Waldo, Brackett for City Council

There’s nothing quite like a City Council race to show how narrow the island’s political discourse can be. Most years, candidates can be counted on to recite a politically safe

mantra of environmental preservation, and that’s about it. But of

commerce? Jobs? Our growing housing gap? Perhaps even – gasp! – growth? Most pay simple lip service to the first three, and address the latter only with dour and cautionary reproof.

That’s why Winslow Tomorrow provides an interesting backdrop to the current races. While it’s not the defining issue by any means – and even within its general goals, there is much room for debate – the downtown planning initiative did have the temerity to remind us all that Bainbridge Island’s economic sphere is just as important as its vaunted natural wonders. And to suggest that as we channel half of future islanders into Winslow, some physical changes downtown will inevitably follow.

Within this context, the Review endorses John Waldo for the Bainbridge Island City Council, position 4. It’s not a question of being “for” or “against” Winslow Tomorrow or its various components; it’s that Waldo is so well positioned to address the choices it poses for islanders, and to help decide those issues with the goals of the community – the whole community – in mind.

An attorney by trade, Waldo learned City Hall inside and out during a three-year stint with this newspaper, then applied what he learned through community service. He was a key player in the downtown planning effort, co-chairing its economic subgroup. He then served on the 2025 Growth Advisory Committee, looking at how the island ought best to accommodate future residents. Waldo knows the issues with remarkable depth, having immersed himself in them for years; he’s campaigning on a frank and holistic mix of conservation and managed growth, as he articulates pretty well in our recent Candidate Q/A and on his campaign website. Telling is Waldo’s roster of endorsements, which crosses environmental, business and community lines and includes Dwight Sutton and Andy Maron – whose very names recall a time when councils forged consensus and got things done.

It’s not that Waldo’s opponent, incumbent Bill Knobloch, has disqualified himself through his six years on the council; he’s likeable, well informed by experience, can cast an independent vote, and clearly enjoys the job. But is incumbency a solid platform, given the council’s recent performance? During candidate interviews, Knobloch complained of being marginalized by a council voting bloc with whom he differed. This raises the question: why not reach out? If ever a council begged for a leader who could transcend differences, we just lived through it. Knobloch may not have been the source of the council’s woes, but he wasn’t the solution, either.

For position 6, the race between Kim Brackett and Curt Winston is problematic. Absent particular community service by either candidate, voters are left to render their judgment largely by resume and rhetoric. By the first measure, longtime islander Winston would seem the superior candidate by virtue of a career in the federal government and past school board service; he knows the system as both bureaucrat and legislator. He’s refreshingly irreverent, and would make a smart if idiosyncratic councilor. By our observation, though, he’s also been somewhat disengaged from Bainbridge affairs since his last (unsuccessful) council run in 1991. His candidacy now seems something of a lark.

Brackett has been more engaged, albeit through opposition to development and ball field improvements in her neighborhood; her stand on those issues is a matter of taste. Her professional background in project management is relevant and impressive on its face. The Review offers a conditional endorsement of Brackett – with caveats. First, the campaign has stressed her allegiance to “process” and “listening.” Yet Bainbridge government is already awash in process, and “they didn’t listen” usually just means “we didn’t get what we want.” What the council really needs is consensus-building and decision, followed by resolve – even when a micrco-constituency may go away unhappy. Also, we would like to see Brackett reach out beyond her safe “green” base and engage downtown commercial interests. The challenges posed by Winslow Tomorrow demand it.

Beyond these races, two unopposed candidates – Barry Peters and Hilary Franz – will join the council with solid credentials of their own. May that quartet – Waldo, Brackett, Peters and Franz – meld with sitting councilors to move island government forward with a dignity and moderation too long absent.

We need councilors committed to proving what the city can do right, not bickering their way into new failures. Councilors who will spend less time worrying about what the island might become, and more time working toward what it can be.

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