Bainbridge council candidates split on big priorities at voters forum

Two of three Bainbridge Island candidates for the North Ward council seat squared off last week at a voters forum at city hall, presenting a choice between an incumbent who said he wanted to make sure the city was run well, versus a challenger focused on fixes to a whole host of issues, including roadside improvements for bikers and walkers.

The event, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Kitsap, featured Councilman Kol Medina, a first-term councilman in pursuit of another four-year term in the District 2 seat, and Kevin Fetterly, who is taking a second shot after a council seat after losing a District 7 race against Joe Deets two years ago. The third candidate on the ballot, Ashley Mathews, was a no-show.

The two candidates faced a series of questions from the audience after a brief introduction of who they were and why they were running for public office.

“The simple answer is because people asked me to be here,” Medina said.

He said when former councilwoman Anne Blair decided not to seek another term, Blair and others asked him to run.

“And honestly, at first I said no,” Medina recalled.

He had a young family, and his job as CEO at Kitsap Community Foundation was fulfilling and gave him a chance to do work in the community. But people kept asking, so he changed his mind.

“And here I am,” he said.

Once again, Medina said, people asked him to run — including some on the council. Medina recalled his work in the community on various nonprofit boards over the past 18 years.

“People know that I’m a public servant in my heart; that my motives and ethics are clear; and my experience, expertise and skills as an environmental and land-use attorney and a CEO make me an ideal city council member,” he said.

Fetterly quickly drew a contrast with his opening statement.

“I can’t talk that fast,” he said.

“I’m an engineer,” Fetterly added. “And as an engineer, we fix and solve problems.

“Part of that is … clearly stating what a problem is, or an issue; listing all the alternatives; grading the alternatives; picking one and actually implementing it. Getting it done,” he said.

“And then, a couple of years later, we come back and look at that decision. Was it the right one?” Fetterly said.

Fetterly mentioned a survey about big issues on the island he had conducted recently of 3,100 islanders.

When it came to governance and the city council, he added, the positive rating for the council came back at 9.7 percent. “Over 90 percent of the citizens are unhappy, or in the middle, about what the direction is here.”

The city should return to basics, he said.

When asked about council goals, at the top of Medina’s list was making sure the city runs well, is managed well, and is accountable to the people.

Beyond that, implementing the city’s comprehensive plan was next on his list.

“That is the guiding document of the city that the community worked on and decided on,” Medina said, adding that Bainbridge has been taking direction from the plan for the past four years, and pointed to a list of city priorities on a wall in the council chambers.

Fetterly said he’s been knocking on a lot of doors, and a common topic he’s heard is “the inability to walk on our roads.”

“Without road shoulders, without sidewalks, without trails — good parts of this island are really very unsafe.”

Fetterly wants to see 40 miles of road shoulders, trails and sidewalks built “so that we can walk safely.”

Candidates were asked to name two specific concerns, and Fetterly reeled off a ready list.

“We have 20 culverts that are blocking salmon flow on the island,” he said, then added the city has an available budget for fixes of $2.5 million a year.

“But two-thirds of that budget is eaten up by paper pushing,” he said.

There are 16 hazardous waste sites, Fetterly continued, “and they are leeching into our aquifer.”

“We have a poor electricity supply, and I want to fix that,” he said.

“I think that was more than two,” Medina said when it came to him, “but I’ll keep it to two.”

His top priority is climate change, and Medina noted the city has an advisory committee working on an action plan of solutions.

“I was honored to write the ordinance to create that advisory committee, and I am very supportive of the work they are doing and I’m anxiously awaiting for them to complete their climate action plan,” he said.

His other core priority, Medina added again, was making sure things run well.

The candidates also fielded questions on whether the city should allow people to live year-round in recreational vehicles, the proposed Winslow hotel, the future of neighborhood centers, green building codes, pending infrastructure issues, and ways to get people out of their cars.

There were also asked if they supported trees being cut down along the Highway 305 scenic corridor — a sore spot for some given the controversial clearcutting of part of the forest along the highway for the Sound to Olympics Trail a few years ago.

Both candidates limited their answers to the question, focusing mostly on trees that would be removed for the proposed new roundabouts on Highway 305.

Fetterly noted some trees would need to be cut for the roundabouts to be built.

“Am I in favor of it? No, but I’d like to see our transportation corridor run more smoothly so we eat up less gasoline produce less fumes,” he said.

Medina said he had been serving on a committee with state Department of Transportation officials and has been arguing how to take down as few trees as possible.

“I’m trying to make the damage as little as possible,” Medina said.

He called the cutting of trees for the Sound to Olympic Trail “really tragic.”

“I personally was devastated by that,” he added.

Medina said he wanted the Sound to Olympic Trail, but finding a middle ground where a large swath of trees won’t be removed “is going to be hard.”

Ballots for the Aug. 6 Primary Election have been mailed, and must be returned by 8 p.m. Election Night.

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