Development and helping the Bainbridge Island City Council be more functional were two main topics for community questions at an online meeting with incoming city manager Blair King last week.
“It’s my job to make everybody on the council look good,” King said. “I don’t pick sides.”
He sees himself as a neutral person who can bring people together and seal the council divide. He also wants to resolve trust issues with staff and the community. But “I don’t have a magic bullet.” Building that trust will take being responsive to the council, staff and public, he said.
Even though the council is his boss, he said he will have to say “no” to them at times. He already sees that happening because the city has so much on its plate. “We have to prioritize. We can’t get it all done” at one time, he said.
King said his job is day to day handling of city personnel, the budget and purchasing. “It’s mundane but important,” he said, adding maintaining facilities also is important.
Many of the community questions dealt with the perspective that King is pro-development. He said that is not true. We could put “a glass dome over Bainbridge” if that’s what’s desired, he said.
While he has expertise in redevelopment, King said he takes his direction from the council. Redevelopment is reusing areas that already have been developed, while development is original use of “greenfield.”
His experience is varied.
At Half Moon Bay they favored no growth, while in Lodi they wanted a reuse plan for an old Wal-Mart and a Blue Shield with some 100 jobs to stay. In Coronado they did not want Big Box stores.
On Bainbridge Island, he foresees the desire to keep rural areas with a walkable “climate friendly” urban core downtown and possibly in the High School Road area. “That will take the pressure off growth for the rest of Bainbridge Island,” he said.
Regarding the controversial police-court facility at the old Harrison Medical Center, King said his job is to help the council through the process. Personally, he said he wants to look at the history – not to second guess the council, but to make sure city staff did its job.
As for getting to know BI, King said he will get a list of contacts from the council and meet with each of them to “listen and learn.” Community input is one of his basic core values, but he said it’s not pragmatic to try to talk to more. “I’d love to have coffee with every islander” if that was possible, he said.
Transportation: Coronado is dense so the transportation plan includes moving without cars. Biking is popular in the community but folks were concerned too many tourists would come with improvements there. Narrowing lanes for cars to put in bike paths also was a concern. There was lots of citizen input because, “Coronado doesn’t like change either,” he said.
Affordable housing: You don’t have to build new. You can buy existing apartments, have your own Section 8-type housing and even help finance loans for first-time homebuyers.
Inclusive: Coronado helped the community with some inclusive events. King said he had a diverse staff.
Salary: King said he’s not taking the job for the money. He likes living in a community near water and one that’s engaged with city government. His wife is from the Northwest and daughters live here.
Career goals: He plans to stay here at least five years.