Compared with two earlier debates last week, Bainbridge Island City Council candidates faced some different questions requiring rapid-fire soundbite answers at the League of Women Voters debate leading up to the Nov. 2 election.
Brenda Fantroy-Johnson said she was raised in Detroit and was taught if she worked hard and got a good education it would open doors for her. She said she has the tenacity to speak up, even when the underdog, and listen without prejudice or personal agenda. Her opponent, Chris Smith, said he has leadership and teamwork experience, and BI needs to get out ahead of growth with infrastructure.
Jon Quitslund said he knows the community well, and also works well with city staff and councilmembers. Opponent Kent Scott said he is patient, kind and shows compassion, while being able to solve problems through compromise and civil dialogue.
Rasham Nassar said while in office she passed a development moratorium, banned large hotels in Winslow and showed transparency in government. Challenger Clarence Moriwaki said he was a councilmember in Tukwila so he knows how to do the job.
Joe Deets said he put solar power at City Hall, plans ahead and is responsive to needs of constituents. Ron Pelter said as a voter he looks for someone with good values, who is smart, curious and innovative, and ready to learn. He said Deets lacks those qualities, and that’s why he decided to run.
Moriwaki said, like PSE, Department of Transportation is out of BI’s control. The only thing the city can do is voice concerns early and often so projects have the smallest impact possible. Nassar took a harder stance. She said the council should take a stand against the roundabout and tell the state to come up with another plan.
Smith said DOT did a terrible job of communicating the project to BI, and he questions the needs for it. He suggested lobbying the state. Fantroy-Johnson said she’s been against it from the beginning, and not just because it will be in her back yard.
Deets supports the roundabout as the most-efficient and safest way to improve traffic flow. Peltier said there has been plenty of notice, but, “People don’t pay attention to stuff until bulldozers show up.”
Quitslund said he doesn’t know why DOT picked those locations, but he doesn’t have another answer to help traffic move smoothly. Scott called it a “nutty thing.” Why spend $39 million on two roundabouts when the same thing could be accomplished by slowing the speed limit on Highway 305 to 35 mph.
Scott said speed limits vary too much, and it’s a cheap fix to reduce them. He said there needs to be better enforcement. If tickets were given for all who go 10 mph over the speed limit, “That’s a boat load of money.” BI also has to make walking and biking safer.
Peltier is an advocate for nonmotorized transportation, while Deets emphasized traffic calming devices and electronic speed signs.
Smith said neighborhoods need to connect better to each other for nonmotorized transportation, while Fantroy-Johnson said BI needs to better understand traffic patterns.
Nassar also supports nonmotorized transportation, while Moriwaki said not all neighborhoods have a traffic problem so he’s not in favor of just one speed limit islandwide. “It’s not one size fits all.”
Deets said his priorities are: Reducing plastic, funding solar hubs, getting a biodigester to reduce waste and gasses and create energy, and nonmotorized transportaton. Peltier wants solar panels on houses and better forest management by reinstating the forestry commission the city used to have.
Quitslund’s priorities are waste management, housing and transportation, which “burdens our whole system.” Scott favors whatever is cost effective that gives us a return on our investment by actually saving carbon. It’s about consumption, he said, adding he’s not impressed by people who don’t drive, but rely on service vehicles and fly on airplanes. He also doesn’t favor rules on businesses that have little effect on the environment.
Moriwaki said Puget Sound Energy needs to go green. “I’m part of the problem,” he said, because he drives an electric car that relies on PSE. He said BI needs to do whatever it can to get people out of cars and onto bicycles, which will also improve health. Nassar said BI needs to improve land-use planning and preservation.
Smith support green building, while Fantroy-Johnson favors using climate adaptation tools to make sure a project would work.
Quitslund said council needs to trust each other and the administration. He said the council has been indifferent to the Planning Commission so if elected he wants to build on that rather than stop it. Scott said the council has improved since it brought on Blair King as city manager.
Deets agreed progress has been made, but council could better promote the public good. Peltier said councilmembers should discuss their differences privately, rather than during council meetings.
Fantroy-Johnson said she has helped the improvement by calling it out when she was appointed. But she said it creeped up again at the last meeting. Some have “been on the job too long,” she said, adding if they don’t have a stake in an issue they make fun of it. Smith said council needs to focus on what binds them together. “The future is not an accident. We have to make it happen,” he said.
Nassar said she’s helped clean it up since becoming mayor by holding all accountable, along with King. Moriwaki said topics sometimes go sideways so they need to stick to the plan.
Fantroy-Johnson said there isn’t much BI can do because PSE is a private business, except share its desires.
Nassar agreed, but added the city can help reduce consumption, put solar on homes and build smaller homes. Moriwaki said the city could put pressure on PSE shareholders to encourage them to be greener.
Peltier suggested for cities to gather and lobby the state legislature. Deets said the city has some leverage now as it’s negotiating a franchise agreement. But since PSE is such a larger polluter he agreed on more solar and other local generation of power.
Scott said BI should focus on things it can effect. He recalled “We Power Bainbridge,” a program where residents insulated their homes and bought updated appliances. Quitslund said he personally pays a little more for green power.
Nassar said she never compromised her values in office, and her voting record will support that. Moriwaki said he wants to do what his constituents ask of him: Not shake things up but calm things down.
Smith said housing equity is a path to racial equity. Fantroy-Johnson said as a black woman she has brought a different perspective to the council. She said council needs to get back to civil, servant leadership.
Deets said his endorsements show a broad range of support, while Peltier said his years working with the Suquamish Tribe broadened his perspective and will help him secure the future of our island.
Scott said he moved here for the quality of life, and it’s starting to disappear. Issues don’t exist by themselves; it’s all interconnected, he said. Quitslund said he’s “fired up” to serve to follow through on work he did on the Planning Commission. There’s “all kinds of unfinished business,” he said.