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Hopefuls largely in agreement, often at odds

Incumbent Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, challenger Nezam Tooloee lay out platforms.

With the playing field narrowed, incumbent Darlene Kordonowy and Councilman Nezam Tooloee are going toe-to-toe over how best to manage growth, spend city money and deal with the state ferry system.

Vying for a second four-year term, Kordonowy bested three challengers with almost 53 percent of the Sept. 20 primary vote, while Tooloee topped two challengers with 26 percent.

As they look to the Nov. 8 general election, island population growth leads the issues of both campaigns. Their views are coming into focus through position papers and a recent joint appearance before the Rotary Club.

While agreeing that higher density in Winslow and other neighborhood centers will help curb sprawl and preserve natural areas, Kordonowy and Tooloee disagree on tactics for slowing growth.

Kordonowy believes growth is inevitable, necessitating a pragmatic approach that ensures new residents are channeled into urban areas to preserve natural spaces.

“Those of us who have lived here longer than a few years are very aware of the changes already brought about by population growth,” the incumbent said. “We worry that these changes could eat away at things we love about our island. But population growth on Bainbridge is a fact of life.”

It’s a fact, she said, because the state Growth Management Act requires that Bainbridge plan for an influx of nearly 7,000 new residents by 2025. While state requirements don’t guarantee growth, Kordonowy believes the island’s amenities will continue to entice newcomers.

“It’s a fact (that) a lot of people want to move here to enjoy the same things we all enjoy – a wonderful natural environment, good schools, proximity to a major urban center without urban problems,” she said. “I don’t see any of that changing any time soon.”

But Tooloee believes the appetite for the island life can be curbed by issuing fewer building permits.

“While we manage growth, there is no need to simply accept whatever pace of growth the market throws at us,” he said. “We can and must control the rate at which we grow.”

Tooloee believes the city should regulate the number of permits processed each year.

“In a nutshell, we would say that we are going to process a defined number of applications per year and allocate that total to different types of applications in a way that reflects our values.”

Kordonowy doubts rationing permits would pass legal muster.

Both candidates are strong supporters of higher density downtown.

Kordonowy, who initiated the Winslow Tomorrow planning project, believes the “wholesale development” of small parcels outside Winslow creates an increased burden on city services, police protection and utilities.

Tooloee is also a backer of Winslow Tomorrow, especially as it relates to parking issues. He points to a survey conducted by the project that shows 65 percent of Winslow is taken up by infrastructure devoted to the automobile – a “dubious distinction” shared with cities like Los Angeles, he said.

“We need to reclaim some of that invaluable land for people as walkways, bike lanes, green spaces, social places, retail businesses and town homes,” he said. “As Winslow Tomorrow takes shape, we should have numerical goals for how much surface parking will be reduced over the years.”

Tooloee advocates a system of ‘satellite parking’ areas away from downtown with small buses shuttling between.

Both candidates foresee growth in the island’s mixed-use neighborhoods of Lynwood Center, Island Center and Rolling Bay.

“I believe the island should consider concentrating more growth in neighborhood service centers so that they become, in effect, villages on the island,” Kordonowy said. “Such population concentration would be far (more preferable) to a general suburban sprawl over much of the island.”

She and Tooloee agree infrastructure improvements in these areas, such as sewer service in Rolling Bay and Island Center, could help encourage growth.

The environment: While higher density in urban and neighborhood areas will help preserve open spaces, both candidates believe more must be done to protect the island’s environment.

Kordonowy hopes to include funds in the 2006 city budget to steward lands purchased with the $8 million Open Space Bond Levy. She then plans to initiate a new open space initiative for continued financial support of city-owned natural areas.

Kordonowy is also calling for a speedy conclusion and implementation of the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance update, preferably by early 2006.

Tooloee has proposed major revisions to the CAO during its recent update process and has championed a slower process that balances landowner and environmental concerns.

“When the advocates for an incomplete CAO presented it to the council, I did not shy away from advocating major changes despite relentless political pressure,” he said. “When the dust settles, people will see that we have substantially increased protections for our critical areas – while making the CAO less onerous to the residents.”

Both candidates have expressed concern for the island’s aquifer-based water supply.

Kordonowy believes the increase of hard surfaces that follows a growing population could send more rainfall into Puget Sound and less into the island’s underground water stores.

“Therefore, it is essential that decisions about how we grow take into account the need to limit runoff and maximize the opportunity for rainfall to feed our aquifers.”

Tooloee wants a clearer picture of the limits of the island’s aquifers, possibly through monitoring equipment or a water company to manage the supply.

The councilman would also like to transfer greater output from the Winslow sewer plant to the aquifers with less discharge into the sound.

Finance: Kordonowy credits her executive department’s new management team for putting the city on “sound financial footing,” including a rare clean audit of the city’s 2003 financial report.

Her management staff will also help the city navigate a future of shrinking revenues and limited real estate tax hikes, she said.

Kordonowy added that an increased and more diverse tax base could come out of the Winslow Tomorrow process, as more people and shops are drawn to downtown.

Tooloee believes the city is not doing enough to curb spending.

“I have seen no evidence that the city is acting to bring its recurring revenues into balance,” he said. “In fact, this year the administration has made several staffing requests that go in the opposite direction.”

Tooloee calls for staffing cuts and a slower rate of increase for salary and benefits. City revenue projections show that expenses and revenues are near the crossing point, he said, necessitating rapid financial overhaul.

“This situation is untenable and it is imperative that the city find ways of making its finances sustainable,” he said.

Ferries: Kordonowy and Tooloee say the city must have an active role in Washington State Ferries’ redesign of the Bainbridge terminal. Both want to see the island’s desires, including increased non-motorized transportation trails and walkways, included in WSF’s planning.

“Safe, convenient ferry access for bicyclists and foot passengers must be incorporated into any plan to improve the loading and unloading of more motorized vehicles,” Kordonowy said. “Under our current system, it’s only due to the caution and good sense of the public that we have not had more accidents.”

They also agree WSF must make good on promises to cut free a swath of its Eagle Harbor maintenance yard for a public boat haul-out facility.

The two candidates take opposite paths when it comes to the future of the rest of the maintenance yard.

“There are better uses for this vital section of our waterfront,” Tooloee said. “My favorite is an appropriate blend of waterfront amenities for residents and visitors alike.”

He believes the city must act fast before WSF spends millions on upgrades to the site.

“If we do not act now, the ferry system will proceed with spending $40 million on improving the maintenance yard at Eagle Harbor and the opportunity will be lost forever.”

But that opportunity has passed, Kordonowy believes.

“Our elected representatives in Olympia have decided that the most cost-effective course of action is to leave the ferry maintenance facility in Eagle Harbor,” she said. “This is not a popular decision for many islanders, but the fact is that the decision has been made.”

The next step, she said, is for the city to partner with the WSF to ensure its planned developments are palatable to islanders.

* * * * *

Two views

Incumbent Darlene Kordonowy has posted position papers at her campaign website, www.kordonowyformayor.com. Nezam Tooloee’s platform is at www.tooloee.com.

Two debates are scheduled. The first, on Oct. 17, is sponsored by the he League of Women Voters of Kitsap and begins at 7 p.m. a the Bainbridge High School’s LGI room. The event will also include candidates for City Council, the park board and fire commission.

The Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce will host a candidate forum at the Wing Point Golf and Country Club on Oct. 19. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. with a lunch. To register call 842-3700.

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