A light agenda at year's end
June 9, 2008 · Updated 9:26 PM
They didnt quite shift City Hall off its foundation, but Tuesdays election results would seem to presage some noticeable changes in political and interpersonal dynamics on the Bainbridge City Council. With one incumbent rejected by a wide margin, and other candidates prevailing on themes of moderation and teamwork, it seems apparent that the election was driven in no small measure by dissatisfaction with the performance and direction of the council over the past two years.
On the cusp of significant turnover, what is the proper role for the council between now and years end? One could make a good case that the public interest would be best served if the council contents itself with completing the 2004 budget, south end sewers, some general housekeeping, and not much else.
Three issues illustrate why.
Park impact fees: The park board has tried to fast-track this proposal which would attach fees of around $1,000 to new single-family residences, to support park development and capital improvements with hopes of seeing it adopted by the council by the end of the year. But impact fees have always been a political lightning rod, and the question deserves full and measured examination by council and community alike. Incoming councilman Jim Llewellyn, we would note, has in the past made strong and persuasive objections to such fees; that alone suggests that a vote in December would look calculating and politically motivated, rather than thoughtful. Put this issue aside until the new year.
Police chief selection: After declaring that the police chiefs job was Matt Haneys to lose, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy changed course and opened it up to outside applicants. A list of hopefuls (including the interim chief) is now being winnowed, with interviews tentatively planned for next month. But even with an aggressive timeline, the mayor would be needlessly hasty to advance a recommendation to the council for approval before the end of the year. This is a selection of lasting
community import, and one in which the newly elected council members are certainly entitled to some say.
Legislative fiat: The issue is thornier, but you never know: Such questions as dedicated support staff or more office space for the council could resurface during year-end budgeting. By contrast, the newly elected council members appear to lean toward restoring council service to its historic status as a more informal, part-time affair. Any 11th-hour efforts to codify the
legislative role could be called presumptuous, since some new views are about to come into play.
Some would no doubt bristle if we attach the lame duck tag to the current council, but its not unreasonable to say that the will and priorities of the electorate assume a certain new clarity on election night, not just with the swearing in of new legislators six weeks from now. Should the council choose an active tack over the next six weeks, we would argue that incoming council members Bob Scales, Nezam Tooloee and Jim Llewellyn have neither the luxury nor the obligation to sit on the sidelines. They should engage the issues immediately, and should be welcomed to the table by mayor and sitting council members alike.
They may not yet have the clout of a vote, but they certainly have the cachet. On that point, the voters were unequivocal.