Letters to the editor

Reduced enrollment

To the editor:

This letter is intended to stimulate debate, not war.

Bainbridge Island School District is asking for $38.3 million in the latest levy over three years. The need is generated by state legislators not abiding by the McCleary decision and funding schools at 100% and only funding at 75% of needs, according to BISD. That isn’t correct, because they are funded, but not to the levels they would like for their school district…or the state would be in violation of a court ruling.

BISD admits that reduced enrollment is impacting school funding. What is the root cause of that? It isn’t Bainbridge Island is undesirable. The mean home price is approaching $1 million and property taxes, which is where these levies get funded, are driving more and more young families (and fixed income retirees) off the island.

But you have some very well-compensated folks who are very well-educated themselves, not identifying the root problems, and the NIMBY natives resist changes like low -income or assisted housing. The condition of one of the complexes on Madison is an example of what it becomes under government funding, and it is literally a sin to force people to live like that.

You are killing yourselves but are creating a place where only the wealthy (and smartest) people can live, and you will be paying for that privilege until you have too much new construction and not enough kids. Ordway, the district offices and Commodore are needing new facilities as well.

David Mueller

Bainbridge Island

Vote for levies

To the editor:

I am a 2017 graduate of BHS and now a fourth-year student at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, studying Visual Arts, Design. I would not be where I am today without the “enrichment” funding provided by past BISD levies. Having art specialists in elementary school and advanced art classes in high school allowed me to find my passion and hone my skills and get into art school.

Funding for “enrichment” activities and classes allows students like me to excel in classes beyond English, math and science, and pursue a career in the arts. As we struggle with COVID-19, where would we be without books, video, poetry, movies, music and other products of students of the arts. When COVID is under control, we will all flock to movies, the theater, dance, concerts and museums. The arts are essential.

I still vote on Bainbridge, and I plan to vote to support these levies. Please join me in voting to provide future pathways for kids.

Mo Gallagher

Bainbridge Island

Still not safe

To the editor:

Those who enter the field of education do so, hopefully, with considerable idealism but minimal illusions. They should expect low pay and long hours, overcrowded classrooms and constant feuding over the allocation of funds. These unfortunately, are normal and constant. One thing they should not have to expect, however, is to be asked to put their lives on the line. They are contracting to teach, they are not enlisting in the armed forces.

But that is what they are now being asked to do, to take a risk no one has the authority to ask of them – not administrators, not school boards (thank you Mike Spence for being the one board member to not ask that), not Gov. Jay Inslee or President Biden who were elected, in part, due to the support Democrats traditionally enjoy from teachers and their unions. Christina Hulet, though “comfortable” with the return to school, admitted that this is a “huge ask”. That is a gross understatement. Asking them to risk their lives, as well as the health and safety of their families, is insanity.

Now that vaccines are at least somewhat available no adult should be bullied into working in a school building until all have received vaccinations. This includes teachers, administrators, certified staff, bus drivers, custodians – all of them. Neither should the teachers’ unions have allowed this to happen. They should have promoted militant solidarity and told all teachers to stay home.

I understand how important it is for kids to have in-person instruction and social interaction. I was an elementary teacher for 40 years. But as much as I believe in hands-on education, it is not something for which I would have been willing to risk my life. I hope no one will die during this experiment. I can already hear in my mind the apologies and regrets being expressed if that happens. It’s still not too late. Let’s wait until all have been vaccinated before pretending it is possible to return to some semblance of a normal educational environment.

Jeremy Rothbaum

Bainbridge Island

It’s time

To the editor:

Based on the volume of letters City Council has received, it is clear to island residents that the city overpaid by $5 million or more for Harrison Medical Building. The city purchased HMC for $8.975 million in 2018 for a new police station, paying $511 per square foot, when according to city documents, average office space costs were $189-$227/sf.

Add the projected $11 million in HMC remodel costs, and we will pay over $1,100/sf, likely making it the most expensive police facility in the U.S. per sf. For comparison, typical 2020 costs in the Pacific Northwest were $500-$600/sf, while Mackenzie Architects provided the city an estimate of $394/sf in 2014.

