Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Election Commentary

I apologize for getting this out so late, but I've been laid low by some recent unexpected emergency surgery. Nothing life-threatening, but fairly serious just the same, and recovery has just been slower than I had hoped.

I was disappointed in the results of the recent election, and have come to the conclusion that sleaze and outright dishonesty can still win elections in some cases.

Like a lot of other people, I couldn't really get my arms around the Bremerton Mayor's race. And as the results have proven, it was too close to call. Patty Lent, the apparent winner, is a nice person, but not really what I would term a decisive decision maker. She's going to have her hands full with a lot of issues that she's not even aware of yet — just as I was.

As far as Will Maupin is concerned, I believe he is the best qualified for the job. However, based on my own personal experiences, his uncompromising, "My Way of the Highway" style wouldn't play well with the other electeds he'd have to deal with. For this reason alone, Bremerton may be better off with Lent at the helm.

I also believe Kitsap Sun Political Reporter Steve Gardner's erroneous story saying he'd resign the Council if Lent was elected, has done some serious harm to Maupin's possible political future. Gardner tried to play CYA and explain his way out of it, but it hasn't done the job. In my view, he owes Maupin an apology.

The election on Bainbridge Island shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. The continual revolving door of the City Council just took another swing — as it will two years from now. I predict Bainbridge residents will come to be very sorry they voted for the change in government.

I will however miss Chris Snow, who has been serving as interim Mayor, and
decided not to seek re-election after just one term on the Council. We've worked together on several board committees, and he is a common sense breath of fresh air, and in my view, the type of public servant the citizens of Bainbridge Island should be electing instead of some of the whack jobs they have.

In Port Orchard I endorsed Carolyn Powers over Cindy Lucarelli, and as of this writing, she is ahead by less than 20 votes. Carolyn brings so much historical and institutional knowledge to the City Council, not to mention political connections, it would be a shame to lose that. She can often get more done with a well-placed phone call than others can in days of just trying to reach the right person. And people in Olympia and Washington D.C. do take and/or return Carolyn's calls.

The other Council race between incumbent Fred Chang and Amy Igloi-Matsuno was a disappointment. Although I believed Amy would win, I made a conscious effort to distance myself personally from this for a number of reasons. However, Chang's supporters — especially a couple of shrilly vocal, downtown business people — continually tried to drag me into the drama they created over this, asking why didn't I just endorse her and get it over with?

The answer is that I believed Amy should win on her own. I didn't want her tarred with any negativity that could be attributed to me. She ran a clean campaign, taking the high road rather than get down in the mud as Chang's people preferred to do. There were also some highly inflammatory rumors that were circulated by Chang supporters that may have had an impact.

The makeup of the City Council is thus: 2 government bureaucrats — one state and one local; a banker, a retired shipyard supervisor; a retired school teacher, a retired firefighter; a retired school administrator. The youngest person on the Council is 50. For those reasons, I believe the City Council — as well as the residents of Port Orchard — would have benefited significantly from the long-term perspective of a highly successful 29-year old entrepreneur. The only other private sector entrepreneur there is myself — and I don't vote.

However, what has disturbed me the most were reports from people who stated that when doorbelled by Chang, he claimed to be "...the only council member who opposed the Mayor tripling his own salary." It doesn't get much sleazier than that, so let's get the facts straight on this issue once and for all.

As Mayor, I do not have the authority to raise my salary. Only the City Council can do that. However, it wasn't even a raise in pay. It was the unanimous decision of the Council to make the Mayor's job full time — not the part time 15-hour per week job it had been. Chang voted for this in a budget work study in September of 2008, only questioning the use of $20,000 in Lodging Tax money being used to help fund the difference in pay. Since tourism is part of the Mayor's job, the City Attorney felt this was an allowable use of that money.

It was never about "the Mayor tripling his own salary," as Chang has reportedly claimed, but the Council's unanimous decision to make the job full time. End of story.

I was also disappointed to see Kathryn Quade ousted as Mayor of Poulsbo, in favor of Becky Erickson. In working with Kathryn on numerous boards including KRCC, KCCHA, Kitsap Transit and more, I have seen her stand up and fight very effectively for her City. My personal opinion is that Becky Erickson will be much less effective for the same reason Will Maupin would have been for Bremerton — while Erickson is very smart and very resourceful, her highly aggressive personal style isn't going to play well with the other electeds she has to work with in order to get anything done. Quade didn't just lose here — I think Poulsbo did.

The Bremerton municipal court race that pitted incumbent James Doctor against Bremerton attorney Ed Wolfe, was almost too sleazy to believe. Doctor appointed Wolfe to serve for him as a pro-tem judge. For him to then say Wolfe had no criminal experience on the bench was an outlandish claim — and what could be interpreted as an outright lie depending on your point of view.

Wolfe serves as a pro-tem judge in several jurisdictions and is more than qualified to serve in Bremerton. If he wasn't, why did Doctor appoint him in the first place? The fact the Kitsap County Bar Association did an "anonymous" poll that rated Wolfe as "unqualified" had more to do with sleazy partisan politics than actual qualifications. And what is really ironic here, is that Doctor failed to file a large number of PDC filings on time — a clear and ongoing violation of the law. Go figure...

I was not surprised that Roger Zabinski pulled off what many thought was an upset victory over former Bremerton Mayor Lynn Horton. He had the entire environmental wing of the local Democratic Party working for him. However, it might have been interesting to watch the dynamics between Horton and Port CEO Cary Bozeman, since Bozeman ousted her from the Mayor's job.

Throughout the campaign I witnessed Zabinski talk out of both sides of his mouth, depending on who his audience was. When he came and talked to me he was completely clueless about economic development (the Port's main job), suggesting a trail system between McCormick Woods and the Port might be an economic development driver for us. He also was a very strong SEED supporter when we originally talked, and up until until he figured out it would cost him votes. He then denied supporting it in two forums I attended.

Frankly, I don't trust Zabinski, and don't think he's strong enough to distance himself from the enviros who got him elected. I'll be watching — and will keep a very close eye on what he does — in contrast to what he says.

Finally, I was glad to see I-1033 go down in flames. While it was aimed at reining in state spending — which I have no argument with — it would have also crippled the ability to cities and counties for fund critical services going forward.