Incumbent Joe Deets is being challenged in the Aug. 3 primary election by three opponents for the North Ward position on the Bainbridge Island City Council.
Voters could receive their mail-in ballots as soon as this weekend.
Deets is running against Dennis Miller, Lisa Mandelkorn, and former city councilman Ron Peltier, who served from 2016-19.
Deets, 64, has served the North Ward position since 2018.
Experience: Includes 15 years in the solar industry. According to the Kitsap County voter’s pamphlet, Deets is recognized for his work in community solar and has enabled thousands of people to switch to clean energy solutions. He also worked for the Hong Kong government as a financial market regulator where he protected small investors.
Education: University of Montana, bachelor’s degree in Finance; Seattle University, master’s degree in Business Administration; Antioch University, master’s degree in Environment and Community.
Community service: Bainbridge Island Emergency Medical Responder, active in COVID-19 pandemic response; Ethics Board chair, city of Bainbridge Island; Solar Washington board member; Hospice of Kitsap County volunteer.
Top 3-5 concerns:
• Climate: The experience of the recent “heat dome” demonstrated that the impacts of our changing climate are not only a concern for the future but of the present. It is fortunate that the city had the foresight to create an ambitious Climate Action Plan, a comprehensive roadmap to not only reduce greenhouse gases but increase our resiliency and decrease our vulnerability to climate impact events.
• Recovery: The pandemic has been extremely hard on many local businesses and front-line workers. Its impact is receding. But it would be short-sighted of us to conclude that the local economy is out of the woods. Being an island, losing essential services carries large negative impacts (one recent example is the loss of the Swedish Primary Care Clinic). I believe it wise that the City adopt sensible plans and policies to help ensure that islanders have local access to the services they need.
• Equity: Bainbridge Island is not immune to the inequities prevalent in society. Not everyone who lives and/or works here is provided the respect that they deserve, to live with dignity and be represented. I’ve supported people of color in positions of responsibility at the city, and recently, refocused badly needed attention on the lack of affordable housing. Progress has been made, or at least forward momentum created. But long-term success is not assured, and I believe it is essential that the work to bring equity to all continue.
How would you accomplish them?
I am the incumbent and will gladly defend each and every vote I have made. While this council has made very good progress on a number of important issues, I believe there is room for improvement in how we conduct our work and treat others. That the City Council can be better representatives of all islanders, that we can better promote the public good and preserve the public’s trust, if we take the following to heart:
• Recognize that while everyone is entitled to their opinion, when it comes to stating facts to support it, the facts need to be both accurate and relevant.
• That we recognize the importance of our volunteer Citizen Advisory Committees, that in particular we give them due respect for the work they are doing, and extend our thanks.
• Admit that work on City Council can be stressful and no one can claim perfect behavior. But all of us need to strive to follow the City’s Code of Conduct in both practice and spirit.
Why should people vote for you?
Now more than ever, Bainbridge Island needs experienced leaders who have demonstrated that they have the necessary depth of knowledge, skills and dedication to do the work that the people ask them to do. That they have the temperament to establish effective working relationships with everyone, not just those they agree with. All these things I possess and have the track record to prove it. Some examples:
• After leading the adoption of the Climate Action Plan in late 2020, I initiated efforts to complete projects identified for immediate action. These include: a) addressing the use of single-use plastics by creating a task force that will deliver recommendations to council, b) reducing waste by leading the exploration of a biodigester plant on the island, and c) recommending that the city include climate change events in its emergency preparedness planning.
• Throughout COVID, I led the dialogue between the city and businesses and workers. Among the outcomes was a grants program for small businesses, and a hazard pay ordinance for some frontline workers.
• When a group of constituents came to a council meeting and said that people of color often did not feel welcome on the island, I led the creation of the Race Equity Task Force, helped to secure their request for funding, and joined them in solidarity in many events.
Mandelkorn, who didn’t provide her age, was born and raised on Mercer Island as the daughter of a pioneering ADHD pediatrician, according to the voter’s pamphlet.
Education: Degrees from Whitman College and the New England Conservatory of Music.
Experience: worked in Manhattan as a professional opera singer before returning to Bainbridge to raise her children. She and her husband have founded and operated small businesses in Washington and New York.
