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Candidates' experience defines South Ward
In the race for the City Council’s South Ward, experience is the key word.
Each candidate claims to have it, but from different disciplines.
Curt Winston spent more than 30 years dealing with large budgets for several federal highway organizations.
Tim Jacobsen has been a Certified Public Accountant and business owner for more than 35 years.
Kirsten Hytopoulos worked as a prosecuting attorney in Seattle.
None of the candidates has served as a City Council member, but all of them have been in and around city government for years.
Hytopoulos was a major proponent of the council-manager campaign because she wanted to see the council receive all the information necessary to make the right call.
“By removing the politics from the management side and putting the council in charge, it seems the council would have the information it needed,” she said.
Winston served on a school board in New Jersey for nine years before moving to Bainbridge, and he was the chair of that board’s financial committee.
Jacobsen has been a member of the city’s Salary Commission, and he served on the board for the local Boys and Girls Club, where he was named the Board Member of the Year last year.
Through their observation of local government, the candidates identified water matters as one of the most important issues in the ward.
Jacobsen said in a statement to the Bainbridge Conservation Voters in June that the city’s water supply is becoming even more important with the amount of farming that happens in Bainbridge.
“Our community members value the ability to obtain healthy, locally grown food and therefore we seek to preserve local farming and increase community gardening,” he said. “Any significant long-term increase in the amount of our locally grown food requires a significant additional amount of water for irrigation during our dry growing season.”
Jacobsen said he would make sure the issue of water for farming is discussed with the United States Geological Survey in the process of creating its water study for the island.
Hytopoulos said water is an issue for everyone on the island, but people in her district have sometimes complained of shortages.
“We’re pretty dry down here, and a lot of people are concerned about water,” she said.
Winston heard concerns from his potential constituents, too. He said he’s had conversations with people in his neighborhood about wells running dry. The other day, he said, a woman called to alert him to the decreasing water yield she received from her well. The 210-foot-deep structure produces less than a quarter as much water as it used to, she told Winston. Fixing these problems is one of his main priorities.
Along with dealing with water issues, all three candidates were adamant about slashing expenses as the best way to balance the financial situation.
Winston said the city needs to get back to the basics.
“First thing you have to do is stop the spending on all of these nice-to-haves that we can’t afford anymore,” Winston said.
Unfortunately, he said, arts and other projects need to be cut back so the city can focus on primary needs like fixing roads and sewers.
Winston said extensive reductions in the budget will be difficult for the island to digest, but in the end it will make the city more efficient, as Winston learned during his time as manager and director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Safety.
“Years down the road, all of us came to the conclusion that we are smarter and leaner and better because we didn’t have all these oceans of funding around,” he said.
Hytopoulos, who has watched the city decrease the size of the organization and make extensive spending cuts, said a city-wide plan of how large the administration should be is an important step.
Jacobsen characterized the city, which is turning 18 this year, as a teenager starting to feel the consequences of past decisions.
Now, he said, the city must reorganize both spending and funding sources.
All three candidates agree that the city is missing the boat on tourism dollars as a primary source of revenue.
“We have the biggest tourist attraction in our state dumping people on our front door every 50 minutes,” Jacobsen said. “How do we take advantage of that?”
Hytopoulos identified tourism as a possible source of revenue as well. She said finding and using the most consistent revenue sources available, like property taxes, will help city finances become more consistent.
Chief revenues can’t come from sales tax on developments, Jacobsen said, and things can’t be cut just for the sake of cutting the budget.
Hytopoulos took a similar stance on growth. She said people have misunderstood her position on growth. She’s not against it in all cases, but she said the city shouldn’t promote growth for the sake of growth.
Winston believes that a moratorium should be put on large developments until the USGS study comes out. He is against the Winslow Way reconstruction project; he doesn’t want to see the developments on the east side of Winslow Way repeated on the west side of State Route 305, which he still enjoys.
“I like it, I don’t want to see it changed,” he said.