City gets a shiner while mayor ducks

It’s hard to have vision when you’re squinting

through a black eye.

More’s the shame when the shiner is in part

self-inflicted, as the city seems to have managed with

proposed regulations for Bainbridge Island shorelines.

Ducking all punches so far has been Mayor Darlene Kordonowy. She ought now to step forward, and either put up her dukes or throw in the towel before the city is thumped into a concussion around her.

What began as a state-mandated review of island shoreline regulations has become a headache for city government at all levels, and turned into an exercise in finger-pointing, buck-passing and rump-covering.

Talk of required 50-foot buffers at water’s edge, with natural vegetation (and perhaps trees) replacing lawns, has sent waterfront property owners into apoplexy. Thursday marked the second consecutive meeting of the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission filled to the rafters with angry shoreline owners and property-rights advocates, denouncing the regulations and everyone associated with them.

“Don’t blame us,” planning commissioners say. “We’re just looking at what’s been put in front of us.” True enough – the proposals came out of a citizen committee, by way of the city planning staff. But when the punches start flying, there isn’t a mug in the house that’s safe; see how many letter-writers take pokes at the city council, when they’re not even in the fray.

Pointing the other direction is the city planning department, which offers the blithe response that the commission can

simply strike the offending regulations if they like – as if the proposals came out of thin air, and didn’t carry the weight of the department’s sanction.

Which brings us back to the mayor. With citizens angry and demanding answers – with the credibility of city government at issue – it’s time for Kordonowy step in.

We make allowance that the shoreline review began before the mayor took office; it is also possible for the administration to be blindsided by the city staff, which is what we believe happened here.

We also laud the general goal of protecting a public resource, the waters of Puget Sound, a cause that more of us should take up.

But there is a huge gap between general concepts of environmental preservation and specific regulations. And the regulations as proposed would seem to mark a major policy shift for the city, dramatically altering historically accepted uses of the most coveted private property on the island.

They raise in many minds the constitutional issue of property “takings,” and bring the likelihood of litigation against the city. However well intentioned, and however well supported by science, they have inspired something beyond opposition; they have inspired contempt.

And since these proposals are coming from the city staff, the Kordonowy administration needs to decide – soon – whether or not it wants to get behind them. If not, they need to be pulled off the table.

No sitting this one out, Darlene. Get in the ring.

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