majority vote then the commissioners will decide the policies, procedures and budget for the new junior taxing agency beginning in 2012.

At least 10 percent or approximately 1,394 signatures were required to move the port district petition forward. After the Kitsap Board of Commissioners approved the ballot resolution the Kitsap County Auditor's Office announced a special three-day filing period for candidates to fill the five-member commission, hinging upon voter approval.

Jones said she is currently working to organize forums and information sessions for September and October to help inform the public about the port district, and to give voters a chance to meet the candidates and hear the platforms of their campaigns. Ballots are sent out in late October. Jones said she plans to bring in representatives from other port districts to illustrate what ports have done in other local communities.

There are 75 port districts in the state and 12 in Kitsap County. Several smaller ports have existed on the island prior to the dissolution of the Port of Bainbridge over 50 years ago.

Ports can manage and promote numerous land and water activities such as marinas, industrial sites, docks, airports and recreational facilities. Ideas discussed at port meetings for Bainbridge projects include improvements to the city dock at Waterfront Park, kayak launches, rowing docks and port-operated water taxis.

If the port district is formed it would become legal in January, 2012, which would kick-off the commissioners process to determine community priorities, needs and the budget, Jones said. By August the commissioners would have to submit a budget to the county - like the parks and other taxing districts - to request a certain levy weight.

Jones said the port supporters are suggesting the levy collect 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value in property taxes.

"For the average Bainbridge home with a value of $500,000 that is a latte a month or $55 a year," said Jones.

The commission would have the authority to set the levy at any price. Jones said she is also suggesting that a port advisory committee be created to help inform the commissioners as they mold the regulations of the district. The Port of Olympia created a similar standing committee last July in an effort,"to advise the Port Commission on matters of public concern involving the scope and direction of the Port and improving community relations," according to the 2010-2011 resolution.

Whether the junior taxing agency even makes it past the ballot is yet to be seen. With a stagnant economy still stretching pocketbooks it has been a challenge across the country for local governments to generate support for new taxes.

Port District Commission candidates include:

Commissioner Position 1

Elizabeth Murray

J. Michael Horst

Ross West

Commissioner Position 2

Mary Victoria Dombrowski

Jim Llewellyn

Craig Marshall Clark

Commissioner Position 3

Ken Sethney

Walt McGraw

John Papajani

Commissioner Position 4

Darrell McNabb

Jennings Hanseth Jr. (Jay)

Commissioner Position 5

Mathew "Chuck" MacLearnsberry

Andy Peters

Tom Kane

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