Send Tooloee, Kubiak on to general ballot

Like many voters, we appreciate mail-in ballots for many of the same reasons we once liked take-home, open-book tests. We can consult outside sources – especially useful on some of the longer ballots replete with obscure initiatives – and can discuss our preferences with spouse and friends, an exercise that can sharpen opinions and even change minds.

The downside, though, is a truncated campaign season, since many voters apparently mark and mail back their ballots almost on receipt – meaning primary balloting is already under way for the at-large seat on Bainbridge Island’s City Council only a month after the candidates declared.

While a month (and a vacation month at that) is a painfully short time to assess the candidates, we think the choices in this race are clear. We urge voters to select either Nezam Tooloee or Arnie Kubiak in the primary, sending those two gentlemen on to face each other on the November general-election ballot.

What might have been a difficult choice was made simple when Christopher “Kit” Spier pulled out of the race (although too late to have his name removed from the ballot) and endorsed Tooloee. While Spier may strike some as a curmudgeonly gadfly, we were impressed with his many years of experience in island affairs and his depth of knowledge.

It is a lack of experience or relevant knowledge that cuts against Larry Johnson, a newcomer to the community who has not been involved in civic affairs. He is a bright and personable young man, and we admire his gumption in filing for office and his assured presence at Monday’s candidate forum. But there simply isn’t enough content yet; both Johnson and the city would gain if he apprenticed on one of the myriad citizen committees or in some volunteer capacity before taking another shot at elective office.

Were he not a known quantity in the community, the same lack-of-content label could be tied to Kubiak’s slow-starting campaign. His responses in Monday’s debate were long on platitudes about “common goals” and “balancing interests,” but devoid of specifics – by now, for example, he should have some idea about how and where he would strike a balance between the public interest in shoreline preservation and the waterfront owners’ private-property interests.

As even some Kubiak sympathizers concede, if there was a “winner” in last Monday’s debate, it was clearly Tooloee, the only one of the three candidates willing to voice opinions and positions that will no doubt prompt some people to vote against him. But in so doing, we have a fix on who Tooloee is – a political moderate who believes that environmental protection can best be achieved by supporting and encouraging individuals to do the right thing, rather than through what he sees as counter-productive regulation. It’s hard not to see value of that sort of thinking on the council, given the sour taste left by the last two years of dubious land-use moratoriums.

We hope that Kubiak will become bolder during the general-election campaign. He is, by all accounts, more than just a front man for the island’s environmental lobby. But the burden is on Kubiak to make that showing; Tooloee’s already looking pretty good come November.

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