Considering the entertainment value of the City Council’s recent meetings, perhaps the city should start charging an admission fee. Well, probably not, since most people would just stay home and watch the shenanigans on Bainbridge Island Television.
Wednesday’s meeting, highlighted by a public hearing on the capital facilities plan, was especially tumultuous since it offered input from citizens who generally feel the council and the administration are paying more attention to special interest groups than the community as a whole. Here’s a slice of what the public had to say:
• Several people who live in or around Wing Point grumbled that the council’s tentative CFP, which called for about $22 million to be spent on Winslow Way infrastructure and new police and court facilities, would delay the long-standing need to repair the deteriorating Wing Point Way road. They emphasized the unsafe conditions on the narrow stretch of road, with one resident saying: “If we divert funds (to Winslow Way) from Wing Point Way, it will be libelous if someone is hurt because this is an unsafe road.”
• A Port Madison resident angrily accused Mayor Darlene Kordonowy of a conflict of interest for her pro-tem appointment of Margaret Klockars as the city’s temporary hearing examiner, claiming that the mayor was involved in a boundary dispute that was settled last year by Klockars. The resident, who lost the dispute, said the mayor should have recused herself from involvement in Klockars’ appointment. The mayor, obviously upset by the accusation, denied that the appointment had anything to do with the boundary dispute.
• Two Senior Center board members said they were angry that the city had decided against giving the center funds that would be used to build a new facility. They complained that the seniors have been ignored and that the process was done behind closed doors.
• Several speakers took shots at Councilman Barry Peters, who recently complained that critics of the city and council were being “uncivil” by launching “personal attacks” at public servants who were only trying to honor their commitment to the citizens of Bainbridge. The residents said Peters and other council members who were criticized deserved the attacks because they were using “inside information” to make decisions on the CFP and other matters.
• Regarding Winslow Way, at least three speakers (and Councilor Debbie Vancil) lambasted some council members for having the attitude “that we have the votes and we’re going with Winslow Way,” even before the CFP hearing process began. They emphasized the need for the process to be open so that the decisions made by the council reflects the wishes of the community.
• At least two people made it clear that they were against the city spending any money on connecting Ericksen Avenue and Hildebrand Lane, saying that the occupants of the Village development, not the city, should supply the funds needed to provide ingress and egress to and from the shopping center.
The hearing was heated, no doubt, but much of the fireworks occurred later when the council and mayor argued about the process and whether or not it was predetermined. Some said no. Some defended it. Some chose not to comment. The mayor thanked staff for all of their hard work. After much discussion about Vancil’s presentation of a “community” CFP and the need for its consideration, the council finally decided to do exactly that.
As a result, it became clear that our city government is battered, in turmoil, divided and, most of all, dysfunctional. There is a serious disconnect between City Hall and the community. There are many reasons for this, including an inability to get a handle on its financial woes. But the eight elected officials running the show need to settle their disputes now, and make funding decisions that are feasible and representative of the community’s basic needs.
Just provide a little leadership, won’t you?