Letters to the Editor

Bainbridge history is being rewritten this campaign season | LETTER TO THE EDITOR

          - Bainbridge Island Review photo
— image credit: Bainbridge Island Review photo

History is being rewritten, rehashed and cherry picked in an attempt to manipulate voters into voting for three candidates who have vowed to deliver more of the very same dysfunction and destruction currently plaguing our city council.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for all of us who love this Island, who believe in good government and who are passionate about protecting our environment and the unique quality of life that we enjoy.

Waving the banners of “dysfunctional government “ and “change,”  the Common Sense Bainbridge PAC — founded by far right-leaning, property rights activist Gary Tripp — and the individual campaigns of the candidates it is promoting, are reaching back in time five and six years and more  into the old form of government for examples of mismanagement and waste, manipulating current statistics and even outright fabricating facts in order to draw attention away from what is really happening at city hall, and what values we desperately need in our next generation of city councilpersons.

It’s a recipe that worked in 2011, and our city has suffered the consequences ever since.

Mr. Tripp – most recently known for his campaign of fear and misinformation about the Shoreline Master Program Update – his PAC, and the candidates they are supporting, are counting on the fact that most voters are so focused on making a living, caring for their families and worrying about state and national politics, that they really don’t know much about city government.

Voters may have a sense that something always seems to be wrong with their city council, but they often don’t know why or who is to blame. Playing upon that perennial sense of dissatisfaction, but not differentiating between wildly different players, political perspectives or even eras, Gary Tripp and his PAC are fabricating a smokescreen of hyperbole and misstatements of fact to obscure the truth.

For example, the city is not borrowing from the utility funds to make ends meet, we have had robust reserves for several years – currently around $3.7 million dollars in just our General Fund stability reserve – due entirely to significant budget reform which began to be implemented in 2011 with our first budget under the new form of government.

In awarding a rating of AA3 to a City of Bainbridge Island bond issued in August of this year, Moody’s described  “the city's continuing trend of improvement in its financial operations” and it’s “strong management team and conservative financial policies."

The city did not spend $800,000 on the SMP; $207,000 was spent on outside technical consultants over 3½ years. These costs and staff time was offset in large part by the $240,000 in grants we received from the state.

Dredging up ancient history and describing it as “recent,” campaign literature and emails supportive of the three PAC candidates have made a point of highlighting wasteful spending on Winslow Tomorrow related soft costs. As an activist who worked for two years exposing that waste, yes indeed, a lot of money was spent on planning for Winslow Way — five years ago, under the old form of government. That sort of spending was one of the drivers behind the change to council-manager form of government, and as one who worked on the council-manager campaign and who then ran for office to ensure that budget reform would follow, I can state unequivocally that business conducted under the "strong mayor" form of government is  completely irrelevant to city business in 2013.

The reason that these folks don’t want you to see what is behind all the noise that they are generating, is because there really is something gravely wrong at city hall, and that is that this anti-government, far right leaning faction has already had sway over the majority on city council for nearly two years, and the result has been utterly disastrous for our community.

After campaigning for the council-manager form of government and then serving the first half of my city council term with a council majority that worked hard to implement that positive, community mandated change – bringing the city back from the edge of insolvency and adopting a full breadth of best practices for professional government – it has been my unfortunate fate to have had a front row seat to watch, from a minority position, the last two years of unprofessionalism and political gamesmanship that has crippled our city council.

Time that might have been spent strengthening our environmental protections or finding ways to fund projects that the community needs and wants, has been wasted on micromanaging and undermining city managers and staff, promoting conflict between the community and the city and refusing to follow the most basic tenets of the council- manager form of government.

The good news is that voters are being given a clear choice in this election and the opportunity to get back on track to a professional, collaborative city government. There are three candidates that are not endorsed by the anti-government PAC, and who have each been endorsed by the 23rd Legislative District Democrats and the Sierra Club: Val Tollefson, Roger Townsend and Wayne Roth.

I urge you to join me voting for all three of these candidates and in so doing, getting our council back to work on the real issues that matter to us all.

KIRSTEN HYTOPOULOS

Bainbridge Island

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