Candidate Questionnaire: Write-in Cynthia Bellas, Central Ward, Dist. 4

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Cynthia Bellas is a write-in candidate for the Central Ward, District 4. She opposes incumbent Leslie Schneider and Grayson William Smith, who appear on the ballot.

Candidate Questionnaire

Candidate:   Cynthia Bellas

Cynthia Bellas

Position #:   Council District 4: Central Ward

Your Website: https://www.cynthiabellas.com

Your Email: stopeverythingbainbridge@gmail.com

Ward of residence:   Central

Representation: Which Ward or At Large:   Central

Are you an incumbent?   No

  • If incumbent, how many terms have your served?

Current occupation:   Chief Strategic Officer IRB Advisors

Previous Civic Activities:   Board of Directors: Kitsap Humane Society (Marketing, Governance and Development Committees) , Eviction Defense Collaborative (San Francisco) . On the Green Home Owners Association (Vice President), One Call for All and Kids Up.

Why you are running:   Our city is compromised by political ambition and conflict of interest. I’m here to push an open space small/town conservation agenda. During the “Save 550 Madison Avenue” and “Winslow Hotel Resistance.”  I searched for leadership and never found it ,so I’m stepping up for all of us.

Issues

Issues are listed alphabetically and not in any suggested priority.

Downtown parking

There is broad agreement that parking downtown is inadequate. The lack of parking spaces is probably costing businesses patronage. You were asked at the Chamber of Commerce candidates forum how you would solve parking. One candidate noted a lack of support from business. Another suggested creating a one-way street to add parking. Neither solves the problem.

Q.  How would you solve the parking problem downtown so that both residents and tourists have sufficient places to park and shop?

An electric shuttle that runs continuously at predictable stops/times across the island all day could do a lot to off-set the need for vehicle for trips in town. Promotion of existing mass transit programs BI RIDE . NO ONE understands that you just call BI Ride and they pick you up. HERE YOU GO:

                “Call.  If you want to catch the bus somewhere other than at a scheduled stop, call at least    two hours in advance and the bus will come to you. To schedule a ride, please       call 1.844.4BI.RIDE.”

Let’s also take a look at relocating the Post Office distribution center. That lot could be repurposed easily. We should subsidize riders on transit who work in downtown Winslow. WSF promised us a remodel regarding parking and our waterfront … a long time ago. What ever happened to those efforts? We should be collaborating with the best minds over at Washington State Ferries.

Q.  Would you support a program that would incent tourists to leave the car at home while creating more transportation options when visiting the island?

Let’s launch a robust campaign around the mass transit options of BI RIDE and rejuvenate a visitor’s kiosk on the boat as well as, at the terminal. Happy staff, directing visitors to events, transportation options, points of interests, restaurants, etc. is a win-win.  

Environment

Islands are inherently fragile ecosystems that show stress quickly and have limited capacity to recover from environmental impacts.

Q. What grade would you give the current City government on environmental protection and sustainability?

“D” … our representatives and employees talk a good game, but development is over-running our town; loopholes are exploited. They were set up to protect our vulnerable populations, our aquifers are becoming compromised, our open space is disappearing, and delicate ecosystems are degraded. You can’t be protecting the environment and pushing for sustainability while voting to allow densification. Sea water is in our wells in Manzanita and near the bridge, we have a loss of canopy and still the loopholes haven’t been closed.  

Q. What would you do the same or differently?

Close the loopholes of 18.21.030 B. (density allowances in the name of affordable housing) and 18.21.040 (in lieu payments). Abide by the principles set forth in our comprehensive plan:

#1 Preserve the special character of the Island, which includes downtown Winslow’s small town atmosphere, historic buildings, extensive forested areas, meadows, farms, marine views, and scenic and winding roads supporting all forms of transportation.

#2 Protect the water resources of the Island.

#3 Foster diversity with a holistic approach to meeting the needs of the island and the human needs of its residents consistent with the stewardship of our finite environmental resources.

#4 Consider the costs and benefits to island residents and property owners in making land use decisions.

#5 The use of land on the island should be based on the principle that the island’s environmental resources are finite and must be maintained at a sustainable level.

#6 Address the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

#7 Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the island’s climate resilience.

#8 Support the island’s Guiding Principles and Policies through the city’s organizational and operating budget decisions…. and then tap into the absolute abundance of creative and brilliant ideas that our residents have.

Q. Do you think the current City government is doing enough to protect our island ecosystems for the long term?

Obviously not, our streams are drying up and our aquifers are becoming compromised. Development remains unchecked, exploitative and out of control. Our ecosystems are failing and our tree canopy is reduced. 

Q. Do you think the island residents would support stricter protections? Please explain.

Absolutely, the reaction to my candidacy is proof. I’m a write-in who joined the race two weeks ago, I receive close to 100 emails of support for my platform of reasonable growth daily. A recent poll on Bainbridge Islander’s Facebook Group Page has me out-pacing my opponents 5 to 1 for my views on the Suzuki Project.

