Kent Scott – An In-Depth Community Conversation

Bainbridge Island City Council District 3 (South Ward) candidate Kent Scott recently sat down to answer 12 issue-and-policy-based questions with Chamber President Stefan Goldby ahead of the 2021 General Election. Recorded via Zoom as an individual 1-on-1 session, this interview is part of a series talking in depth to all eight of the 2021 candidates for Bainbridge City Council.

Each candidate was allotted up to 45 minutes to answer a set of questions written in consultation with Chamber members with expert local knowledge of a specific topic. Each conversation features the same questions being asked of all candidates, and in the interest of fairness, none of the candidates were shown any of the questions ahead of the interview session.

We hope that this format provides a chance for Islanders to see each of the prospective councilmembers share their thoughts and potential solutions to some of the big challenges facing the Bainbridge community in full, without interruption or editing.

Each of the candidate’s unabridged responses are presented here as full transcriptions, and below as an unedited video clip, accompanied by timestamps for each individual question.

Learn more about Kent Scott:
In the Chamber’s initial email interview: https://bainbridgechamber.com/questions-for-the-candidates-central-south-wards/
At the official campaign website: https://www.kentscottforbicouncil.info/
At the official campaign facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KentScottforBICouncil

Read the full interview here, or if you prefer to watch, simply jump straight to the video interview


Stefan Goldby: Let’s begin with a question about community engagement: Can you talk a little bit about which Island organizations you’ve previously worked for, with, volunteered at, or contributed to?

Kent Scott: Sure, man, it goes all the way back to when we moved here in 1988. I mean, as you may not recall, the city was incorporated in ’91. And there was a huge initiative called Winslow Tomorrow, which in the end proved to be not a very functional document or exercise. But nonetheless, for me, I was involved for years in this process, which for me as a new resident to Bainbridge – even though I did have an uncle who lived down on South Beach that we visited as kids – was an incredible opening into kind of how the City functioned and how the City valued different things within the community – much broader than Winslow. So this was about two years. And it really sort of piqued my interest in like, small community, lots of things going on, lots of engaged people.

So in my 33 years here, subsequently, I served on the Public Art Committee, the Design Review Board, and the Open Space Commission. So all of these were similar – sort of building my understanding of how the City worked, and I think being engaged with the values of the City to make a better place. But in addition to just working with direct commissions, there was a recent task force to create a town square, Stefan before you got here, by the BPA. And this is a really big deal. And though I applied to be on the task force, I didn’t make the cut. But nonetheless, I attended all the meetings, and was an active participant in this, largely for two reasons.

One was that second part of the task force besides this town square was also a non-motorized bond issue which came out and subsequently failed. But I was extremely concerned, with my background in urban planning and design, that a parking garage – which was one of the largest components of this – kind of measured against all the traffic studies that had been done, almost 10 years since we incorporated – was a fool’s errand. So for that I was actively involved.

But in addition to that, I’ve actually worked for the Land Trust, providing some master plan documents for some of their large open spaces. Again, my background with natural systems design and planning – but I am also a steward and have been a steward on Land Trust properties for well over 10 years, perhaps 15.

Currently, I’m working up on the wildlife corridor, which is a long, narrow, 40-acre corridor that connects the North Grand Forest to Meigs Park. And beyond that, I’ve been heavily involved with non-motorized issues. You know, I was a board member of Squeaky Wheels for about six years and remain active with non-motorized issues, including the ongoing Sustainable Transportation plan that’s in the works. So that’s my engagement with the City. Besides, I just want to say I love my neighbors, and I know all my neighbors. And that’s almost more important than the city-wide stuff.

SG: As you’ve now been I’m actively campaigning and talking to Islanders for a little while, what are the top three concerns that you hear from the community?

KS: Yeah, it’s really interesting. Um, without ranking the top three, I would say that maintaining the island’s rural character is probably perhaps the one I hear most. And happily, that requirement is embedded in the City’s Comprehensive Plan. I mean, that goal to retain rural quality means there’s a lot of debate about what that means and how to do it. And the other range of expression of what that means, is pulling up the bridge and shutting the door to, I think, a more nuanced and wiser approach, which means, you know, a better sustainable and ecological outcome to create more housing in Winslow.

But the big risk with any of this is, you know, we cannot compromise existing property values and property rights. So it’s a sticky wicket that needs to be addressed. But I would say rural quality is number one – quality of life. Second, is affordable housing. I mean, the City has been looking at this for a long time. There’s been a lot of swings and misses, and there’s been some swings and foul balls, and maybe a few base hits – but it’s a big problem.

