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News Roundup -- Council 'yellow lights' signs/Park board sets budget/Cheesy fund-raiser for clubs/Rotary pledges to save steeple

Council ‘yellow lights’ signs

With elections over and new ones far on the horizon, the City Council pledged a slow, careful process in updating its sign ordinance.

“Because of the constitutional issues, we’re not going to rush,” said Councilman Bob Scales, who proposed recent changes clarifying provisions for political signs. “We’ll plan a (final) reading in December so (City Attorney) Paul (McMurray) can double check it so it’s legally sound.”

Scales hopes to add language to the code that requires the permission of nearby property owners before a political sign can be posted in a city right-of-way.

The councilman bases the legality of his proposed amendment on a state Supreme Court Case in which the City of Tacoma successfully argued that placement of political signs could be conditioned on the approval of nearby private property owners.

Conflicts on the island arose in the fall when a mayoral candidate’s campaign manager posted yard signs near businesses and homes without asking for the consent of nearby property owners or residents.

The signs were frequently taken down, spurring the manager, Jim Olsen, to complain to police. Residents and business owners found that, indeed, they had violated city code by pulling up the signs, which did not require their consent for placement.

An earlier amendment, passed in August, made an exception for political signs, permitting their placement in right-of-ways under certain circumstances. Other signs are still considered illegal when posted on utility poles or city property.

Scales hopes his proposed changes will clarify rules and lead to less conflict when combined with increased education about the ordinance.

“We need to do a good job informing the public so this is completely clear,” Scales said.

Some agree the ordinance is in need of significant changes, including provisions drafted by Scales.

“I circled every time you use the word ‘abutting,’” said Emily Groff, the daughter of Linda Groff, who was ordered by police to return signs she had removed on a city right-of-way near her home. “I’m not sure ‘abutting’ will have any affect. My mom’s land goes all the way to the road. The right-of-way overlaps. So abutting refers to the neighbors. I think its important to get it right.”

Councilwoman Deborah Vann expressed her frustration with the whole political sign issue by facetiously proposing a city ordinance to tackle rabble-rousers like Olsen.

“Can’t we just fine people who are a public nuisance?” she asked. “One or two people cause a disruption and we’re dealing with this for weeks. Some people are so insensitive and rude. Maybe (McMurray) can draft a penalty for being a nuisance.”

City Administrator Mary Jo Briggs jokingly said her office would get on it.

“We’ll put that on the list,” she said.

But Mayor Darlene Kordonowy believes a well-thought-out ordinance update should do the trick.

“That’s why we have laws – to protect us from each other,” she said.

—Tristan Baurick

Park board sets budget

On steady financial footing for the first time ever, the park board Thursday adopted a $3.566 million budget for 2006.

It’s the first budget since voters approved a change to “metropolitan” status, giving the district steady year-to-year tax funding and ending a precarious two-year levy cycle.

District officials responded by establishing long-range capital plans for park needs, and setting up a first-ever contingency fund for unforeseen needs. The budget represents an increase over the $2.567 million in property taxes collected in 2005, but the district from now on is limited to a 1 percent annual tax increase.

“We hope to make it so it takes us a long way into the future,” district Director Terry Lande said. “We’re taking on a lot of parks, so and it’s always going to be a challenge to spread resources around. But it’s a heck of an improvement.”

– Douglas Crist

Cheesy fund-raiser for clubs

Cheesier and more fun than a B flick, the Boys and Girls Club’s Mississippi Mac n’ Cheese Fundraiser raised $942 Thursday night, just shy of its $1,000 goal.

The fund-raiser was part of an effort by Boys and Girls Clubs of King County to send $50,000 to help rebuild Boys and Girls Clubs in the southern states affected by hurricanes.

To date, the drive has received $10,000 from the Moyer Foundation, $10,000 from the Goodman foundation, with an additional pending pledge from the Sonics.

Those who missed the dinner, but are interested in donating a few dollars to push the group over its goal may send checks designating “The Mississippi Mac n’ Cheese Fundraiser” to BI Boys & Girls Club, P.O. Box 10416, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.

Rotary pledges to save steeple

The Rotary Club is coming to the rescue of Eagle Harbor Congregational Church’s steeple.

At a meeting on Thursday at the church, Rotary members announced a $25,000 matching gift for the “Save Our Steeple” campaign, once $100,000 has been raised, said Jim Chapel, a member of the campaign steering committee guiding fund-raising.

“Our goal is $125,000 and we are currently at $78, 000,” Chapel said. “We’ll go over the top once we reach $100,000, and get the Rotary gift.”

The church will use the money to repair the tower and buy a custom-cast bell for the belfry. This past week, American Marine Bank pledged $10,000 to the campaign.

The church’s latest fund-raising event is a free show by the Edge improv troupe at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Playhouse. Donations will be gladly accepted, Chapel said, and all proceeds will go to the steeple fund.

Church members and supporters will hold a big candlelight celebration on Dec. 16 at the church with caroling, guest vocalists and refreshments – including bell-shaped cookies.

The event is free and the entire Bainbridge community is welcome, Chapel said.

For information, call 842-4657.

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