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Buetow, Roth square off for Bainbridge council seat
Voters will recognize one candidate in the running for the Central Ward seat on the Bainbridge Island City Council.
The other you might not know, but perhaps that’s to his fortune.
Wayne Roth and Arlene Buetow are running for the Central Ward, Position 5 seat on the Bainbridge Island City Council.
Buetow, 56, has worked with the city in various capacities for the past 21 years. She has been on the city’s Utility Advisory Committee since 2009 and is the current chairwoman.
She describes this dedication to the community as a defining component of her campaign for city council.
While Roth, 70, has not spent the last 20 years working closely with the city government, his background brings an altogether fresh perspective.
Roth has worked in public media for about 40 years and the last 30 years as the president and general manager of KUOW Public Radio. In addition, he has served three terms on the National Public Radio Board of Directors and two years as chairman.
As someone who has committed his life to communications as opposed to city utilities, he describes himself as hands-off when it comes to city management.
“Hands-off” is not to say his experience hasn’t given him the necessary tools to take on a city council position.
“When I was chair of National Public Radio, we hired the president — which is to say the city manager,” Roth explained.
“We set performance goals and strategic measurements and measurable objectives … then you go through the process of prioritization and out of that you get to budget, because you never have money,” he continued.
Roth explained that, as a former board member with NPR and the general manager of KUOW, he knows the budget is the ultimate planning document, and it is the council’s biggest duty.
“It’s the one with all the power, because you can work and get things done,” Roth said.
Buetow, on the other hand, brings a slightly different approach to the council’s budgeting duties.
“(The Utility Advisory Committee) really informed me that part of the problem with utilities — and I’m a specialist in utility finance — part of the problem with utilities was governance,” Buetow said.
She explained that as a member of the UAC she has gotten to know how governance influences the utilities’ budget.
However, if elected as a council member, she said she will eagerly take on the task of planning the city’s overall biannual budget by not blindly accepting everything put before the dais.
“I think that the big picture of what needs to be done to reform and make these things more efficient and effective has to apply to the whole governance,” she said.
“I think it’s the responsibility of the council to direct, to provide leadership and to make sure that the tax dollars are well-spent,” she said. “And that requires a willingness, and I have the knowledge to investigate things that are put before you.”
This past August, Buetow’s investigations and concern over the city’s utilities manifested itself in private email conversations between her and four city council members. The conversations resulted in a public records lawsuit against the city involving three of the council members who did not turn over the emails when a public records request came later.
Critics question whether this form of communication will carry over onto the dais if she is elected to the council.
“I will follow the rules as they are explained to me,” Buetow said.
“I have never been a city official. I’m not a city employee. I don’t know what the rules are as they apply to them,” she said.
Buetow further explained that her communication with the council members was not advice given on behalf of the UAC.
“I’m a citizen. I’m a ratepayer. I’m a highly involved individual in this community whether I’m on the Utility Advisory Committee or not,” she said.
“I’ve always communicated with anyone who cared about what was going on in city hall, friends, associates. I continued on in the same pattern that I had communicated with (particular council members) over time.”
“No one ever told me I wasn’t supposed to do that,” Buetow added.
Buetow also said that adverse opinions from council members Bob Scales and Kirsten Hytopoulos kept her from engaging them in her communications.
“When I was reappointed to the Utility Advisory Committee, Bob Scales and Kirsten Hytopoulos spoke publicly from the dais that they had no respect for me, they never wanted to hear anything from me, they didn’t want to listen to me, they wouldn’t listen to me and they didn’t think I should be reappointed to that committee,” Buetow said.
Aside from her communications with city council members and staff, Buetow has also been criticized for not logging consistent minutes for UAC meetings and questioning whether the committee falls under the Open Public Meetings Act.
Roth said that in contrast to Buetow’s methods for conducting business, he has always worked in an environment marked by open meetings and records.
“My question to (Arlene) ... Why do you need legal guidance to do anything for the city and not keep it open?” Roth asked. “Why should not all of the city’s business be in the open?”
“I not only support (the Open Public Records and Meetings Acts), I just feel it’s so essential as part of trusting government,” he added.
Despite the criticisms, Buetow said this election year is a new opportunity for cooperation and collaboration.
Buetow said open communication will be vital for a constructive organization.
“I’m willing to accept the fact that you make a decision and move on, as we all should be,” Buetow said.
“But the one thing that makes that really difficult is when you can’t have open communication, when you don’t feel like you’re part of the decision, when you don’t feel like you’ve been heard or that people are willing to listen to all sides of the argument. So I’m hoping in a collaborative, constructive, open, communicative council that everyone will have equal voice. And everyone’s voice will be respected,” she said.
Occupation: president and general manager of KUOW Public Radio.
Prior public office: None.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Northern Colorado '67; Master of Arts in communications at the Western Michigan University '69.
Community involvement: Vice President of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association; past board member of the BI Arts & Humanities Council; co-founder of the Marge Williams Center.
Fun fact: I have a life-long interest in photography. I recently donated my old darkroom equipment to the Rotary Auction.
Education: Three years of environmental science education at Western Washington University; Bachelor's of Arts in economics at the University of Washington '83.
Occupation: Economic Research, Finance Estimating/Rates and Factors Manager, The Boeing Company 1978 thru 1992; Manager / Director, to Island's largest private water utility 1992 thru 2003; Project Manager, Bainbridge Island Residential Contractor 2004 thru 2010; Retired 2010 to more fully dedicate service to City's Utility Advisory Committee.
Prior public office: None.
Community involvement: citizen volunteer to the City of Bainbridge Island's Utility Advisory Committee since 2009 and current chairwoman; former treasurer for Bainbridge Select Soccer League; former volunteer coordinator for Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Garden Tour; former board member for National Association of Water Companies, Washington chapter.
Fun fact: I decided to move to Bainbridge after one of many bicycling adventures on Bainbridge with my family. I enjoy bicycling, kayaking, sailing, gardening and foraging for native berries and chanterelle mushrooms on Bainbridge. I am an outdoor enthusiast, who enjoys the varied outdoor activities there are to enjoy on Bainbridge Island.