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Special Election Coverage: 'Mandate' for new government; BISD bond too close to call

(From left) Dennis Vogt, Andy Maron and Ken Brieland are elated as preliminary results are viewed on an iPhone at Treehouse Cafe. - Sean Roach/Staff Photo
(From left) Dennis Vogt, Andy Maron and Ken Brieland are elated as preliminary results are viewed on an iPhone at Treehouse Cafe.
— image credit: Sean Roach/Staff Photo

UPDATE:The Kitsap County Auditor's office has 1,830 Bainbridge ballots to count Wednesday, according to Elections Supervisor Dolores Gilmore. More ballots postmarked late Tuesday may be received on Thursday and 99 ballots from Bainbridge have been contested. Election results will be updated on the Auditor's website at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

With 7,511 votes counted Tuesday evening, a measure to change Bainbridge Island's form of government to a council/manager system was passing with more than 70 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results posted on the Kitsap County Auditor's website Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Bainbridge School District's $42 million capital bond measure had received a 57.68 approval rate, from 7,635 counted votes. It needs a 60 percent approval rating to pass.

Turnout for the special election now stands at roughly 44 percent but ballot counts will continue this week. Kitsap County elections officials say they expect Bainbridge turnout may top 50 percent.

There are 17,010 registered voters on the island.

Ballot counts will continue this week. The election will be certified June 3.

The Auditor's office will release its next election results update at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Landslide for council/manager measure

Organizers and supporters of the Vote Council-Manager '09 campaign gathered at the Treehouse Cafe in Lynwood center to await results Tuesday night.

Before results were announced, Linda Owens, the campaign's manager, expressed the timid sentiments of the crowd of roughly 50 supporters.

"There is a lot for people to be proud of here," she said. "I want to toast the Bainbridge Island citizens, we win no matter what happens tonight."

But by 8:15 p.m., those cautious words were forgotten in a flood of cheers, as preliminary results showed more than 70 percent of tallied island votes were in favor of abandoning the mayor/council form of government.

The overwhelming approval rating has also sent a clear signal to Mayor Darlene Kordonowy.

"I have to admit 70 percent is difficult to hear," Kordonowy said from her home Tuesday evening. "But at the same time I accept that people are not satisfied with their form of government."

Kordonowy had already announced that she would not seek a third term as mayor.

Once the vote is certified, she can choose to either step-down from government or stay on as an eighth member of the City Council until the end of the year.

She has yet to make up her mind on that decision, saying she will use the next ten days to discuss the matter with colleagues.

"The council is going to be in charge on June 3rd, I am looking forward to talking with them and hearing what they have to say," she said. "At the same time, it is time for me to move aside and I am willing to step aside; in fact I am looking forward to it. This is an important time. It is part of our evolution as a city."

For many backers of the council-manager form of government, the early election result was read as a mandate for a new approach to city government.

Council member Debbie Vancil, a supporter of the initiative, teared up after the results were announced.

"It's a new day for Bainbridge Island," she said. "The people have their government back. It's been a long time coming... this was the dream of home rule 20 years ago and this is the next big step."

Council member Barry Peters agreed.

"It's a real mandate," Peters said. "It's a mandate for all council members to come together with the community and the administration in a new kid of collaboration."

However, Peters alluded to the mixed messages over what type of collaboration could be achieved with the new council-manager government.

"I wish the mandate came with an instruction form on how we can get there from here," he said.

Beginning tomorrow, the Vote Council-Manager '09 campaign committee will meet privately with members of the city council and the administration to express what they have learned from their campaign and interactions with the community.

Kordonowy was invited to the meetings but will not attend, saying they should be done in the public sphere.

Meanwhile organizers will enjoy the success of their measure.

"I believed from what I had been hearing that it was going to be this kind of vote," said Bob Fortner, a Vote Council-Manager committee member. "It was my dream that we would break 70 percent."

School bond too close to call

School board members and district administrators watched election results come in at a publicly noticed social gathering in the home of board member Patty Fielding.

Board president Mary Curtis said the initial results on the school bond were "sobering," but she's hopeful that the measure can creep over the needed 60 percent as more ballots are counted.

"I'm going to keep the faith and remain optimistic over the next few days," Curtis said.

The $42 million bond would pay for the reconstruction of 55-year-old Wilkes Elementary school along with district-wide capital improvements.

Curtis said that if the measure fails, the school board will have to take a hard look at how it communicated the need for the bond to the public and move ahead with a new strategy.

"The question of repairing these schools isn't a matter of if, but when," Curtis said. "So if it doesn't pass this time, we'll just have to go back to the drawing board."

Check back to BainbridgeReview.com and pick up the Review's Friday print edition for continuing election coverage.

– Review reporters Sean Roach and Tad Sooter compiled this report.

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