Words of wisdom, then out the door

Bainbridge Island’s three departing city council members believe their terms ended on a note of triumph – and its name was “roundabout.”

Jim Llewellyn, Liz Murray and Merrill Robison all supported the concept of traffic circle at the busy intersection of High School Road and Madison Avenue.

All heard the heavily negative reaction of the citizens, particularly as the project dragged on long after contemplated completion.

And so, all feel some sense of satisfaction that the project now enjoys near-unanimous praise.

“It proves that if you trust the professionals and the professionals are good, you will come up with a good project,” said Murray, who chose not to run for re-election after a single term representing the island’s north ward.

Llewellyn, who was defeated in his re-election bid by central ward challenger Debbie Vann, cited the roundabout as “a decision that is not so popular, but you make it anyway because it is the right thing to do.”

“I’m pleased that the decision proved justified and that it was a good answer to our problems,” Llewellyn said. “The concept of ‘representative democracy’ has held up.”

Robison, opting out after one term representing the central ward, saw the initial outcry as a symptom of lack of trust in government, stemming from poor communication.

Robison advocates televising all council meetings live, wants them all to end by 10 p.m., and also wants some council committee meetings televised.

Murray said she was also gratified by “minuscule things that got passed that were important to me,” citing the bike helmet ordinance, a revision of the city’s sign code and the approval of the south-end sewer plan.

She was frustrated, she said, by the slowness of the process.

“I expected things to move more quickly,” she said. “But I found that if things happen too quickly, it may not be the best way to solve the problem.”

As a former real estate agent and mortgage broker, Murray said some of the island’s land-use regulations appear needlessly stringent.

“To put a sign on a private school, you have to do a traffic survey, a topographical survey and on and on for something that’s really as simple as digging a hole,” she said.

High points for Llewellyn were the construction of the new city hall and the adoption of the Winslow Master Plan, which he calls “the linchpin of overall growth management on Bainbridge.”

Llewellyn said he is pleased with the way the Winslow plan is being implemented, citing infrastructure improvements that he believes are necessary to fulfill the goal of channeling half of the island’s growth into town.The biggest challenge, he said, was balancing generally expressed “neighborhood” needs against frequently unexpressed “community-wide” needs – and matching both with the available resources.

“People on the island have a high level of expectations,” Llewellyn said. “They want well-paved roads and bike lanes, and ditches so the water runs off. They want winding roads with underground utilities, so the trees can form a canopy over the road.

“Those things take a lot of money – roads and infrastructure are the most expensive things we do.”

Robison said the highlights of his four-year term were bringing some “exceptionally good people” into city government, notably Public Works Director Randy Witt and Police Chief Bill Cooper.

“Some organizations are more productive than others because of the people who work there,” he said. “Some supervisors never want bright people working for them because it challenges them.

“We need more bright people in city government.”

Robison said he was frustrated by the failure to deal directly with what he believes is the single most important issue for the community – economics.

“Do we want to be a bedroom community for Seattle or a sustainable community on our own?” he asked.

“Those issues don’t get discussed much, but the derivatives of those issues get discussed all the time.”

Robison said he is firmly in the “sustainable community” camp, and said his agenda was on-island jobs.

“Good jobs don’t have to be environmentally unfriendly businesses,” he said. “The surge in business licenses and the growth in Chamber of Commerce membership don’t come from brick-and-mortar businesses, but from people working at home.”

Murray decided not to run for re-election in part because of her dissatisfaction with the direction the city was taking.

“It was my perception, and I think the election confirmed it, that what I like to think of as conservatively old-fashioned views are not fashionable,” she said.

Murray said she plans to spend more time in her garden, resume knitting and playing the guitar – and will take scuba lessons.

“I’m a water baby, but I’ve never done that,” she said.

And while she said “you just don’t walk away from it,” she doesn’t plan on being regularly involved in city politics.

Robison plans to spend time working on a membership drive for Bainbridge Island Broadcasting, of which he is a longtime board member, and working with the Bainbridge Island Historical Society on a strategic growth plan.

“My dream is to open a tavern with a pool table – non-smoking – where people can just come down and talk,” he said.

As far as city politics is concerned, he is through.

“I’m out of city hall – I’ve done what I can do,” he said.

“That’s not to say that I won’t have an interest, but I won’t be down there.”

Llewellyn says he still wants to be involved.

“There will be another election in two years for a central ward council seat,” he said. “And who knows, it might be time for another Llewellyn race.”

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