The Year In Review 2008
Whew, what a year! It’s tough to characterize a mind-bending one like 2008, but how about this: It’s still undecided, but the Post Office wants to swap its downtown home for land off High School Road owned by Town and Country so it can build a new postal station and T&C can build a new market. Even up, just like in Monopoly. Crazy, you say? Check out our Flickr slide show for more.
A White Christmas
For the second straight year, December provided a treacherous storm, though as different as black and white: The 2007 version was a rainstorm that wiped out several roads; this year’s storm brought sub-freezing temps and tons of snow.
About a foot-and-a-half fell during a 10-day period, slowing much of the pre-Christmas activity to a slippery, precarious dance with the elements. Remarkably, the few injuries that occurred were caused primarily by falls, but it was a pain for the many who were snowbound because of the lengthy cold spell and many impassable secondary roads.
Such a debilitating storm seems to happen only about once a decade, which is why the city has only eight snow plows and is concerned primarily with keeping the main roads open for those necessary trips to Seattle or the grocery store. Fortunately, power outages were kept to a minimum this time around.
Kids and the young at heart were in their element, though. The best day to be out, unless you were driving? The island wore its most beautiful winter finery the Sunday before Christmas, when a heavy but gentle snowfall allowed bundled-up islanders to playfully walk the back streets without fear of being run over.
Always four to three
When the City Council – with three new members – voted unanimously against the building of a downtown Winslow parking structure in its first action of the year, little did we know that council unanimity would be as rare in 2008 as a million-dollar house selling on the island. There were exceptions, but sides were drawn early between the four who generally favored the administration’s point of view and the trio that leaned toward questioning its policies.
Ironically, one of the “minority” members, Chair Bill Knobloch, had this to say in January: “We’ll have potholes along the way, but we’re positive problem-solvers and when we hit those potholes, we’ll get through them.” In fact, the council was stuck in the biggest pothole of them all, literally, until the last meeting of the year when the predictable 4-3 approved the Winslow Way improvement project.
By the end of the year, the two camps were about as chummy as a bicycle commuter and the driver of a SUV making a beeline for the ferry terminal. They were civilly Bainbridge, of course, and there were no reports of them throwing shoes or chairs at each other. Just an occasional smirk.
Sad to see Junkoh go
One of the most beloved islanders, Junkoh Harui, 75, succumbed to cancer in October. When the family of the island native and co-founder of Bainbridge Gardens discussed a memorial at Sakai, they estimated that about400 or 500 people might attend. Instead, about 2,000 people jammed into the school’s gym to pay homage to a man who touched thousands of islanders with his quiet, caring way and spirited love of nature and his homeland.Family and friends shared their stories for 90 minutes with an attentive group of islanders who were eager to experience one last, vicarious moment with a man they held in highest regard. It was an emotional time as the standing-room-only crowd laughed and cried throughout the memorial. A fitting goodbye for a man hailed as an island treasure.
The music stopped
“Yes, even on Bainbridge,” the real estate agent admitted when asked early this year if the island’s housing market had turned sour. Not necessarily putrid as it remains in many regions of the country, but painfully low when considering that the industry has been the dominant industry here for 30 years and had no reason to doubt a similar future.
Alas, it’s been a miserable year, with lewer than half of the home sales in 2007. Two weeks into December, for example, 16 houses and two condos had been sold during the half-month. There was no thawing of the sales freeze at the end of the year, but realtors believe the market’s health will slowly return in 2009.
The building and real estate slumps were especially difficult for the city, which depends on tax revenue derived from those markets to pay its employees’ salaries and to launch capital projects. Retailers also felt the crunch as islanders generally spent less throughout most of the year.
Starting at the top
It was suggested during a February Town Hall meeting that Bainbridge might be better served with a council-manager form of government rather than a mayor. It took several months to collect the necessary 1,000 or so signatures on a petition and be certified by the Kitsap County Auditor’s office. But that wasn’t half as confusing as what followed.
Because of a state law that allows special elections only during November of odd years, voters cannot decide the issue until November 2009, which also is the next time a mayor will be elected on Bainbridge Island. Which means islanders may be voting to get rid of the newly elected mayor on the same ballot.
How Catch-22ish is that?
The council decided with a rare unanimous vote to have a May 19 special election on the issue, but only if it could persuade the 2009 State Legislature to amend the current state law.
At this point, however, the general election of Nov. 3, 2009 still promises to be one of the most historical, if not hysterical, elections ever held on the island. Stay tuned.
