Letters to the editor

  • Saturday, January 30, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion

Another look

To the editor:

When I read the recent spate of letters and email requesting an investigation into how the city overpaid for the Harrison property, my initial reaction was, “Why bother? This decision is done and most of the decision-makers are no longer on the City Council.” However, after talking to some of the authors, I found out that there are realistic financial models that indicate that a station could be built at another location in a manner that would keep the combined cost of the Harrison property and the new station within the $20 million target.

If city leaders thought creatively, this could be a two-for-one deal. We still get a new police station and have the Harrison building as a resource. It could be used as a new parks headquarters or transformed into affordable housing. Were the property, which sits next to a long-term care center, converted into multi-family affordable housing, the location would become a kind of multi-generational campus.

The city overpaid for the Harrison property because council members at the time felt the urgency of the police station demanded action. We are now learning that they rushed into a poor decision that taxpayers will pay for. Hopefully the current council will take the time to explore this opportunity thoroughly before committing more city resources.

Marshall Tappen,

Bainbridge Island

Be flexible

To the editor:

I am a parent of an 8th grader at WMS who is dismayed by the handling of reopening the BISD. Although I understand there are families that need this reopening and the district has worked hard to follow state and county health guidelines, I feel their timing, communication and approach has been unfortunate. I write with hope that the district can be motivated to allow BISD staff and students to choose whether to go into a physical classroom or continue online learning until BISD staff has had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Families were compelled to make final decisions about choosing between hybrid or online models in November. The new state guidance that relaxed COVID-19 case thresholds came out Dec. 16, and the new virus variants were confirmed in the U.S. Dec. 29 The CDC released a report Jan. 15 saying, “Efforts to prepare the health care system for further surges in cases are warranted,” but WA guidelines were not revised. BISD forged ahead without giving parents a chance to make new decisions based on the changing landscape. Families were locked in to decisions made before holiday surges, before new variants were discovered, before the first dose of the vaccine was given and before the Washington state metrics for reopening were modified.

A survey showed that the majority of our teachers are not comfortable returning to school until they have been vaccinated. I believe that all teachers should have the opportunity to get both doses of the vaccine and have a two week waiting period after the second dose before they enter a classroom, without the threat of using all of their sick leave, vacation time or taking leave without pay to do so. I also believe that teachers and students who feel comfortable going back into the classroom without being vaccinated should be able to do so.

Since any classroom will need to have procedures in place for quarantine situations, I believe that the district should have a more flexible return to school structure allowing students and staff to move gracefully between in person and online options.

Shannon Dowling,

Bainbridge Island

Support schools

To the editor:

We wish to express our support of Bainbridge Island School District’s Proposition 1 and 2 currently under consideration in the Special Election.

Although we do not have children in the district, we believe strongly in the value of a quality education and therefore are supporting these two school levies.

In our view, a well funded and equipped school district provides the opportunity for children to experience an enriching learning environment that prepares them for the future, develops the next generation of leaders and as such, is good for our community as a whole.

Please join us by voting yes on Propositions 1 and 2.

James R. III

and Jackie Kennedy,

Bainbridge Island

Online forgotten

To the editor:

I am a student at Bainbridge High School, attempting to elevate the concerns of my teachers, peers and community. The district returning in-person is a reckless gamble of human lives. There are many flaws, but I’ll focus on the inequity of the plans.

Equity is a crucial aspect of education. The plan to return leaves students who will remain online like myself with fewer resources, less time with our teachers and more uncertainty. Online students suffer, and teachers are faced with a Cornelian Dilemma. Do they return un-vaccinated to an unpredictable school environment? Or do they use a medical exemption, and lose their job security?

Teachers dedicated to online-only classes are left without sufficient guidance, facing excruciating challenges. Because the district speaks for us without receiving our input, it falls short of understanding the biggest burden on students’ mental health: The unimaginable fear of loss to COVID-19.

Being physically in a classroom without socialization will not improve our emotional stability and may encourage behavior that circumvents the various restrictions meant to keep us safe. Building resilience, adopting healthy coping mechanisms, and learning how to be leaders in a time of uncertainty will prepare us for future challenges, better than alternatives that strip us of agency.

Staying home now will speed our return to genuine normalcy. Heed our cries. You can’t make everyone happy, but you can choose not to risk lives.

Evelyn Cantwell,

Bainbridge Island

Watch budget

To the editor:

I’ve watched the police station/courthouse project from the periphery the past couple of years. It was of interest to me as a taxpayer and as a commercial real estate broker and developer. I was astounded at the price the city agreed to pay for the building. I think that the city paid approximately twice what the property was worth.

