BI vote split on members of major committee

When the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission recommended members for a steering committee a few weeks ago, Ashley Mathews and Sara Blossom did not step up.

So, Ariel Birtley, Yesh Subramanian and Sean Sullivan were named to serve on the committee. The group will be involved with the city’s overall Comprehensive Plan, along with the Winslow Subarea Plan.

But in a close 4-3 vote at the May 9 City Council meeting, members instead picked Mathews, Blossom and Sullivan.

Councilmember Michael Pollock was one of the dissenters. He was concerned such a move would cause friction on the Planning Commission.

Councilmember Joe Deets agreed. He did not want to circumvent what the Planning Commission did. The council has been criticized in the past for not following its recommendations.

Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos was the third dissenter. She was surprised Mathews and Blossom had not shown interest initially as they are much more experienced. “Those two had a chance, but did not come forward.” She said she would love to have Mathews and Blossom on the steering committee, but she did “not want to undo what that body did.” She said the council empowers people, in this case the Planning Commission, to make decisions, but then “undo them willy nilly.”

For the majority, Mayor Brenda Fantroy-Johnson said the Planning Commission initially wanted members of the Race Equity Advisory Committee and climate change committee on the steering committee, and the council did not support that. “It’s not new for us not to follow their recommendation,” she said. Since REAC is not on the committee, Fantroy-Johnson said it was essential that Mathews is on it, as she is Black. “We should not do what we always do and get (the same people) we always do.”

Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki said while the Planning Commission makes recommendations, it’s up to the council to make the appointments. “We can’t debate it? We have to rubber stamp it?” He said he talked to Mathews and Blossom, who both said they’d be interested in serving. “This is best for our community. That’s why people elected us.”

Climate mitigation

Climate change officer Autumn Salamack and three members of the city’s climate change committee analyzed five options to offset carbon caused by the new police-court facility.

They decided installing solar panels at the site or elsewhere on BI would be more effective than replacing gas with electric mowers or upgrading home heating systems with heat pumps.

Councilmembers Leslie Schneider and Hytopoulos said they’d like to see solar panels on the police-court facility. The former said while not substantial in itself, it would help with resiliency to have it on an important public safety building. The latter said it could help with public trust.

Both also said more would be needed. Schneider suggested researching if solar panels could be placed over a park and ride, such as at Day Road. Hytopoulos suggested putting them on affordable housing to “get double the impact.” And if the power was fed back into the homes themselves, that would make the projects less expensive.

Deets said he was concerned there is no money budgeted for this, and no property has been selected for the solar.

The council voted to have staff report back on a recommendation and also check out grant opportunities.


The council voted to allow low-toxicity herbicides to be used in some areas.

Public Works director Chris Wierzbicki said the Weed Board suggests two herbicides not allowed in city code should be used to kill holly at Waterfront Park and poison hemlock at Lost Valley. Wierzbicki said many organizations represented on the Weed Board already use the two herbicides.

The council also voted to have city manager Blair King prepare a code revision to evaluate the allowed products and make the best list for use going forward.

Despite the approvals, councilmembers said staff must find out more about the herbicides and educate the public about them.

Pollock said the public will be concerned about potential health problems. “Can pets and children play” near the vegetation? Is there a period of time people have to maintain a safe distance? When the weeds are killed do they become a biohazard? Is there a long-term effect if it gets in the water supply?

“I agonize over this as we’re spraying some type of poison in the ground,” Deets said. He added he’d like to see the cost-benefit compared to if it’s not done. “It’s not our only option to get rid of them,” he said as it’s dealing with them “in a brutal manner.”