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Scales handed seat on next council

Bob Scales was handed a seat on the next city council this week, when opponent Annette Stollman withdrew from the race.

The development surprised Scales, who will take the seat in January barring the improbable event of a write-in candidacy.

“I’m very honored to have the opportunity to serve on the council for the next four years,” Scales said. “I plan on spending the next five months learning the issues that are now before the council, so I can hit the ground running.”

Scales said he plans to meet with residents, business leaders and community groups throughout the fall.

“I’m a relatively new face, so I want to let people know who I am and what I stand for,” he said.

Stollman – who said she filed for the position out of concern that no one else would do so – withdrew after considering Scales’ credentials and speaking with people who know him.

“I think he will be great,” Stollman said, citing Scales’ background in law and dispute resolution. “It’s great to see new people interested in city government.”

Scales’ lack of name recognition notwithstanding, it’s almost as though he has been training for a seat on the council.

He’s a lawyer who has specialized in dispute resolution. He’s a senior policy advisor to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles, but also works with the Seattle City Council, and negotiates the tension between those two branches.

And he has a master’s degree in promoting low-impact tourism.

“I think I have a unique set of skills based on my legal background and experience with state and county government that will being a fresh perspective to the council,” Scales said.

The North Madison resident will fill the north ward seat being vacated by two-term incumbent Norm Wooldridge.

Scales is a daily bicycle commuter to Seattle City Hall, where he is responsible for the city’s jail budget and efforts to revitalize the ailing University District.

The latter effort has involved both a stick – crafting an enforceable but narrow noise ordinance to control student “party houses,” without interfering unduly with normal activity – and a carrot – working on housing that will bring people other than students into the area.

That work in Seattle has sharpened his awareness of potential problems confronting the island’s business community.

“The wonderful thing is that this isn’t ‘Anyplace USA,’ but we have a very fragile economy,” Scales said. “We need to provide adequate infrastructure so that people can get into and out of Winslow, and they need a place to park.”

He wants to evaluate the city’s fast-food ordinance to determine whether it is legally defensible, and if not, to look at a substitute, along the lines of design guidelines an ad hoc committee is considering.

“We may want to look at regulating land use and design, which we can do legally, rather than regulating on the basis of who owns a business,” Scales said.

On the land-use side, Scales said he wants to take a quick and hard look at the ordinance that limits schools, churches, recreational and cultural facilities to half the lot coverage allowed in the underlying residential zone.

The ordinance – the result of a code change four years ago, made for reasons that aren’t clear – has stifled the growth plans of a north-end private school, and has been criticized by Bainbridge Island School District officials as well.

Scales sympathizes with their plight.

“Many of our schools and churches are already nonconforming, meaning they’re stuck, and can’t expand,” he said. “If there is no clear indication of why that provision is in the code, and what purpose it serves, it should be a quick fix.”

Similarly, moratoriums should be limited to true emergencies, he said, and should be imposed only while the city addresses the specific emergency that prompted the moratorium.

Noting that the city’s moratorium on new dock and bulkhead applications was struck down at the Superior Court level, Scales believes his legal training may help slow the spate of litigation involving the city.

“We need to make sure before we pass laws that they are legally enforceable,” he said. “I can help before decisions are made to ask the right questions.”

One question he wants to ask is whether the city should consider hiring an in-house attorney to handle at least some of its legal work.

“With legal costs rising as fast as they are, we need to look at this very carefully,” he said. “I work with the Seattle city attorneys’ office daily, and can see that there are some significant advantages in having them there, being able to talk to them on an informal basis, and having them not on the clock.”

A graduate of Shoreline High School, Scales has an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz, a master’s degree in tourism planning and development from the University of Surrey in Guildford, England, and a law degree from the University of Washington.

He has been a tour director to China and the Soviet Union, an English teacher in China, a deputy King County prosecutor before becoming a policy adviser to then-Seattle Mayor Paul Schell in 2000.

Since 1993, he has been a certified mediator practitioner.

Scales, his wife Debbie and son Sebastian moved to Bainbridge four years ago.

After becoming progressively more involved in the community, Scales said he now has the professional flexibility to take on the council position.

His ultimate objective, he said, is for their child to enjoy the island the way he and his wife have done.

“I hope my son has the same quality of life we enjoy today – the open space, the farmland and the shorelines,” he said.

Stollman’s withdrawl leaves just two of four council races contested.

Incumbent Michael Pollock chose to give up his newly created at-large council seat to challenge former councilman Jim Llewellyn in the southwest ward, while retired television producer Christopher “Kit” Spier, businessman Nezam Tooloee, environmental activist Arnie Kubiak and financial document manager Larry Johnson will vie for the at-large seat.

Southwest ward incumbent Christine Nasser Rolfes failed to draw an opponent.

Staff writer Douglas Crist

contributed to this report.

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