Freeholders try to isolate Bainbridge

"A year ago in this space, as work got under way on a new Kitsap County charter, we expressed concern that some of the reformers would simply try to reform their way into power.Now, having drafted a charter that would drastically change the way county commissioners are elected, freeholder and Republican activist Matt Ryan confirms our suspicions, telling the Review in an interview this week that the plan created a higher probability of balance, meaning electing Republicans.The easiest way to do so, apparently, is to avoid the issues and simply change the system so as to leave Bainbridge Island politically isolated. As reported elsewhere in this issue, the draft charter includes a vote by district provision - voters in each of five Kitsap districts would select their own county commissioner, but would not get to vote on the other four. That would be a dramatic change from today, in which all voters help select those who serve on the commission.It's clear from this provision that some of the freeholders who shaped the charter are confounded by two facts:* Bainbridge Islanders tend to vote;* Bainbridge Islanders tend to vote Democratic.Now, as an individual, you may be happy about the latter fact or you may not. But the results of several recent elections are straightfoward:While Kitsap County as a whole supported the anti-transit Initiative 695, islanders voted 73 percent opposed. Countywide, voters opposed the recent sales tax hike to restore local bus service; islanders gave it 77 percent support and pushed it to success. North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen, a Democrat, has counted on Bainbridge as a solid block of support, as have past commissioners; party operatives were frank going into last year's elections, saying that when islanders go to the polls in numbers, local Democrats tend to win.And while participation varies by what races or measures are on are a given ballot, elections officials acknowledge that Bainbridge has historically enjoyed higher turnout than the rest of the county.This has, judging from Ryan's comments, inspired a certain amount of resentment around the county. But rather than rallying voters elsewhere, or running Republican candidates who voters here might find appealing, the Granite 13 freeholders have rallied behind vote-by-district. They hope to blunt the political clout islanders have been wielding by virtue of our turnout at the polls - relegating voters here to the selection of, and representation by, a single commissioner on a five-person board.Instead of bringing the county together, this provision would further factionalize Kitsap politics. And it reflects the sad state of partisanship into which the charter government process - which, ideally, should rise above such considerations - has become mired.What are these freeholders afraid of? Again, let's look at the numbers:* Registered voters on Bainbridge: 14,499* Registered voters in the rest of Kitsap County: 113,568Clearly, Bainbridge isn't winning elections all by itself; there are many other voters out there of like mind and preference.If freeholders want the support of Bainbridge Island when the charter appears on the ballot next year - that is, we dare say, if freeholders want the charter to pass - they must abandon the vote by district provision.Bainbridge Island refuses to be punished for voting. "

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