Quite bluntly, the city rushed into a poor decision, including the unnecessary purchase of an $8 million bond not approved by taxpayers. They did not listen to the reasoned voices on council opposing the HMC purchase, who took their duties as the taxpayers’ fiduciary seriously.

Current questions are: (1) is it possible to recover any of the millions in overpayments for HMC and is an independent investigation, including the Office of the Attorney General, warranted?; (2) where does it now make the most sense in terms of cost and benefits to build an 18,000 sf police station, e.g., would the Yaquina triangle property on Highway 305 or the existing police station make more sense than the HMC?; (3) if the HMC is not the best location, what is the best public benefit use of the HMC (office space for the Parks District, a community center, affordable housing, flexible live/work space, or selling to recover costs)?; and finally (4) how do we answer these questions?

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Rasham Nassar and I will be proposing a 30-day citizens’ blue ribbon committee be formed to answer questions 1-3, and for the city to stop work on HMC until the committee has completed its work. Committee members should include the professionals and citizen activists who have brought this issue to light, who have done their homework and can bring their opinions to bear in a timely fashion. This is no time to point fingers nor to sweep the issue under the rug. It is a time for transparency and accountability. It is a time for the council to face this issue with eyes wide open and with the community’s best interests in their hearts.

Michael M. Pollock

Bainbridge Island

Revisit Harrison

To the editor:

For approximately 45 years I have been a commercial real estate professional. I have done business with Anthony Gibbons, Dave Lindsey and Tad Fairbank for nearly 40 years. I have the utmost respect for each of them.

Several years ago when I first began hearing about the purchase of the Harrison site, I questioned the appraised value and purchase price. On its face, the appraisal was flawed. Using Medical Office building rents as “comps” was patently wrong, and hugely inflationary for the true value of an impaired asset such as this failed clinic. Suggesting that a soon-to-be vacant, failed medical building could command annual rents of $40 a square foot is so far off the mark as to be ludicrous. That appraisal, performed for the benefit of the seller, would never pass “review” by a lender.

You now have clear evidence that this process is flawed. Without a doubt the city massively overpaid for this asset. The city got taken to the cleaners, and it is clear someone had an agenda that was not true to the city and the public’s best interests.

We fully realize that the city has made a mistake that will be impossible to overturn. However, it is imperative that the council revisit this issue so that the error is not compounded in the remodel. The evidence suggests that the council and staff do not have the skills to keep this project from going further off the rails.

The City Council needs to step up and seek legitimate assistance to try to mitigate the grievous error. You cannot allow this situation to worsen. It is an embarrassment to the council members who allowed this overpayment and you can stand up and try to make a difference now. Please do so.

Dale and Carol Sperling

Bainbridge Island

Shiny objects

To the editor:

Like bored house cats bedazzled by a Christmas tree ornament, our City Council has set its sights on an expensive solution to COBI’s open city manager position. Blair King, a city manager from Coronado, California, is our council’s choice to fill the open position. What’s left is to negotiate a contract between King and COBI, and that’s where bedazzlement will likely meet reality.

King’s yearly salary with Coronado is $250K plus benefits. According to one Bainbridge council member, King shouldn’t be expected to take a pay cut and may end up with a contract worth $300K plus benefits. COBI’s last city manager, Morgan Smith, was paid $188,600 plus benefits. Unless King decides to take a big pay cut it’s hard to see how this ends well, and given the cost of the process, it’s fair to ask how we ended up with a finalist likely significantly above our pay range.

The most obvious flaw in the process appears to be a failure to adequately consider what it will take to hire the prospective applicants. There’s another flaw, though: a failure to consider interim city manager Ellen Schroer.

Bainbridge simply needs a city manager who is a great administrator, has integrity, respects the council’s role as the community’s elected representatives, and doesn’t demand celebrity pay.

Polly Longworth

Bainbridge Island

BI different?

