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Candidates square off at forum

An overflow crowd at the city council chambers heard the candidates for Bainbridge Island mayor and city council articulate similar visions for the community, while disagreeing on how to bring those visions to reality.

A new element was interjected into the mayoral race when, in response to a question from the audience, Darlene Kordonowy said she has systemic lupus, an auto-immune disease, but does not think that is an impediment to her serving as mayor.

“I discussed this with my doctor before I entered the race, and he said ‘of course you’re going to run,’” Kordonowy said.

She added that since her diagnosis, in 1991, she has been chair of the Comprehensive Plan drafting committee and been a member of the island Planning Commission, as well as actively volunteering with various island organizations.

“I’m glad it came out,” said Ed Kushner, a Kordonowy supporter. “People may not know a lot about lupus, but they can see what a vibrant person Darlene is, and make their own judgments.”

Kordonowy said an anti-malarial medication she takes controls her symptoms -- occasional bouts of fatigue, joint pain and skin rash -- which she said are less frequent today than they were five years ago.

At the Tuesday forum, both mayoral candidates supported the open-space bond on the November ballot, the non-motorized transportation plan for bike and pedestrian paths and enhanced downtown Winslow vibrancy.

Asked about the island’s preparedness for a potential disaster, Chris Llewellyn said the city is the best-prepared in the county, but that there are additional things that need to be done. She listed passing the bond issue for the new central communications facility and coordinating a volunteer force to be in place in an emergency.

Kordonowy said that her main objective will be to improve the function of city hall, by developing priorities and holding the departments accountable.

The distinctions between candidates for the three City Council seats at stake were more sharply outlined than in the mayoral race, particularly for the two seats from Bainbridge’s central ward.

Challenger Deborah Vann, a retired social worker, tried to paint incumbent Jim Llewellyn as pro-development and anti-environment, claiming he has repeatedly voted against environmental protection measures.

“Growth is the major issue in this campaign,” she said. “We shouldn’t subsidize development,” which she claimed the city does by not charging builders for the entire cost of permitting and by not charging more in impact fees.

Llewellyn, a custom home-builder, said the city doesn’t promote growth through its policies, but rather responds to the mandates of the state Growth Management Act, which requires the city to plan for the expected level of growth.

He advocated encouraging more growth in Winslow to reduce demand in the outlying areas. While the program to transfer development rights from into Winslow from outlying areas hasn’t worked well, he said, a total of 227 development rights have been voluntarily extinguished during the last four years.

In summary, Vann said the council needs to get more citizens involved sooner in the decision-making process, while Llewellyn said his record for the past four years warrants a second term.

In the other central ward race, a contest for the vacant seat now held by retiring Merrill Robison, neighborhood activist Bill Knobloch said the amount of money the city spends on legal fees – some $500,000 last year – is a reflection of poorly drafted city ordinances.

“We need to tighten up the ordinances and eliminate loopholes, changing words like ‘may’ to ‘shall,’” he said.

Knobloch also said that much of the downtown Winslow traffic is generated by commuters coming from off the island, and said fewer parking places should be available to off-island traffic.

His opponent, builder Bill Nelson, said that in general, the Comprehensive Plan to manage growth on the island is working.

“The market dictates growth,” he said. “Bainbridge Island already has lower density zoning than any other city around.”

In the race for the north ward seat being vacated by Liz Murray, Deborah Vancil, who presently chairs the Planning Commission, said the city’s Comprehensive Plan answers most of the questions the City Council will face.

She called for increased residential density in Winslow, and said the city should partner with the county housing authority to create more affordable housing.

“We’re going to grow, and it’s not going to be easy,” she said. “The important thing is that the community not break down in the process.”

Her opponent, architect Tom Hofferber, said channeling growth into Winslow is neither a total nor a permanent solution to city growth issues.

“People choose where they want to live,” he said. “We need to do a better job of planning outside of Winslow.”

He also said the city needs to begin planning now to prepare for the day when Winslow is built out, suggesting that the neighborhood service centers of Lynwood, Island Center and Rolling Bay might accommodate some growth.

Fire commission candidates Scott Gray and Jim Johnson were each given five minutes to speak, but did not receive questions from either the audience or the sponsoring League of Women Voters.

Gray, a Seattle firefighter, noted that, at present, the Bainbridge fire department cannot perform rescues in confined spaces, such as a trench or a ferry.

Noting the anthrax scare last week in Seattle, Gray said, “If that had happened on this side, all we could have done is cordon off the area and wait for the state patrol to arrive.”

He called for more training, especially of the volunteers, to remedy that problem.

Johnson said the city needs its own paramedics corps, but added that the city needs to maintain the level of service and expertise presently available through the contract paramedics that presently come to the island from Seattle.

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