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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 Llewellyns 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 mayors office and the public. We hope Rolfes will consider the job, and will find support among her peers.
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. Thats 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 Novembers 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.