Q. How do you think the City needs to prepare for climate change for the near term and long term?

Near Term: Cut down on carbon emissions. Provide incentives for solar infrastructure and off-grid living. Engage ecologists such as landscape designer and permaculture educator, Jordan Fink to help us plan for today.

Long Term: Rebuild our soil to prepare for carbon sequestration, preserve open space and forested areas, plant as many chestnut trees and fruit trees as we can. Incentivize people to plant and keep trees, build ADU’s on their property. Encourage electric transportation and solar power. Engage ecologists such as landscape designer and permaculture educator, Jordan Fink to help us plan further into the future.

Finance

Voters rejected recent levies for the new police department building and roads.

Q. Why do you think voters rejected these levies?

The police station and roads referendums were not well written and had other unintended consequences. The goals of better roads and an adequate police facility are things most people agree on, however, both these referendums lacked accountability controls and were too open-ended.

Q. What message would you convey to the citizens in support of future bonds?

City funding streams are not well-balanced, there’s too much of a burden on levies and taxes and not an appropriate way into the future … yet we agree that we need to fund the services. Do we need palaces for public buildings and community pools that cost tens of millions of dollars? Could we temper our expectations? Can we put our creative minds together and produce a new revenue stream in the form of social entrepreneurship (emergency supply packs, water filtration systems) and/or tighten our belts?

Tim Eyman has another $30 car tab initiative on the November ballot. If it passes, Bainbridge Island will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from its transportation fund.

Q. How would you deal with this significant shortfall of transportation dollars in the Bainbridge budget?

Let’s reprioritize funds, we can DE-incentivize what we don’t want and IN-centivize what we do. We need analysis and to pose questions. Could we monetize/penalize the traffic flow to the ferry? Are we collecting enough from the parking areas of the ferry lot? Could we RE-invigorate the discussion around a ferry from Suquamish? We need to advocate at the state level for relief and conduct analysis to ensure that we are receiving our slice of the Kitsap Transit funding as well.

Growth and Development

GMA

City governments often use the GMA as a reason for increased growth and density, while authors of the GMA insist that it provides tools with which to guide growth to be sustainable and in some cases limit growth. 

Q. What’s your view of the GMA?

The Growth Management Act is a well-intentioned document. There are serious consequences to non-compliance. COBI has produced an adequate zoning plan via our Comprehensive Plan to accommodate over what the GMA has dictated as our growth allotment. That is the end of our compliance delivery. No need for our government to focus on more development or to destroy more habitats, open space and delicate eco systems.

Q. Do you think the City of Bainbridge Island is using the GMA wisely to make growth sustainable?

Yes, we have planned our zoning to accept more that 120% of what we are expected to absorb.

Q.  Do you think Bainbridge Island has room to grow?

Our water supply is somewhat mysterious and I believe this is the area of greatest concern with regards to growth. Appropriate analysis and monitoring needs to be performed with regards to traffic, water, noise, etc. in order to access our carrying capacity accurately.

Q.  How much and where should this growth be channeled in order to preserve the more rural nature of the majority of the island?

This information is already in our comprehensive plan.  Growth should be centered in the downtown core (50%) and at neighborhood centers. (5%)

Housing

Q.  Do you think the City should allow Tiny houses, ADUs and carriage houses to provide for more affordable housing while being more sustainable?

Yes, under appropriate conditions and code, allowing for one property and proper water and sewage.  They should be built on pre-existing structures’ plots so developers cannot use the ADU laws to instantaneously increase density. Also we run the risk of these units being used as AirBnB’s.

Q.  How would you regulate these housing options?

Confer with homeowner associations about their rules and regulations regarding short-term rentals, close loopholes and enforce codes where/when needed. Establish an anonymous hotline so the city can respond to concerns.

Q.  Do you believe RVs should be allowed as permanent housing?

Absolutely not. Too many issues with sewage disposal and risk of fire.

Q.  Where would these RVs be allowed to park, and in what numbers, so as not to negatively impact adjacent neighborhoods?

I’m not for RVs for housing solutions. These are recreational vehicles so they need to be where recreational vehicles are accommodated.

Q. How do you answer the concerns expressed by the Fire Department over the potential use of RVs as permanent housing?

I agree with the fire department that these vehicles are for recreational use, not for a permanent solution to housing. They pose inflated risk of fire and can contaminate our waterways if sewage is not disposed of properly.

Q.  Given the problems Seattle has over the use of RVs as housing and the impacts on neighborhoods and business areas, why do you think RVs for Bainbridge may be a good idea?

I don’t believe RVs are a good solution to housing affordability.

Social Services

Q.  What do you propose to combat drug abuse, depression and suicides for young teens and high schoolers?

Bainbridge Youth Services is an outstanding resource that must be supported. The effort to combat these realities must be perpetual and prioritized. Each school should have at least one counselor dedicated and on hand to support the children through these issues. Children need to feel connected to one another and to a community that loves them and cares about their well-being first and foremost.