I mean, amy understanding is the current kindergarten class entering this year is 150 and the last year’s graduating class from Bainbridge High School is 450. And that Superintendent Bang-Knudsen says that he can close one elementary school. I mean, that’s one issue. We also have an issue of economic diversity that demands we look at affordable housing.

I don’t know how much you get paid, Stefan, but, but for me, I’ve really almost never been able to afford to live where I live, and it’s by, you know, some grace that I’m still here. And if 30% of homes for sale on island are people who can’t afford their property taxes, man, it’s a huge issue that the island needs to deal with. I mean, we are a better place if we’re more diverse.

And economic diversity is important. So is, as you know, racial and social justice, but affordable housing, which the City for Suzuki wanted – that to me in families who were making over 130,000 a year, which is more than I have made in year. I don’t know – you may make more than that. That’s a negative.

SG: I think you slightly overstate how much public service pays in all its factors…

KS: Perhaps, but, you know, I would say, the third thing is protection of natural resources. And this is also a super sticky wicket. Because you know that the Shoreline Master Plan, which is now in an update cycle, is kind of a, I mean, I’ve looked at this, and we talked a lot to people involved with it. It’s kind of a sticky wicket, because it’s unclear exactly what the City is asking. It’s clearly our mandate from the state. But how it manifests at a local level has to come from us. I mean, I do know that our document is, you know, almost 200 pages and Poulsbo’s is 40. And I think that, you know, the protection of natural resources is fundamental. But I also think we need to be fair to those who own property. But I completely agree that we need to be aware of how we are managing our natural systems. And so that’s probably number three.

SG: The recent draft of county-wide land usage report concluded, or at least suggested, that while our islands growth is roughly on track to hit the projected 2036 levels, rthe growth itself has not been happening in line with our community-stated Comp Plan. Do you agree with that? And how do you think the island’s residential, commercial, and community needs can best be balanced with that preservation of our natural resources?

KS: Yeah, the Buildable Lands study, I think, roughly said that of all the homes built in the last five years, 75% have been conservation areas, which translates into rural areas and only 25% had been in neighborhood centers – so Lynwood, Island and Rolling Bay. or Winslow. I mean, clearly this doesn’t make any sense for a lot of reasons. I mean, if we’re at all concerned about climate change, the most effective thing we can do is to decrease people driving, and put them where services and transit are. I mean, besides that not being aligned with the Comprehensive Plan. So yes, I’ve read the report. I know what it states and I know what the City’s summary of it was as well. So what’s the question?

SG: The question within that is how do you think we can best balance residential, commercial and civic uses of land with preserving the natural resources?

KS: Yeah, well, going back to something I touched on earlier, you know – to preserve rural areas, the way they were currently zoned, and where property is zoned – it’s impossible. And I am unwilling to even consider down-zoning or modifying how property can be used. What I’m not in favor of is up-zoning to increase affordable housing, which some people running for Council are suggesting. But you know, the answer is to look hard.

And you know, tthe Island Center Master Plan that was about two years in the making has been put on ice. It has not been taken to Council or adopted. And I think for good reason. And I can explain that in a minute.

But as you know, the city is currently looking to update the Winslow Area Master Plan. And… the advantage of that is, there are huge disadvantages for developers, property owners and people who want to live in Winslow because of current zoning. I mean, it’s just not dense enough. I respect the fact that many people, many who haven’t been here very long, and haven’t seen the dramatic changes in Winslow Way over the last three or four decades. But you know, there’s an emotional attachment to Winslow Way, but I think that a revised and aggressive look at zoning to improve business climate, to improve housing, to address sustainability and climate change, both in the ferry district, you know, which is 20 or 25 acres of parking lot. It looks like Lynwood. No, no – the Lynnwood north of Seattle, if you haven’t been there, I don’t know where you came from, Stefan.

SG: Not Lynnwood.

KS: Used to be just all car lots. It’s better now. But I think both the ferry district and also High School Road need to be looked at aggressively for increasing kind of the commercial opportunities, the residential opportunities, and that may mean increasing FAR. The advantage of increasing some of the zoning is there are developer incentives that I have worked with and many affordable housing advocates have worked with to encourage developers to build affordable housing at no cost to the community, they just get a little bit more development out of the process.

SG: You may have preempted this one, but the next question officially is, what do you think requires the most urgent update in the Winslow Master Plan?