To the editor:

In letters to the Bainbridge Review, a high school student calls the return to in-class teaching a “reckless gamble with human lives.” Another writer is “dismayed by the handling of reopening the BISD”. One mother worries about her daughter’s “heavy burden of fear for the safety of her friends, teachers and family”. These are valid concerns, especially since January showed the highest average of infections in Kitsap County since March.

With immunization just around the corner, why not go back to normal after all staff and students have been immunized? Wouldn’t that be more rational than to push in-person learning so that the district’s superintendent, “despite all the unknowns”, can be “happy to see that students and staff are back in school”? Who decided on back to in-person education anyway? The folks who do the actual teaching, or the district bureaucrats.

The high schooler’s letter stated that the “district speaks for us without receiving our input”. That sounds familiar. Where I taught, superintendents, district administrators and school board members were like Olympian gods – invisible. I have never seen any of those leaders in my classroom.

Maybe, the Bainbridge school district is different. Maybe all district employees work cooperatively on education issues and teachers are even listened to. However, when Peter Bang-Knudsen claims that “all of our mitigating protocols are being implemented”, I worry. Such smooth bureaucratic mumbo jumbo can mean anything or nothing. Maybe the “implementation of mitigating protocols” addresses the problems with the behavior of the “unknowns”.

James Behrend

Bainbridge Island

Costly leader

To the editor:

The COBI gravy train may be taking on its most-expensive passenger yet: high-flying City Manager Blair King from Coronado, CA.

Ten years ago Bainbridge Islanders voted for the city manager form of government. A city manager, it was argued would bring us highly qualified professionals to manage our city, free of politics. Whether those goals have been achieved is debatable but one thing is clear: city managers are much more expensive than strong mayors, and the bar is only going up.

Former city manager Morgan Smith was paid $188,600/year plus benefits, more than Gov. Jay Inslee, who earns $170,000. Becky Erickson, the highly capable mayor of Poulsbo, gets $76,000. So what can we expect to come out of the contract negotiations with King?

In Coronado, King makes $250,000 plus benefits, which include a $6,300 car allowance, totaling about $350K. Add to that an option for low-interest mortgage loans financed by the city. What does this largess bode for COBI’s negotiations with King? According to one council member, COBI should expect to pay $300,000 plus benefits. In her words, King shouldn’t be expected to take a pay cut.

Questions about overspending for the Harrison property, to the tune of $5M, are still reverberating through the community. It’s time for council members to show some fiscal discipline. Continuing to spend like drunken sailors is no longer an option for those hoping to be reelected.

Ron Peltier

Bainbridge Island

Therapy available

To the editor:

I have been investigating the availability of monoclonal antibody therapy for COVID-19 treatment, currently authorized for use in an outpatient setting. It is not authorized for in-patient use. The sole purpose it’s been made available is to keep high-risk people out of the hospital. After speaking to three clinicians (UW, Swedish and CHI Franciscan), the uniform response I received was,”I don’t know anything about it.”; I subsequently reached out to state DOH and their reply was: “I would need the following information to get a facility set up in the allocation portal system. How many courses of treatment, of each product, would you be interested in receiving? We receive allocations from the federal government bi-weekly and try to fulfill all requests. I ask for requests bi-weekly. There are ways to get allocations during off weeks if there is an urgent need due to an outbreak.”

Gaining access to this information was not difficult. It simply took an email. And I did not claim to be in health care. I’ve read the facility requirements and it would appear that as long as a healthcare facility can administer IV fluids and have staff on hand, that just about meets the bar.

To our clinicians and on-island clinics; if you feel a moral or ethical imperative to care for your patients, I’m imploring you to take up the mantel on this. I’m simply a medical nerd and high-risk patient who’s attempting to put a plan in place, should I become infected with COVID. While I recognize that some clinics are not set up to give infusions, I’m guessing that most of our island clinics could take this on.

In a day and age where a proven therapy is actually available and a vaccine is not, I find it unacceptable for clinicians to feign ignorance. Now that all healthcare providers have been given the opportunity to be fully inoculated against the coronavirus, the time to avoid caring for COVID-19 patients and your fellow community members has passed.

Elizabeth McFadden

Bainbridge Island

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