News Roundup - Fire blackens island home/Council balks at land study/Ethics panel takes shape

Fire blackens island home

No one was injured in an early morning fire at a Meadowmeer home, fire officials said.

The occupants of the Christopher Road home, including two adults and an eight-month-old infant, were sleeping when the fire started, but were roused by neighbors who heard the commotion next door, according to Bainbridge Fire Chief Glen Tyrrell.

Firefighters arrived at the home at 3:45 a.m. to find it in “full blaze,” he said. It took 40 minutes to control the flames, though firefighters were still dealing with “hot spots” well after daylight.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Council balks at land study

The City Council balked last week at a proposed open space study aimed at assessing possible properties for acquisition and preservation.

“We have an open space commission dedicated to the exact same thing,” said Councilman Jim Llewellyn. “We don’t need another study. It’s totally unnecessary.”

The study came out of a recommendation from the city 2025 Growth Advisory Committee.

With an estimated cost of $55,000, the study would collect input and identify existing natural landscapes that the city could potentially acquire. The study would also draft a long-term strategy to preserve open space.

“This would look at our priorities for open space and (identify) the really important places that could be protected,” said city planner Libby Hudson, who presented the proposal to the council last Wednesday.

Councilman Bill Knobloch said the city’s finances are already tied up in other projects.

“Our plate is full,” he said, mentioning efforts to rebuild infrastructure along Winslow Way. “Too much is going on at once. I can’t support this (study).”

Councilman Kjell Stoknes gave cautious support for the proposal but said it should have included more public input.

Councilwoman Debbie Vancil agreed, noting that the 2025 group, which was tasked with planning ways to accommodate about 7,000 new residents over the next 18 years, met for over a year with little public participation.

“We should back up and slow down before we start approving this funding,” she said.

Hudson said the committee hosted several public meetings and benefited from “citizen involvement throughout the process.”

She commended the OSC’s work but stressed the need for a more comprehensive approach toward land preservation.

“The Open Space Commission has done a wonderful job but we need to look at this in a more strategic way” to protect parcels “under threat” from population growth and development.

The council ended discussion on the study and took no action.

– Tristan Baurick

Ethics panel takes shape

The city now has the volunteers to put the ethics ordinance to work.

The City Council last week confirmed the first four members of the five-member city’s new Ethics Citizen Advisory Committee.

Membership includes Barbara Kerr, Michael Piraino, Jan Heller and Dennis Willerford.

“This gets the program going,” said Charles Schmid, who has advocated for an ethics ordinance and committee for over three years. “It will act like preventive medicine,” halting ethics violations before they happen.

“The (committee) is for education really,” he said. “It tells people where the limits are and where they might have conflicts of interest.”

The committee will oversee an ethics code of conduct applicable to city elected officials and people who contract with the city.

The ethics ordinance, Schmid said, allows the committee to initiate ethics training, listen to complaints and act on “the valid ones.”

The proposed role of the committee was narrowed down over the years to not include city staff, who already have professional ethics codes.

Last year, the council removed subpoena power from the committee after some expressed concern that such powers might be abused.

Recruitment of the five-member committee, which began during the fall of last year, was sidelined for over six months due to scheduling conflicts and personnel changes, according to Mayor Darlene Kordonowy.

In March, the Executive Department renewed recruitment efforts, contacting interested residents and facilitated interviews with a three-member panel consisting of Council Chair Chris Snow, Kordonowy and Jim O’Connor, who has long championed the ethics ordinance.

Of the eight people who applied over the last year, six candidates were interviewed.

Island restaurateur Lee Jorgenson, who had passed the interview process, was removed from council consideration this month due to concerns about a possible conflict of interest related to a legal dispute. The city is currently seeking Jorgenson’s replacement.

Kerr is a personal coach and former college English instructor. She has written three books and holds a Ph.D in English from Temple University.

Piraino is an attorney and the former head a nonprofit child advocacy organization. He has 12 years of experience overseeing the ethics components of nonprofit and public agencies, he said.

Heller is the ethics system director of a health-related nonprofit based in Seattle. He earned a Ph.D in ethics from Emory University and has written books on ethical issues.

Willerford is a cancer physician with an office in Bremerton. He is a former University of Washington medical school professor.

– Tristan Baurick

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