This silver was for Silver
Bainbridge High School didn’t win any state championships in 2008, but it had several individual athletes who made waves. The headline-makers begin with former BHS swimmer Emily Silver, who won a relay silver medal in the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. The 22-year-old student at the University of California-Berkeley didn’t participate in the finals of the women’s 4x100 freestyle relay, but earned the medal by swimming during the preliminary round.
BHS basketball players, seniors Brittany Gray and Ben Eisenhardt, both signed letters of intent to play basketball at Division 1 colleges. Gray, who is the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, joins brother Steven at Gonzaga University, while Eisenhardt will attend Seattle University.
On a team note: The BHS gymnastics team won its 100th consecutive regular-season meet in December as it prepared for a run at another strong finish at the 2009 state championship meet.
Many happy returns
It was a year of enough “0s” and “5s” – that is to say, enough significant anniversaries – to keep any arts and feature writer in ink and on her toes.
Bainbridge Arts and Crafts turned 60, celebrating with the eponymous education program for seniors, “Art after 60.” As a birthday bonus, the nonprofit received a $1 million endowment from a long-time supporter who wished to remain anonymous.
Bainbridge in Bloom and Bloedel Reserve each burst through two decades, while the Bainbridge Studio Tour turned 25 and Christmas in the Country turned 15.
Helpline House bravely met its 40th year with a spike in demand brought on by the innumerable domino-effect factors that have strained the economy locally and nationally this year.
The online community IslandMoms celebrated five virtual years, while on the ground, the outdoor education center IslandWood turned 20.
Madrona School passed the decade mark. The Japanese American Community’s Mochi Tsuki Festival almost turned 20 but was postponed by December’s big freeze (join them on Jan. 18 to pound out your winter doldrums).
Ovation! Musical Theatre celebrated a half-decade with a musical revue at the Commons. Just across the street, the Waterfront Park Concert Series danced through its 20th series of sunny summer evenings and the best ever-blessed way to get the kids the heck out of the house on a Wednesday.
Happy birthday to all, and apologies to any that were overlooked. The aforementioned arts reporter turned 40, and her memory isn’t what it used to be.
Written on the island
Steadily documenting the work of Bainbridge authors over the course of a year is pure pleasure for a reader and writer. Seeing them compiled into a single “year in review” entry is jaw dropping.
Whether your drool is awe- or envy-inspired, wipe it off and get to the library or bookstore.
Fiction ran the gamut, from juicy to literary. Kristin Hannah glowed with “Firefly Lane,” Susan Wiggs gave us “Just Breathe,” and Carol Cassella provided the remedy with “Oxygen.” Meanwhile, Judith Reynolds Brown celebrated a “Turkish Wedding,” Anthony Flacco came out of the woodwork with “The Hidden Man,” Jonathan Evison explored familial (dys)function in “All About Lulu,” and David Guterson took us into the backwoods while examining the duality of manhood in “The Other.”
In verse, MacArthur Award winning poet Linda Bierds published “Flight: New and Selected Poems.”
History and biography scored. Mary Woodward published “In Defense of Our Neighbors: The Walt and Milly Woodward Story.”
Ann Gowen Combs and her brother, Geoffrey Gowen, documented another island legend and father with “Sunrise to Sunrise: Vincent Gowen’s Memoirs.” Michael Lisagor turned his “Romancing the Buddha” into a one-man stage play.
Gary White turned 30 years’ worth of passionate research into “The Hall Brothers Shipbuilders.” Wilkes Elementary School teacher Warren Read explored his family’s history of racism in “The Lyncher in Me.” And Richard LeMieux documented his years of homelessness in “Breakfast at Sally’s.”
(These last two, while not technically island residents, made the “island” cut by virtue of proximity as well as worth.)
In photography and how-to, a pair of Kathleens, O’Brien and Smith, published “The Green Home Primer,” a design-focused guide to creating an environmentally sound domicile. Michael Diehl made churn visually fascinating with “Crossings: On the Ferries of Puget Sound.” And two women with a taste for the island raised funds for the Kitsap Humane Society with “Flavors of Bainbridge.”
Other nonfiction included “Evangelical vs. Liberal” by James Wellman and “Understanding Your Child’s Puzzling Behavior” by clinical psychologist Steven Curtis.
Which leads us to the kids. Suzanne Selfors followed last year’s “To Catch a Mermaid” with the young adult novel “Saving Juliet,” later adapted for the stage at BPA.
