Independence, our blessing

Does your taxation buy you fair representation?

Many islanders may have come away from Wednesday’s City Council meeting of two minds.

Moved to petition the council by voice, a sizeable group of aggrieved citizens failed to steer the council away from an unpopular legal settlement over docks on Blakely Harbor. Others, meanwhile, successfully moved a skeptical council to fund planning of a parking garage in Winslow. It was as dynamic an evening as City Hall has seen in a long time.

Half the folks reading this newspaper probably can’t remember a time such debates and decisions were made before distant bureaucrats and commissioners in Port Orchard, but that’s the way it was until all-island government dawned with the 1990s. Today, if the decisions coming out of City Hall are no more uniformly satisfactory than those of the Kitsap County courthouse before it, our avenues of petition and redress are nonetheless much closer at hand – and more importantly, in our hands.

Seven years ago in this space, on the eve of the Fourth of July holiday, Review editor Jack Swanson looked at the island’s then-current political tussels and penned the following commentary under the headline “Celebrate island liberty.” We think it’s still relevant today:

* * * * *

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the politcal bonds which have connected them with another...” A group gathered last week at the home of Darlene Kordonowy to mark the 10th anniversary of a meeting in 1989 that changed forever the nature of governance on this island. They were the leaders of the all-island government movement that set us free from the domination of an indifferent, sometimes hostile bureaucracy in Port Orchard.

Reading over Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence the other day, we couldn’t help but note some similarities between circumstances we endured and those borne by the American colonies 223 years ago.

No, our children weren’t conscripted, Kitsap County didn’t place an onerous tax on Sage fly rods and island-grown strawberries. But we paid more than our just share of property taxes. Our land-use decisions were in the hands of one man, and his decisions were final. Looking back at the turmoil over the last decade to implement comprehensive planning under the Growth Management Act, we can’t imagine what might have become of us if we had remained unincorporated.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that among these are the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...” Our first 10 years of self-government have not been easy, but that’s to be expected. After all, it took the leaders of this nation another 13 years after declaring independence to ratify a constitution. We lacked experienced leaders. We had to make things up as we went along. We are still learning.

“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...” We Bainbridgers are a fractious lot. We have a bureaucracy that wants to go one way, devleopers who want to go another and residents who throw up their hands at both of them. Are we really in charge here? No! Some anonymous planner decrees that someone can’t put up a sign here or a coffee shop there, or that there absolutely MUST be a clock tower at the corner of Winslow Way and Ferncliff Avenue.

But look at it this way. We are independent, by God, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves. So let’s learn together to make our community work. Let’s celebrate our independence along with that of our nation by poking fun at ourselves as we do every year. Only on Bainbridge Island.

Happy Fourth!

Jack Swanson, In Our Opinion,

Bainbridge Island Review, July 3, 1999

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