Opinion

Optimistic for new council, new start

A new year, a new council.

And, we are confident, a new perspective.

We find ourselves highly optimistic as the 2004 Bainbridge Island City Council convenes for the first time this coming week. With the ascension of impressive newcomers Bob Scales and Nezam Tooloee, and voters’ resounding endorsement of Jim Llewellyn’s return to the council after

two years away, we count on a return to the style of mutual respect and cooperation that defined the first few post-annexation councils and their excellent members.

As to the tangible accomplishments of the most recent bunch, that is open to debate. (The views of this page are already a matter of record, and why tempt anyone to try and yank our “official newspaper” designation again?) But there is a belief among the citizens we talk to that over the last few years, the council has been less a

vehicle for public service than for extreme agendas, turf wars, petty alliances and power struggles – driven by a solipsistic, Beltway-ish vision that inflated city politics far beyond their real worth. Among the

unfortunate byproducts were on-camera sourness,

off-camera tirades in committee meetings, and a culture of email communication often so vituperative that some council

members started deleting messages from their colleagues without reading them. Leaving aside the legality of having

discussions outside the public eye – it flies in the face of

principles of open government – we trust this email culture

has withered and died, and council in-fighting with it.

Ironically, in seeking a fresh start, the council could help its cause with a bit of continuity by re-electing Christine Rolfes as chair for the coming year. Rolfes remained generally unsullied by the less palatable council dealings of the past two years; her return to leadership would be a no-lose move, letting the group start the year on credible footing with the mayor’s office and the public. We hope Rolfes will consider the job, and will find support among her peers.

And then?

The initiative of Winslow property owners and merchants gives the new council a substantive issue that it can engage from the get-go. Monday, the group will be treated to a

presentation on proposals for traffic, parking and pedestrian enhancements of dramatic scope; preserving our vibrant

downtown will almost certainly be the defining issue of 2004. Hanging over from last year are revisions to the “flexible lot” ordinance, imperative given a troublesome moratorium on long-plat subdivisions that has gone on too long already. Island-wide transportation planning figures to be a resurgent issue, and the question of shoreline regulations will wash up again in some fashion. That’s a lot to tackle, even without the

unforeseen challenges the coming year will inevitably bring.

The last council proclaimed itself “activist,” and the results...spoke for themselves. If this past November’s general election results are any measure – and we believe they are – the public wants something else entirely: restraint. That is, a council that can identify meaningful issues and steer around irrelevancies, address the issues fairly and in full view of the public, make sensible decisions, and then go home.

Real lives are lived outside of City Hall; we hope the new

council will embrace that perspective.

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