Endorsements: Good choices abound for parks

As public service goes, you could do a lot worse than a stint on the park board.

The essential question – how best to help your island neighbors enjoy their free time – brings with it many choices, all of them inviting and good. Your constituency stands unusually united behind the cause of recreation, and your

fact-finding junkets are a walk in the park. And unlike some other civic spheres, nobody slings the horse manure; it just sits benignly alongside the trail.

Others, it seems, agree. A vacant seat on our park board this fall drew five candidates (although one has since withdrawn), with a challenger in another race still.

To a person, the hopefuls for the position 1 seat radiate thought and enthusiasm. For Richard LaBotz, the central issue is how to make physical improvements at various parks – nothing fancy, he says, just chairs, benches, viewing platforms and other amenities to enhance the experience for visitors. Sarah “Sally” Mathews, a Bainbridge Island Senior Center volunteer with fund-raising experience, pledges to expand opportunities for a graying populace. Both are active park users and advocates who we hope will stay involved after the election.

In our estimation, though, candidates John Grinter and Thomas Kilbane rise above the field, and the choice comes down to them. Both have earned plaudits in park circles for their ongoing service on the district’s volunteer Trails Committee, and both demonstrate a solid understanding of the ongoing financial challenges facing the district.

A trails and bicycling advocate, Grinter wants to see the

district recoup a much larger share of its budget through

program users fees, to keep two-year M&O levies down. He also would like to see the district establish a dedicated capital fund and start squirreling away money for contingencies.

For his part, Kilbane is equally leery of asking voters for more money for capital improvements; he counts among his constituency “random” park users unaffiliated with formal user groups, the average islander who just likes to go to the neighborhood park, walk around and take in nature. Kilbane boasts previous experience on county and school boards, and helped establish a park district in Ohio.

We honestly believe the public would be very well served by either gentleman. Whom to choose? We’ll give the wee-est of nods to Grinter, but again, we’re quite confident either way.

In the race for position 5, incumbent commissioner and active youth sports volunteer Kirk Robinson gets our endorsement over challenger Stewart Atkinson. Since being appointed to the board last year to fill a mid-term vacancy, Robinson has demonstrated a solid understanding of the district’s operations and finances. Voters should welcome him back to complete the term.

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