Knobloch, Doerschuk stake out platforms for council

(L-R) Candidates for City Council Bill Knobloch and John Doerschuk.  -
(L-R) Candidates for City Council Bill Knobloch and John Doerschuk.
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Changing island demographics could mean a new breed of voter and candidate.

Incumbent councilman Bill Knobloch wants to repeal a major business tax and connect the island to the mainland via a floating, magnetic train.

His challenger John Doerschuk, wants to kick out the ferry maintenance yard from Winslow’s waterfront and reduce parking requirements for downtown businesses.

The two candidates for the City Council’s Central Ward Position 4 seat offer bold visions for Bainbridge and a few bold words for each other.

“Bill has not built the teamwork he could have on the council,” said Doerschuk, a real estate manager and 19-year island resident. “He has a tendency to micromanage staff when he should be focusing on policies.”

Doerschuk distinguishes himself from Knobloch, a retired navy and commercial pilot, by describing himself as a “fiscal conservative” with a range of professional experiences that give him a better understanding of how to “balance fiscal needs with broader goals.”

While calling Doerschuk’s criticisms “false” and “purely political,” Knobloch said he knows little of his challenger’s positions and would refrain from attacks.

Knobloch defended his leadership abilities, citing his experience as a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier squad commander and as a passenger airline captain.

“I want to take the high road,” Knobloch said. “I’m conducting a low-key campaign and am not going to get personal. I’m going to stick to the issues.”

When it comes to issues, both Knobloch and Doerschuk are quick to stake out positions on the future of Winslow.

Knobloch believes stripping away the city’s business and occupation tax would bolster the vitality and diversity of downtown shops and restaurants.

“I’m really taken by the fact that only two cities in Kitsap County collect B&O tax, and that’s Bremerton and Bainbridge,” Knobloch said. “It might be a sign that we can capture that amount of revenue somewhere else while attracting diversity downtown.

“We don’t want T-shirt and candle shops overtaking the diversity we have. We want people to be able to park once and get all their needs met while shopping downtown.”

Knobloch believes that an experimental train under development by the Port Angeles-based Magna Force Inc. could also give downtown Winslow a boost while reducing auto traffic. Hovering on a magnetic cushion, the LEVX train concept could connect Winslow to Poulsbo and possibly other parts of the island.

“The community would like to see downtown very walkable,” Knobloch said. “And the train (could have) a lot to do with that.”

Doerschuk’s strategy for downtown revolves around a “carrot and stick” approach that encourages property and planning goals through incentives.

“Instead of legislating and alienating, let’s educate and motivate,” he said.

If the community wants to see more parking, pathways or public plazas, the city should offer businesses or developers incentives, such as higher-density allowances.

“This will provide a more livable city with less (tax) money and less litigation,” he said.

Doerschuk said incentives could have been offered to current condo developments to increase pedestrian access.

“Look at Harbor Square,” he said, pointing to a 180-unit, mixed-use development going up next to the ferry terminal. “It’s a giant block. It should have been offered incentives for trails.

“It’s five acres downtown and it’s going to see more development all around. People should be able to pass through to the single biggest focus on the island — the ferry system.”

While expressing support for the city’s Winslow Tomorrow planning process, Doerschuk stressed the need for clearer project timelines and budgets.

“Winslow Tomorrow is going to be a huge investment and we have to keep asking, ‘What are our goals here, what are we investing and what are our returns?’” he said.

Knobloch also pledged support for an open, broad-based Winslow Tomorrow process.

“I won’t participate in any financing for Winslow Tomorrow unless it has public approval,” he said. “I’m not looking to put the community in debt.”

Both candidates support a strong local role in any long-range plans for the Washington State Ferries maintenance yard and terminal. On the terminal, both have taken a similar position that the multimillion-dollar project should include island input and better pedestrian and bicycle connections.

But the two candidates differ over the maintenance yard. Doerschuk strongly believes the repair facility is “an incompatible industrial use that serves as (a poor) front door to the island.”

He wants the city to enlist the state Legislature’s help in removing the yard from Eagle Harbor’s shores. He said this would free up prime real estate for public water access and businesses.

Knobloch believes challenging WSF over the maintenance yard would be an uphill battle.

“This has already been decided by a higher authority,” he said. “It boils down to the fact that, for the state, it’s not cost-effective to move. They own the land on Bainbridge and if they were to move to Seattle, they’d have to lease. If it costs more to move, why would they move? We have to understand that.”

Knobloch said the city still has “some avenues to negotiate joint use” of a portion of the yard for a public boat access.

Both Knobloch and Doerschuk say the school district tech levy’s recent defeat exposed a political shift on the island.

“The failure of the tech levy is an indication of how concerned people are getting,” Doerschuk said. “They need to see the link between decisions, implementation and real attention to fiscal sustainability. The city needs to be a leader in that.”

Knobloch says the levy failure illustrates a dramatic change in island demographics over the last five years.

“The levy was not presented in a manner that was palatable,” he said, especially to residents who don’t have children or moved here to retire.

Knobloch estimates that out of 16,000 registered voters on Bainbridge, less than a fourth have children on the island. He wants the city to conduct a new poll looking at the island’s values and demographics.

“We need to update what the people I represent want and where their values are,” he said. “The people on this island are very sophisticated and we have to respond to that. The average taxpayer will no longer be hoodwinked by political rhetoric.”

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