First-time author Andrea von Botefuhr gave us “The Land of Smaerd.” Julie Hall presented “A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids,” while science/how-to fave Lynn Brunelle tackled shoe-tying with “The Zoo’s Shoes.”
Finally, George Shannon gets mention this year for “Rabbit’s Gift.” Though published in 2007, the charming winter-themed picture book, resonant on so many levels, earned a 2008 Washington State Book Award for children’s fiction.
Vandals went wild
Vandals left their mark on 2008 in a splattering of cases.
It began in February when a spate of anti-semitic graffiti fouled Blakely Elementary. Traditional “paint night” mischief leading up to high school graduation wreaked more havoc than usual in June, but reached a new high when two students slashed tires and slathered paint on eight police vehicles.
The pair were arrested and later apologized for the crimes. BHS seniors held an impromptu carwash to support the police department.
Soon after, four plastic port-a-potties were blown to pieces in a string of “sparkler bombings.” Police identified six youths suspected of rigging the explosives from “sparkler” fireworks.
As the school year rolled into November, vandals struck again when they tore up the newly laid rubber track at BHS and spraying gang-inspired symbols on several schools. More arrests followed.
Yet not every youth wielding a paintbrush in 2008 was inspired by mischief. Teen Center regulars drenched a wall outside Aquatic Center with a fantastically colored mural. And Laurel Curran and Isabel Williams raised money to replace fading public art on Olympic Drive with a vibrant new set of murals painted by island fourth graders.
Turf wars kept raging
Perhaps no news story of 2008 was as doggedly recurring as a battle over artificial turf.
An opening shot was fired in January by professional activist Chris Van Dyk, who vowed to fight the school district’s plans to install a synthetic surface at Memorial Stadium and created the Web site plasticfieldsfornever.com. Islanders who rallied against the school project and a planned turf installation at Battle Point Park cited chemical content of crumb rubber in the fields and a host of other environmental and health concerns.
An overflow crowd turned out to a January school board meeting where students overwhelmingly favored the faux-field. The school board agreed and the turf was rolled out over the summer.
Meanwhile, Van Dyk’s campaign shifted strategy and began collecting signatures for an island-wide ban on artificial turf. The measure failed to make the November ballot. As the year closed Van Dyk was soldiering on with an appeal of a permit for the Battle Point project.
The city’s February seizure of a neglected Eagle Harbor houseboat called Wicca launched a bizarre year-long saga. The historic liveaboard home was towed to Port Gamble where it languished in a rock yard for the summer. Twice the city ordered Wicca’s demolition but eventually caved to protests from islanders and stayed the execution.
Finally in November mariner Ray Nowak submitted a successful proposal for Wicca, purchasing the houseboat for $1. He plans to bring Wicca home to Eagle Harbor.
Bainbridge goes green
As fuel prices climbed steadily north in the spring, a flood of new bicycle commuters overwhelmed ferries, T&C rolled out eco-friendly shopping bags and “green” projects seemed to be springing up everywhere.
One sprouted on the roof of Sakai Intermediate School, where a community-fueled effort erected a 5.1 kW solar panel array.
Island inventor Bob Fraik gave Solar Tour attendees a glimpse of a sleek future with a demonstration of his Electric Composite Hatchback plug-in car.
On Grand Avenue, homeowner Zbigniew Pomykala had a grid-defying geothermal heating system sunk in his yard.
The election year began with a rousing February presidential caucus. Thousands of Democrats picked Barack Obama as their candidate while John McCain was favored among a much smaller throng of Republicans. Obama swept up nearly $300,000 in campaign contributions from islanders. More than 92 percent of Bainbrige voters cast ballots in the Nov. 4 general election,which saw Obama march to a historic presidential win and local Democrats cruise to easy victories.
At the bottom of the ballot voters approved a park district levy lid-lift. Money from the lid-lift will go toward parkland aquisition and development.
Bainbridge Island School District endured a painful round of budget cuts but saw progress on its capital projects this year. In the face of a $1.5 million budget shortfall, the school board trimmed back staff positions, consolidated the district’s bus routes.
At Bainbridge High School a new wing evolved from bare concrete to finished building and a artificial field and rubberized track were installed in Memorial Stadium.
As retiring Supt. Ken Crawford handed the baton to Faith Chapel, the district was looking ahead to its next round of capital improvements, targeting a bond proposal to rebuild Wilkes Elementary for the spring of 2009.Contact Bainbridge Island Review Staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-842-6613.