To the editor:
I worked as a reporter in several cities, covering local governments, for more than 15 years before I became editor of the Bainbridge Review in the early 1990s. I returned to the island where I grew up, where my mother and grandmother owned a business (Esther’s Fabric Store), to raise my own kids. I had, and still have, a vested interest and a long view when it comes to the well-being of this community.
I witnessed a lot of dysfunction and met many a demagogue in those years, and not just here.
On the island, I was a reporter when we became a city after a bitter election, and the editor when Port Blakely Tree Farms made its final futile gasps to build hundreds of homes here. I covered the very first council election. You can imagine the polarization and controversy that permeated local politics during those years. But never have I seen the kind of shenanigans that have unfolded over the last few years.
I don’t expect council members to hug at city council meetings. Democracy isn’t tidy. I remember one council member back in the day who would break — and throw — pencils during meetings. Veins protruded. Temples pulsed. Tempers flared.
There’s a lot of talk about the lack of civility in our public discourse. But I think we often confuse civility with a lack of conflict. There should be conflict — the competition of ideas in a robust debate is what democracy is all about.
But with our current council, there is no robust debate or competition of ideas. Just a lot of maneuvering to squelch the debate. A lot of gouges in the earth from the digging in of heels. A lot of city managers come and gone. A lot of disrespect handed out. I haven’t seen an attempt to listen to opposing viewpoints.
The people’s businesses isn’t being conducted in front of the people. In fact, from many on the council, there are few attempts to clearly explain their own viewpoints or the justifications for their own actions. That’s a form of arrogance we shouldn’t accept.
We are a microcosm of the country. And what’s happening is just embarrassing. As I write this, a small group of extremists have managed to shut down the federal government. And on Bainbridge Island, a small group of council members have changed the nature of everything.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could shed the microcosm role, and elect a council of smart, articulate and reasonable people who have broad viewpoints, open minds and who can explain what they’re doing and why?
That’s why I’m advocating a vote for Wayne Roth, Val Tollefson and Roger Townsend.
BECKY FOX MARSHALL