These are the events that had the biggest effect on the most people in North Kitsap in 2016.
No. 1: “Voters narrowly approve fast-ferry plan” (Nov. 11): Kitsap voters approved Kitsap Transit’s proposal to establish and fund operation of a passenger-only ferry service with a sales tax of 3/10s of 1 percent. The ferries will operate between Seattle and three Kitsap communities; the Kingston-Seattle run is scheduled to begin in 2018. Advocates say the fast ferry will make education and jobs in the Seattle area more accessible to Kitsap residents; opponents say the fast ferry will make more-affordable real estate more accessible to Seattleites, putting home ownership out of reach to local residents. Time will tell.
No. 2: “Village Green Community Center opens” (May 6): Someone will write a book about this someday: The transformation of a former Navy housing site into a community gathering place, with a park, apartments for older residents, and a community center with a Boys & Girls Club, a senior center, and a branch library. It cost $8 million and required the support of voters, volunteers, donors, local and state government agencies, and non-profits. Here’s a key part of the success: no one cared who got the credit.
No. 3: “The Point Hotel opens” (Dec. 16): The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s newest venture, The Point Hotel, is the second-largest hotel in North Kitsap, is a showcase of Northwest Coast Native art, and introduces a new architectural style to Kitsap: Coastal Modern, a blend of midcentury and Coast Salish design elements. It’s also a symbol of the growing economic influence of the Port Gamble S’KlallamTribe, which is one of the top 20 employers in Kitsap County.
No. 4: “361 acres and 765 homes / Residents concerned about Arborwood’s impacts on wetlands and streams,” (April 13): Residents commented at a public meeting on plans for Pope Resources’ proposed community, Arborwood, near Kingston. Arborwood borders dense woods, wetlands and streams that are habitats for fish and other wildlife. Arborwood will also have a 20,000-square-foot retail area. Residents expressed concern about potential environmental impacts, increased traffic on local roads, and consumption of resources such as water. Site clearing began in summer.
No. 5: “Replacement of culverts must continue” (July 1): The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that culverts that block salmon from more than 1,000 miles of streams in Western Washington violate treaties between Tribes and the United States. The Court of Appeals affirmed a 2007 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez that hundreds of state-owned, fish-blocking culverts must be repaired over a period of 15 years. It was a decision that the state Department of Transportation likely expected, as work began on culvert replacement before the ruling was made; among the places in Kitsap that fish-blocking culverts are being replaced: state highways 3 and 116 in Gorst, and 104 and 307 in North Kitsap.
No. 6: “Port of Kingston admits ‘We screwed up’” (Dec. 16): The Port of Kingston admitted it “failed to provide responsive public records in a timely manner” to Beth Brewster and Tania Issa, the port’s attorney wrote in a letter to Brewster and Issa’s lawyer. The letter from Kathleen J. Haggard of Porter Foster Rorick stated that the port seeks “not only to resolve the litigation but to bring the agency into compliance with state law.” But both sides differ on what the port should pay as a penalty. According to court documents, Brewster has calculated the port’s liability to her, based on penalties set by state law, to be $494,700; the port claims its penalty should be around $32,000. The penalties may be decided on Jan. 9 in Superior Court.
Brewster and Issa say port staff didn’t respond as required to their requests for public records in 2014-15. In several cases, they say, the port withheld or destroyed records, failed to search for and produce records, did not produce port records transmitted using port and personal email and text messaging, and failed to preserve requested records, in this case video that was lost because it was overwritten.
Bresster and Issa made the records requests while investigating alleged conflict of interest and gender discrimination at the port district. Issa also has a lawsuit against the port district.
No. 7: “Moms say the district should have told them earlier about what happened / Page says ‘We clearly failed’” (Feb. 19): North Kitsap School District officials first notified parents that their children may have witnessed or been subject to sexual abuse by another student almost six months after the district was alerted by a parent.
The school district was notified “in late spring” 2015, Superintendent Patty Page said Feb. 12, that a student with special needs may have sexually abused other students with special needs on different occasions between October 2014 and May 2015 while on a bus to and from school. All of the children, including the student in question, were 11 or younger. There were between seven and 11 students on the bus at any one time, Page said.
The alleged behavior came to light when a parent notified the school. The district notified Child Protective Services and Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated. District officials chose not to notify parents until the investigation was concluded, Page said; the superintendent said the district didn’t want to tell parents something might have happened if it didn’t. The bus is equipped with a video system, but Page said district officials did not review the tapes to see if there was any evidence of sexual activity — and cause for concern for parents — but instead turned them over to law enforcement.
No. 8. “Search begins for third chief in three years” (March 18): Poulsbo Police Chief Alan Townsend resigned March 14 after intense media and public scrutiny of his relationship with a female police officer and his department’s handing of a DUI involving a sheriff’s sergeant. In a statement released by the mayor’s office, Townsend wrote, “I have become a distraction to the city and more specifically the police department.” He referred to the department’s handling of a DUI involving a Kitsap County sheriff’s officer; and an incident in which Townsend was found alone in his darkened office late at night with a female officer.
Former deputy chief Shawn Delaney came out of retirement to lead the department as public safety director while the city recruited a new police chief. Dan Schoonmaker, assistant chief of the Westminster (California) Police Department, was hired as Poulsbo’s new police chief on Dec. 5.
No. 9: “Poulsbo’s ‘tough love’ for homeless: Take help, face arrest, or move on” (Oct. 21): The Poulsbo City Council adopted an ordinance on Oct. 19 that makes it illegal people to camp or store one’s possessions anywhere on city property, including streets, sidewalks, roadways, playfields, city parking lots and city parks. This includes “parking a trailer, camper, or other vehicle for the purposes of remaining overnight for habitation or temporary living quarters.” The ordinance seeks to eradicate homelessness, but Mayor Becky Erickson said violators would first be directed to assistance. In addition, the city is establishing a program that may include hotel vouchers, as well as assistance with “housing, mental health, alcohol independence and/or drug addiction treatment services.”
No. 10. “New era for local marine science center / SEA Discovery Center will expand its educational role” (May 27): Western Washington University assumed ownership of the Poulsbo Marine Science Center on May 24. The center is now named the “Western Washington University SEA Discovery Center.” SEA stands for “Science, Education, Aquarium.”
Western will continue operating the center for the benefit of the public, including keeping the marine science museum and aquarium open to the public, and offering a marine science education program for all education levels, including post-secondary, secondary, and primary education. Western intends to use the marine science center for university-level classes. The City of Poulsbo formerly owned the land and building; the center had been owned by the Poulsbo Marine Science Center Foundation.
City Council member Ed Stern has been a leading advocate for increasing WWU’s presence in Poulsbo: the university also offers classes on the Olympic College campus in North Poulsbo. “College-wise, this area has been the largest under-served population in the state education system,” Stern said.