Candidates were asked at the Chamber of Commerce candidates forum about the need for senior citizen housing and services. All agreed that there is a need but all were short on specifics, including how affordable housing would be paid for.

Q. Please detail how you would address these issues. Consider this a two-part question, allowing 250 words per part.

Seniors are overrepresented in our tax base relative to the services to which they should be entitled.

Regarding housing let’s be very clear, seniors are getting taxed out of their homes.  Do they know there is a program called, SENIOR LOW INCOME TAX EXEMPTION to help seniors remain in their home by keeping their property tax at a minimum? Here it is. I beg every qualifying senior to use it.

https://www.kitsapgov.com/assessor/Pages/SeniorDisabledExemptionDeferral.aspx

The least cost intensive way to provide affordable housing is to use the existing housing stock we have.  Because the conversation is always developer/development driven, no one discusses these options. I’ve made a request for records to the city for every square inch of city-owned structures and land. I want to begin looking at what is available with existing infrastructure in order to accommodate our island’s housing needs. The city should insist that for every square foot of commercial space approved for building, there should be a relative appropriation for living space as well. All new spaces should be mixed use if conditions for safety allow it. 

Additionally, the “Save 550 Madison Campaign” exposed Housing Kitsap as an institution in dire need of outside oversight and monitoring. The Board of Directors on Housing Kitsap should have seats from each housing program they provide.

Transportation

The city has had a transportation concurrency update on its “to-do” list for two or more years.

Q.  What is your understanding of concurrency?

That it’s not being adhered to by COBI, and that we need to roll out the plans and money necessary to provide adequate levels of service at county level standards for our citizens.  

Q.  Why hasn’t an update been prioritized and completed?

COBI has been busy with the trying to stop the revolving door of city staff, getting mired down in lawsuits, attenuating to conflicts of interests, trying to resolve housing issues and participating in corrosive in-fighting.  

Q.  What do you hope to see as a result of a transportation concurrency update?

Real civic planning, funds set aside, accountability timetables, and improved bicycle and pedestrian levels of service at the county level.

Q.  Concurrency and Level of Service is based on traffic counts that date citywide to 2012-14. Do you think this is appropriate?

Hardly, just look at the increase in population (roughly 1,670 more people than in 2012). 

Water

There is conflicting information and opinion on the state of the island’s water resource. Some research says there’s plenty and enough for future growth, while other water experts strongly disagree and point to the fact that the island is a sole-source aquifer and with finite capacity, especially given risks posed by climate change.

Q.  What’s your position on our island’s water capacity and quality? Please provide facts and research to support your views.

Having participated as a volunteer in the collection of water samples for the Kitsap County 2018 Annual Water Quality Report , I am intimately aware of the health of our surface water. This document is worth a read. Our island’s streams and ground water are not nearly as healthy as most would believe. Also, capacity on our island is in limited supply and its quality, quickly morphing. I direct the reader to these documents from January 12th, Bainbridge Island Water Workshops  and June 18th, Bainbridge Island Water Workshop. Also, The Conceptual Model and Numerical Simulation of the Ground Water – Flow System of Bainbridge Island Washington and The Bainbridge Island Aspect Water Survey. Of note:

“The Kitsap Public Health District is not aware of any public water systems that test for pharmaceuticals, and the city does not test for pharmaceuticals.” “Approximately half of the island’s population is served by large or small public water purveyor systems and approximately half own their own well. Generally, island groundwater quality is excellent; however, there are localized areas that tend to have naturally high mineral content, specifically iron and manganese. In nearly all cases the mineral concentrations are well below EPA’s drinking water.”

Q. Do you believe there should be a building moratorium until a consensus understanding on water aquifer viability is reached and a determination is made whether there is a long-term problem?

Of course there should be. A good question to ask is, “Are there any recommended changes to the existing building codes related to water use?” Presently, there aren’t any changes related to drinking water, only in storm water management regulations requiring low impact development practices. Perhaps we can evaluate the ability of our island to accommodate growth based on:

                ” Land Use Element be consistent with and supported by the other elements in the           comprehensive plan, including any optional elements that the city chooses to adopt, such as the           environmental, utilities and water resources elements. The GMA does not stipulate where the         water analysis must fall within the sequence of updating the plan. As a practical matter, the        updated aquifer information prepared by Aspect was not yet available when the land use, and several other elements, had to be undertaken. Depending on how the Planning Commission and        City Council interpret and apply the best available science, including the Aspect aquifer   information, it may be appropriate to review and revise the land use and other Elements.”  

                Question #13 from “Questions NOT Answered during January 12th BI “Water Workshop”               as viewed at https://www.bainbridgewa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/6320/Additional-QA-from-          Jan-12- Water-Supply-Workshop?bidId=

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