Top 3-5 concerns:
I have one overarching concern – that our quality of life is in danger. Protecting the environment and sustainability of our groundwater – which equates to the preservation of our way of life – is a councilmember’s No. 1 job. When I grew up on Mercer Island, it was very similar to Bainbridge in values, atmosphere and appearance. Mercer Island became overdeveloped and is now unrecognizable.
I decided to run for Council because I see poorly regulated development causing the same degradation on Bainbridge Island.
How would you accomplish them?
My plan is not different from the current council, but my methods will be different. We must prioritize new ordinances that will protect our groundwater. I will support spending on infrastructure that will lessen stormwater runoff and the loss to our aquifers caused by runoff.
I will support policies that will prevent new housing density that degrades the environment, causes sewer spills into the Sound and fails to result in any significant affordability.
I will promote sustainable small-town businesses and funding of the arts.
I will compel transparency, enforce fiscal responsibility and restore trust in city government. Decisions will be made holistically, with consideration given to environmental sustainability and social justice.
My vision includes full and transparent access to city information, with a city ombudsman to assist residents in “getting to the right person” or place for answers, immediate record searchability of emails to and from council, and monthly meetings. Better communication is key to moving in the right direction.
Why should people vote for you?
My background as a performer, director and fundraiser for the arts uniquely qualifies me in leading and working with others, gaining consensus and has trained me to listen. Our council has, at times, become mired in infighting, sometimes reflecting legitimate policy disputes and sometimes reflecting petty political posturing. We do not have the luxury of any infighting, and I will come to the council with no legacy rivalries and with the personality and background that will help get things done.
Miller was born in 1952
Experience: Has 40 years of experience as a general contractor and small business owner.
Education: Humboldt State University, studied Industrial Arts.
Community service: spent 13 years coaching youth sports such as soccer, baseball and softball.
Top 3-5 concerns
• Growth, Land Usage, and Density: We know the effect these are having on Winslow and the rural character of our island community. We understand the impact they are having on our island’s resources and our environment. We are more aware, every day, of how they impact our goals regarding climate change and reducing our carbon footprint.
• Affordable Housing: Delay, delay, and delay was the frustration expressed by an eight-year council member in her departing remarks, with regard to, the council’s lack of action for affordable housing at the Suzuki property site. Delay is not an acceptable action when the city or council is addressing our community’s concerns.
• Everything: Our city and council have 140-plus items on their work plan. We have more than 15 committees, from climate change and race equity, to sustainable transportation. I’ll work to prioritize projects and to take specific actions to complete our work without more unnecessary delays.
How would you accomplish them?
• Growth, land use, density concerns: From a single home, multi-unit project to a commercial development; when we make a community commitment for requiring less, it is the better choice for our city, our environment, and for taking positive steps to address our climate concerns. Whether it’s a new development or one’s next drive to Winslow, the choices we make, as an individual or community, impact our environment and our resources. I’m not for building moratoriums. I’m not looking to restrict growth or even reduce the number of housing units that are built. I’m advocating less by putting smaller into our policies for vacant land development. Smaller-sized homes require less disruption of a site, fewer materials to build, even fewer vehicle trips to the site by the crews and trucks delivering materials. There is less waste generated and hauled to landfills. A smaller home or commercial building will require less electrical usage for heating and cooling. That alone is a major plus for our carbon footprint and climate goals.
• Affordable Housing: Creating avenues for a “profit-based developer” to increase the density or bonus incentives for more units or greater site coverage are not the right action. I understand that we will never catch up with our affordable housing needs, however, we should never stop striving for more affordable homes. Our city’s policies and our council’s actions need to take the lead. Our efforts should be directed to nonprofit organizations that strive to develop and build homes for people, not developers who profit.
• Everything: I will be diligent in my responsibilities, direct in my approach, and decisive in my actions. I will work to keep the council focused on our important issues, address them, and take action without delays. It’s that simple.
Why should people vote for you?
Joe Deets says; “but there is still so much work to be done.” I say, thank you for serving as a council member. Now is the time for the unfinished work to be addressed by a new council member, with a new focus, new energy and a desire to get it done now.
Ron Peltier says; “my record speaks for itself.” I say, thank you for your past service to the community. I will not be carrying any past political baggage when I take my council seat. I’m bringing in a fresh approach, new ideas and new solutions.
Lisa Mandelkorn says; “Mercer Island became overdeveloped and is now unrecognizable”. I say, thank you for the reminder that we can learn from others. If I looked back at Bainbridge 40 years ago I’d say it’s become overdeveloped and unrecognizable. I’m starting today, so let’s look ahead and inspire other cities by our actions, our policies and with a spirit of welcome to all.
