June 9, 2008 · Updated 9:02 PM
Let voters choose their government
Of the two forms of government available to Bainbridge Island, both, in my view, will work equally well or poorly. Both are equally dependent upon the competence of the executive and legislative branches of government and the cooperation and mutual trust between them.
The advantages of the strong mayor form of government are as follows:
Because of having lived on Bainbridge Island prior to his/her election, a newly elected mayor would normally have a closer understanding of community motivations, priorities and background than would a new city manager. Although elected, however, the mayor, in a sense, is self-appointed. Only a few candidates decide to run and some or all of those candidates may not have the skills or the experience to run a city of this size and complexity.
It is entirely possible that on Bainbridge Island, many qualified executives might be reluctant to run for mayor because of previous problems between the branches of government.
The likely administrative weakness of an elected mayor has been somewhat offset by hiring a city administrator who can be expected to have all the positive characteristics of a true executive. The big challenge, however, is the extent to which the city administrator is allowed to function as a city manager. If a mayor concludes that he or she must intervene or pass judgment on many or all decisions that the city administrator makes, the process can impose serious time constraints and inefficiencies upon the process of governing that may result in poor employee morale and motivation.
The advantages of the Council-Manager form of government include:
Because Bainbridge Island is so attractive to prospective applicants, it probably has a better chance of acquiring a qualified, experienced executive for the position of city manager than it does in electing an equally qualified mayor. By law, the city manager is responsible for all management decisions for everything from hiring and firing personnel, to personnel assignments, and to the order in which projects get addressed.
The council in turn sets broad policy including the employment expectations and compensation of the city manager and can fire the city manager if the needs of the city are not being met. This fact would be expected to result in greater efficiency than is common under the Strong Mayor form of government.
The council still approves budgets, makes laws and effects overall priorities through the budget process.
It is worth noting that Mercer Island, a city of comparable size, has had the same city manager for over 15 years. This is very unusual. The typical tenure of a city manager is closer to four years. In their case, however, it seems to establish the fact that the council-manager form of government has been judged to be effective with that well-educated populace.
I urge our City Council, this year, to put the two options, once again, to a vote of the people.
(Manzanita resident Norm Woolridge is a former member of the Bainbridge Island City Council and served as co-chair of the committee that oversaw the formation of the city of Bainbridge Island in the 1990s.)
Commentary has gotten a bit nasty
There is a generalized commentary that it is important either to keep the island as it is or as it was traditionally. Its a benign if not a vague kind of yearning. If we can infer the meaning of either, it would seem to be the idea of nice people living agreeably even when there are differences among ourselves respecting governance, garbage or even the weather.
Unfortunately, something has infiltrated the atmosphere that needs some immediate attention: there are those who seem to think that character assassination equals fair comment for those who want something or another changed and believe slandering and libeling local officials adds emphasis to their arguments.
Many of us have been on the Internet mailing lists of some of these perhaps well-intentioned but misguided folks, but the approach reached its bottom at a recent City Council meeting when a speaker accorded time to address perceived grievances decided to use egregious language and accusations concerning our mayor and others. Whatever his point might have been was totally diminished by his violation of the limits of fair comment to which all officials are always susceptible. To his credit, Chairman Bill Knobloch stepped in and warned the speaker, who, by then, had pretty much lost his audience anyhow.
What is most important here is not just this petty critic but what seems to be a mean spirited array of commentary that is anything but characteristic of our island past, present and hopefully not the future. We can leave much of the nastiness to our national quadrennial political embarrassment currently flooding our media and that is out of our control.
We can, however, if we believe in our noted Island tradition, regain the dignity of discussion even for matters that separate us substantially. It would seem that is something we have always meant when we told our kids to grow up.
JOSEPH J. HONICK
Olympus Beach Road
Weather no match for weed warriors
Weed Warriors had the biggest turnout ever on the coldest Earth Day ever.
More than 100 warmly-bundled weeders attacked ivy, scotch broom and blackberry at Pritchard Park. The Parks Department hauled away 10 BIG loads of weeds to the clean green.
Many special thanks are due to Len Beil, the BHS Honor Society, and BHS Earth Service Corps. Thank you all!