KS: Yeah, right – you know, the Winslow Master Plan -and I just want to say, in my 40 years of professional work, I’ve done a lot of urban planning, and a lot of large scale development work – and public process can be a sticky wicket. And certainly the experience with Winslow Tomorrow, and even the town square project, public process can be messy. What I’m concerned about, for the Winslow Area Master Plan update is what we tackle. And I think that it’s going to be wisest if we tackle the easiest things first.

And that, again, would be the ferry district and High School Road, you know, to actually make some progress, because a lot of people have very strong opinions about Winslow Way. And even Madison, for that matter. And I would suggest that we just do a phased approach and talk about those later, because it’s critically important that we make something happen much sooner than later – with addressing climate change, affordable housing and the kind of commercial areas on the island.

SG: COVID prompted an unprecedented shift really, in the operations of businesses, nonprofits, and the city itself over the past couple of years. What parts of that pivot do you think will turn out to be permanent changes? And how can the City best support them?

KS: I’m not wearing that cap.

SG: Can you explain what you mean? 

KS: Well, you know, how can I – how can I know what will happen in the future? I mean, I am buoyed by the fact that things are more back to normal. I don’t know Stefan, if you keep any numbers for retail, you know, just dollars monthly or weekly that’s going through the City – if that’s changed much, but it’s exciting to me to see people back out in fair numbers and tourists back on the street.

So it’s hard to know. I mean, clearly we have found some path to making sense out of our fear and the truth of what COVID represents, so that we’re not in our house, washing our vegetables when we get home from the grocery store, so I’m hopeful that we should be fairly back on track.

But I want to add one more thing just about the development of Winslow, which COVID makes me think of, and that’s that it was probably 10 years ago, I was sitting in Madrone Lane with my wife. And we looked at each other and said, “You know, I’m not sure we would move here today, besides the fact that we couldn’t afford it”. But the other thing is just the fact that so many residential services that were along Winslow Way are no longer there.

And – nothing wrong with Ace, you know, being where it is, and all that stuff, but nonetheless, I think that if in the Winslow Area Master Plan, the increased number of residents living in the Winslow area would be a great benefit for kind of the expression of who we are rather than as much tourism-based retail and restaurants that there is. I think there’d be more that would be there for residents. Okay, I got that in.

SG: One of the current challenges for the island’s business community is finding new employees. And one of the biggest struggles potential hires consistently point to is the lack of affordable workforce housing. What practical steps are you prepared to take to address the island’s need for workforce and all other kinds of affordable housing?

KS: Boy, as you may know, this Suzuki project, which did not go forward, the entry level into affordable housing was about $130,000 a year, which was about 140% of AMI, the area median income, which is more money than I make, have made, and more than that, each affordable unit was subsidized by the City by a quarter million dollars roughly.

So the bottom line is, you know, people who can’t afford their property taxes, or people who are on fixed income, cannot be held responsible for affordable housing. It just underscores the incredible challenge that we have in front of us, besides the fact that we need people now.

You know, I was talking to Howard Block last week, and he’s out, you know, hauling bales of hay, and he’s 70 years old. I mean, it’s nuts that he can’t find anybody. And there were 16-year-olds working in the bulk foods in Town and Country because they can’t find people to work. I mean, it is a gigantic problem.

I came on Island this morning at eight o’clock. I mean, how far was the traffic backed up getting on island? I mean, it was back past Suquamish just getting on 305. I mean, it’s it’s absurd. And it’s not just – it’s a gigantic problem, because people will not choose to work on the island, even if you’re paying 18 bucks an hour, if they can find a job in Kingston, or Suquamish.

I don’t think it’s a problem that Council can address. Because at most – given developer incentives for affordable housing, given taxes that the City collects that can go towards affordable housing – it’s gonna be for people, you know, making $80,000 to $120,000 a year, it’s not going to be for people making 15 to 20 bucks an hour, and it is a gigantic cultural problem that the island cannot solve.

I mean, as you may know, I know employers on Winslow Way that, as the minimum wage increased 50 cents a year, you know, for the last five years, they’ve had to lose employees just to cover, you know, to maintain being in the black. I mean, it is not something that Council can do much about. We can address affordable housing for a slice, but the workforce and you know, finding people to work in restaurants and, you know, jobs that are paying less than 20–I don’t know what I guess what I would need to hear is what’s the Chamber’s solution, Stefan?

SG: Well, this isn’t really an interview for me, I’d be happy to talk to you about that. I would say we’re encouraged by the $3.75 million out of the ARPA funds that City Council just put towards affordable housing, which does green light another development as at least positive steps in the right direction.