As a community, our decisions will never be perfect, but we can adapt policies, amend actions and get better. When we embrace change we include new voices, new ideas and hear from others who also care deeply for our island home and community.
Peltier, 70, grew up on the island and has been a carpenter here for over 40 years.
Experience: served on the Bainbridge Island City Council from 2016-19.
Education: Bainbridge High School and Olympic College.
Community service: Co-founder Bainbridge Food Coop; Islanders for Responsible Development; Youth baseball coach; Recognized for commitment to sustainability in the book “In Praise of Island Stewards”.
Top 3-5 concerns
• Professionalism: City Council members need to do a better job of setting aside personal feelings and political aspirations to focus on working together for the common good. Professionalism also means addressing issues with specific actions. Effective council members are committed and able to do the work needed to bring visions and goals to fruition. They don’t wait for city staff to do everything for them. Ask yourself: what is a candidate’s vision for the island and do you agree with it? Is that vision realistic and does the candidate appear to know how to help get us there?
• Protecting Bainbridge Island: BI is in the crosshairs for growth and density pressures partly in the name of housing affordability. To navigate that challenge, we need knowledgeable and experienced council members who are committed and capable of doing the hard work required to protect BI from irresponsible development. Long overdue is work to better determine the island’s finite carrying capacity. That part of our Comp Plan has mostly been ignored. We need a groundwater management plan based on true sustainability and water independence. We also need to better understand the carrying capacity of the island’s transportation system. It’s up to us to decide on that system’s character and how we want it to function. With our hotter and drier summers, BI is going to experience wildfires. I will help lead the way in developing a forest management plan to address that threat. Protecting the island involves a range of tools that most councilmembers and candidates are not familiar with. Some don’t seem to have the intellectual curiosity to understand those tools. I do, and I have the record to prove it.
• Understanding BI’s carrying capacity: We need a groundwater management plan for our aquifers as we are solely dependent on them for freshwater. A groundwater management plan will establish standards for testing and monitoring wells, along with policies related to long-term sustainability and water independence. Aquifer connectivity to natural areas, such as streams and wetlands, also needs to be considered. Work on our plan appears set to begin in 2022. I’d like to help make sure it’s not unduly influenced by development interests. We also need to know the capacity of our transportation system. Our roads have a finite carrying capacity. New development should be limited by those factors. Levels of service for bikes and pedestrians need to be established. We need official goals and policies, including those related to environmental protection and the special character of the island. And the carrying capacity of BI is also a matter of policy and the community’s shared vision.
• An improved Shoreline Master Program: It needs to be shorter, easier to understand and easier to administer. We should resolve long-standing contentious issues regarding how the SMP impacts shoreline owners. To do that, the council needs to agree on goals for the updated SMP. Those will set expectations for city leaders and staff, as well as the public. The council needs to meet in executive session to discuss the qualifications of the department head supervising staff work on the SMP update and the qualifications of staff doing the actual work. Staff needs to prepare a matrix identifying key SMP issues with important information for each issue. Using the same or separate matrix, staff needs to provide examples of how other jurisdictions have dealt with the same issues. The city needs to conduct field trips to waterfront properties for leaders to see examples of key issues first hand.
• Housing: My housing plan is based upon the following Guiding Principle from BI’s Comp Plan, which is “Foster diversity with a holistic approach to meeting the needs of the island and the human needs of its residents consistent with the stewardship of our finite environmental resources.” To do that: support special housing projects in Winslow, especially near the ferry terminal. That might include using a revenue bond financed by lodging tax funds. The police station may possibly be an asset used for that purpose. Provide for additional density in the ferry district consistent with our sense of place while addressing our regional planning obligations. Transfer density from other parts of the island for that purpose. Hire a legislative lobbyist to work with the City Council on innovative tools for cities, including the ability to levy a tax on “house flipping” and property tax exemptions for affordable rentals. Subsidize the purchase of affordable rentals in exchange for deed restrictions to keep them affordable. Inventory and preserve existing low-income housing. Encourage construction of ADUs, tiny houses, with alternative wastewater solutions. Develop a well-functioning Transfer of Development Rights Program to transfer density from the island’s Conservation Area to Winslow. Re-imagine the High School I District as a walkable, transit-served, mid-rise, mixed-use neighborhood with reasonably affordable housing.