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Citizens to study Council shrinkage

In an abrupt change of course Wednesday, the Bremerton City Council narrowly approved establishing a citizen’s committee to study a proposed charter change that would reduce the Council from nine to seven members.

Proposal sponsors, Councilmen Mike Short and Will Maupin, hoped the Council would put the measure to a citywide vote in the Nov. 8 general election. But Councilor Cecil McConnell had another idea.

Before Maupin could make a motion, McConnell spoke up making his motion for a citizen’s commission to study condensing the Council and other possible charter changes. The motion passed 5-4 with McConnell, Dianne Robinson, Carol Arends, Mike Shepherd and Brad Gehring voting in favor of the new plan.

The citizen’s commission will present its recommendations to the Council by Dec. 1.

This move knocked the measure off the table and out of this year’s election. Estimated election costs would have been $300-$1,000 with an additional cost for redistricting, if the measure passed.

This was fine with some of the Council members who say why tinker with a good thing.

“There has been no public outcry for this,” said Arends.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily in the best interest of our neighborhoods,” she said.

Daren Nygren, who along with Wendy Priest, Short and Maupin voted against forming a commission, said his constituents have mentioned the Council is too large.

Priest said she wanted to see the measure on the ballot because it would “open it up to discussion and debate.”

Other members wondered if the increased workload with seven members was worth the savings. Maupin said he expects shrinking the Council would save $28,000-$29,000 a year from the general fund.

He also said the change would make the city government more efficient.

“Less decision makers at the meeting means less time in the meetings,” he said.

Others disagreed with the less is more philosophy.

“I think we’re the best bang for the buck in any kind of government that you can get,” Gehring said.

“I fail to see how an increase in workload is going to make us more efficient,” he said.

A handful of people urged the Council to allow more public input on the issue. Del Knauss, who also spoke out against the recent $250 per month pay increase for the Council, said it is sending mixed messages. The salaries commission believed the Council was overworked and underpaid.

“How is reducing the Council by two members gonna keep up with that workload,” he asked.

“This seems to be a government of the elected by the elected and for the elected,” Paul Drnjevic said in opposition to the possible Council reduction.

Maupin and Short were disappointed by the turn of events.

“Maybe something good will come of that. We’ll find out,” Maupin said.

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