Opinion

A waste of time, talent, money | IN OUR OPINION

The Bainbridge Island City Council has left no doubt: The council’s recent retreat has been an utter and absolute failure.

And though this council has tried to establish a reputation as being a wise steward of the public’s money, let’s be honest and acknowledge that the thousands of dollars spent on the two-day retreat was a colossal waste of money.

The council met last month with great expectations for the gathering, led by the city’s consultants, Strategic Government Resources, and officials talked at length about creating a unified strategic vision. They talked about effective government practices. They talked about treating people with honesty, respect and decency. They talked about transparency.

A common refrain was building trust; trust within the council, and trust between those elected and the hired professionals who keep the city running.

City officials also batted around ideas on how to improve the strained relationships at city hall, such as reconfiguring the dais into a horseshoe shape, so everyone could see each other during the council meetings, and giving the city manager a seat at the dais.

Unfortunately, recent council meetings have shown that some on the council have no interest in staff having a seat at the table. Changing the seating setup now, it’s clear, would just be moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The evidence for our belief that this council is unwilling to work together, or with city staff, is the recent talk of outsourcing the management of the city’s water utility and, this week, a council request to have the city’s cost estimates on its road preservation program reviewed by Kitsap County. These two examples alone show that some on the council do not trust the competency of city employees.

But it’s also yet another indication that some council members are not committed to the council-manager form of government. Rather than stick to their roles as big-picture decision-makers on policy, they want to nitpick and undermine the informed work of staffers.

We had hoped that a leader would emerge from the retreat, someone who would pull together city hall’s frayed ends and make progress for all of Bainbridge, rather than a council majority that seems eager to walk lockstep with the rabid few calling for the outsourcing of city government.

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