Opinion

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Council-manager

Reps’ responsibility is... we come first

Unless the Legislature quickly makes a small change in an obscure statute, Bainbridge citizens next November will face the bizarre task of choosing a new mayor at the same time they vote whether to abolish the office in favor of a city manager.

The Legislature’s job would not be politically or legally arduous. There is no local opposition to altering the statute to allow a vote in May on the form-of-government question. The City Council voted unanimously in support of a May vote, and it seems universally agreed that a November vote would be confusing, as well as legally ambiguous.

As to the amendment needed to allow a May vote, language easily could be framed that would alter the existing statute on a one-time basis, applicable only to Bainbridge.

Any statewide issues – and statewide controversy – could thus be avoided, and an “emergency” tag on the amendment would allow it to take effect immediately, well in time to allow islanders a full and fair debate on the change of government issue itself.

Designating a bill as an emergency measure is a familiar practice in Olympia; all sorts of bills have been labeled “emergency” as a technical means of avoiding the 90-day delay that attaches to most acts of the Legislature.

What, then is the problem? The problem is that – rather surprisingly – our Bainbridge representatives in the Legislature are taking a “don’t bother us, we’re busy” attitude toward the needed change.

Rep. Christine Rolfes says this is only a Bainbridge “emergency,” not a statewide one, and worries that pushing such a measure in a busy session would damage her credibility with her Olympia colleagues.

Sen. Phil Rockefeller advises us that emergency measures have fallen out of favor at the state level. “The chances of getting it through are remote or marginal,” he counsels. These rather lethargic, even grumpy, responses are on record in the Nov. 22 Review.

We might remind Rep. Rolfes that addressing Bainbridge emergencies which involve the state is a principal reason she’s in Olympia. She is our ambassador to the state government, not the other way around. As to any chits she might have to spend to get the job done, she holds these chits on our behalf; they are not personal to her.

On the other side of the state capitol, Sen. Rockefeller has been there for quite a long time and presumably knows the ropes. With that in mind, he might consider that if he doesn’t see a way to get this rather simple job done, maybe next primary election we’ll find somebody who does.

If you would like to see Mr. Rockefeller and Ms. Rolfes take a more energetic attitude toward solving this important problem, the best way to help is to tell them so.

They can be e-mailed at rolfes.christine@leg.wa.gov and rockefeller.phil@leg.wa.gov. If as many of us do so as signed the petition for a vote on the change of government question, they’ll highly likely see this in a different light.

Jim Mooney

Pleasant Beach Drive

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