You’re likely wondering what I expect you to do now; the city owns the property, and the primary people who advocated the purchase, Kol Medina and Morgan Smith, are gone. I think you, as representatives of the taxpayers of Bainbridge Island, should launch a thorough inquiry into how this purchase was allowed to happen, ideally with an outside firm. The citizens are entitled to know why the council allowed up to $4 million to be squandered, especially considering that the city will be facing serious fiscal challenges going forward.

I do not think the project should be stalled or stopped. The police department needs a better facility and consolidation of the court into that building makes sense. However, I think that there should be an immediate review of costs to date for design, legal, etc,. and the budget must be scrutinized before spending any more money. I’d like to know if the choice of architects was put out to bid. Is the design complete? Are the architectural fees fixed or are the architects working on a percentage or on hourly fees? Are the construction drawings complete? Have they been put out to public, advertised bidding? What is going to prevent significant cost overruns, which seem to be the norm with taxpayer funded construction projects?

In my real estate career I built many commercial buildings and because I was spending my money or the money of clients I always employed things that saved money without compromising quality.

Jeffrey Pfeil,

Bainbridge Island

Overspending

To the editor:

There has been a fair amount of controversy recently about overpaying for the Harrison property purchased for the new police station.

I am the owner of the “alternative” property on Yaquina. Of interest to me, and perhaps to others, is why the city overpaid for the Harrison property. When the city manager was bargaining with me they offered $800,000. I wanted $1.2 million – obviously much less that the $8,975,000 the city apparently paid for Harrison.

I was told the city could not pay more than the appraised value, although they paid more than Harrison’s appraised value by several million.

COBI wanted my property and did substantial planning toward that goal. Then COBI disappeared, and I heard that Harrison was their intended purchase. That makes no sense as it is a bad location, smaller property and requires extensive remodeling.

It looks like the costs of a Harrison remodel are about the same as new construction. There must be some underlying reason as to why the Harrison location was chosen.

Having been born and raised on Bainbridge it has been my only home. I care very much for the island, not only its history and land usage, but its future. I have seen a tremendous amount of change, much of it stings with the decisions made. The city has me shaking my head, again, about many issues, but this egregious amount of overspending is very questionable.

Lee Rosesnbaum,

Rolling Bay

Equity bill

To the editor

Gov. Jay Inslee recently tweeted about his plan to make Washington an anti-racist state. These are important steps to making Washington more welcoming and inclusive – but they come up short.

Inslee doesn’t mention much-needed election reforms, one of which is ranked-choice voting.

Ranked-choice voting is a simple upgrade to how we vote that lets voters rank candidates in order of preference: first, second, third, etc.. This ranking system lets voters vote more honestly. They don’t have to vote for whom they think can win, but rather, for whom they think truly represents them.

Evidence shows that this results in more equitable representation for marginalized communities and it lets more candidates from more backgrounds run for office.

This is why a broad coalition of racial equity focused groups are advocating for RCV in Washington.

In the legislative session, there is an opportunity to allow local governments to upgrade with HB 1156, which will let localities adopt RCV. Passing this bill is crucial for developing the more equitable Washington that Inslee is aiming for.

If you support a more inclusive Washington, ask your legislators to support HB 1156.

Gaelen Lee,

Bainbridge Island

Options needed

To the editor:

My 7th grade daughter is slated to return to middle school on Bainbridge Island as a “hybrid” student. If she were to return, she would get to meet all of her teachers for the first time, masked face to masked face, and she would get to say hello to her friends. And she might have the opportunity to make new friends and assert her new social identity as an independent young woman. She would also be inundated with anxiety about the conditions under which she is returning, and she would carry the heavy burden of fear for the safety of her friends, teachers and family.

The BI school district has determined that now is the time to bring large numbers of students and educators together in enclosed spaces, despite dire warnings from public health experts, despite the arrival of new, more virulent strains of the virus, despite surrounding areas teeming with new cases and hospitalizations, and despite the discomfort of the vast majority of teachers. While many families celebrate the decision to reopen, many others feel extremely ill at ease with it. Those who initially enrolled in a 100 percent virtual option with the schools are in luck: They can continue with their public school education from home. But for those who chose the hybrid option, there is no turning back. Even with the changing situation, including a shift in the metrics for determining when it’s “safe” to return to in-person schooling, the school district is not offering hybrid families the chance to switch to remote learning. Instead, families are forced to choose between violating their core values and forfeiting their public education. Sadly, the call for a choice in options is not being heeded.

My daughter understands the ramifications of her actions, and she knows that returning to in-person schooling could result in a death that could so easily be prevented by staying home. Instead, she will continue to be a hybrid student, but she will refrain from entering the school until the data support that choice. We are lucky that we can choose to ignore the decision to return to school. On behalf of the families who can’t we call on the BISD to create a viable, quality virtual option for everyone who wants it.

Marci Tarre,

Bainbridge Island

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