Expand the fire board/Parks: Robinson
June 9, 2008 · Updated 9:37 PM
Expand the fire board
Theres a quip in here somewhere about the fire
department that runs itself.
But general disinterest by the lay public in vacant fire board positions in recent years nags a bit at this newspapers good government reflex, as candidates within close proximity of the Bainbridge Island Fire Departments ranks step forward to lead it almost by default.
Candidates this time around are longtime Seattle firefighter and Bainbridge fire volunteer David Coatsworth, and marine services consultant and former fire volunteer Michael Adams. As profiled in this newspaper previously, both are steeped in the fire service and have the enthusiastic backing of fire commissioner Glen Tyrrell, whose position one of them will fill as Tyrrell steps down. Each boasts such expertise that an endorsement of one over the other would almost be superfluous; Adams would tend to be our preference because he maintains some professional remove from the organization, although Coatsworth would be a fine choice as well.
Still... Islanders should give at least some thought to their representation on this board for the long term. This page has suggested in the past that the fire board be expanded from the present three members, to five. With just three commissioners serving six-year terms, there is no meaningful turnover on the board; those elected enjoy terms only slightly shorter than the papacy or the Supreme Court.
Whereas board members used to be disinterested parties from outside the organization a triumverate of lawyer, city planner and electrician held the departments reins for years failure by the public to step up when seats actually do come vacant has led to a narrow range of choices. This isnt necessarily bad; as noted, there is a level of expertise offered by those whove served in the fire service. But the purpose of having a fire board is nonetheless to have some independent voices oversee the organizations affairs. If everyone who runs for the board is affiliated with the fire service in some way, the risk of institutional bias is obvious. And what a department thinks is good for itself isnt necessarily whats best for the taxpayers or the community.
Whoever prevails in Tuesdays fire board contest will serve both the department and the public honorably, no doubt. But the new board should make its first order of business a discussion of adding two members, and shortening terms to four years. You can have good representation or poor representation with any system. But its hard to go wrong with more representation, and thats why a five-person fire board still makes sense.
Someone from outside the fire service might even be moved to run again.
Owing to a fluke in the election cycle, 2005 marks the
third time in three years that park board incumbent Kirk Robinson has had to stand for re-election. Currently serving as the boards chair, Robinson remains a studied and capable voice on park district affairs, and has earned (finally) a full four-year term.
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A recap of the Reviews endorsements for Bainbridge Island races on the Nov. 8 general election:
Mayor: Darlene Kordonowy
City Council, north ward: Debbie Vancil
City Council, central ward, position 5: Kjell Stoknes
City Council, central ward, position 4: John Doerschuk