That sort of leads into how how do you think best can equity and diversity be increased on Bainbridge?

KS: Well, I mean, I’m a white guy, right? And it’s a big, it’s a big, like big liability for just understanding the breadth of the issues. I mean, I met with Brenda Fantroy-Johnson yesterday. And, you know, I have been learning about all of the things that the City is doing with the Race Equity Task Force, and all of the nonprofits and other organizations that are working towards racial equity and social justice. Yeah. I was interviewed, and I’m sure you are aware of the Bainbridge Black Leadership Network. So, yeah, it’s not I mean, it’s not just people who are black – there’s Filipinos, Japanese, other brown people on the island, and it’s the whole, really BIPOC community – and how do you address that?

The City in the Comprehensive Plan, you know, lays out goals and methodology, you know, the Race Equity Task Force needs to be brought in, I think, into the City discussions more actively than they currently are. And I don’t know that we have an active issue. But we do have a responsibility as a city government, to create awareness and to create a sharing – because most people who are not part of the BIPOC community really don’t understand the BIPOC community – and I know that the several organizations some months ago had a large sharing event, just listening to other people’s feelings and how they’re perceived and feel perceived. And that’s a good start.

You know, the last five years of my career, I worked for City of Seattle, and they have a big RFJI (Race For Social Justice Initiative). And it was profound, and it might be a reasonable model to look at, you know, tempered down a little bit because the City is so huge, but nonetheless, it was an effective means for me to become more aware of both policies and I think, all the issues involved.

SG: What kinds of infrastructure improvement do you think are most needed on Bainbridge?

KS: Well, you know, it’s this talk about water right? And you know, it’s funny, I’m sure you may have read the E-tech study that looked at groundwater and generally speaking, the finding is that there’s plenty of potable water. I mean, there is a big issue with people who use water resources that are not for potable uses. And I have yet to look at a document but I know it is recorded, you know, who that is and how much is being used. But a big issue with water besides just the fact that there are uses that don’t contribute to residential and business use in a meaningful way.

The other is water distribution. I mean, you may know that only 50% of the island is serviced by fire hydrants and you know when you ask the fire department -this is a hard thing to say on this camera – but they come to your neighborhood and they say if there’s an event – fire and earthquake, we’re not coming It’s because, you know, just the resources are very limited. And you know, I understand that but there was a big fire down on Tani Creek about a month ago and it was 14 units, some from off-island and there was a drawdown on the reservoir and KPUD – asked users to conserve water.

So I mean, the issue may not be the amount of potable water but it’s certainly the distribution of water both for fire safety and for use. In KPUD for example, when putting lines out through Eagledale, but Taylor doesn’t have any lines yet and there’s a lot of hand dug wells out there. So you know, water is probably the big one.

I know there’s issues with too much stuff going through the sewage treatment plant and because they had like three overflows or something in a month so they now have to look at adding some additional equipment to resolve that. And clearly that’s a demand by the Department of Ecology that needs to be addressed – whether or not the sewage treatment plant goes to tertiary is another whole subject based on costs and, and really what the outcome is – it certainly creates a non-potable water source for Wing Point and other use uses of non-potable water. But sewer – I’m not too concerned with it, but going back to water, the big deal was fixing the water tank. I mean, I know that that was part of the ARPA funds and I don’t know if that was finally got the thumbs up or not. Yeah? That’s good.

But you know, there are issues in many places still with failing septic tanks. I don’t think a lot but it’s something that needs to be addressed just because of water quality and, you know, the environmental impact of that.

OK, any other utilities? Oh, let’s talk about PSE. You know, I don’t know exactly what the City agreement is with PSE, but basically because PSE is allowed to use city roads many times for its alignment, it seems like there should be more public benefit from what PSE does. And, you know, I appreciate the fact that PSE is doing a better job now of linking the substations and preparing for power outage remedies when they do happen. But it’s still pretty frustrating, you know, when I see, you know, 60 and 80 foot towers, along the road when I go home, kind of reminds me of being in an industrial area, you know, and not in the bucolic rural Bainbridge that I came to live with. So, you know, it seems like a just more direct discussion with PSE, to see what we can do both to make sure we don’t have power outages, but also, where’s the public benefit that we’re getting?

SG: You mentioned the disparity between high school senior class and the kindergarten class sizes on the island. What do you think the falling enrollment in Bainbridge’s highly-rated and well-funded public school district is most indicative of?

KS: What I think the falling falling class size is? That’s easy – it’s just the price of houses. You know, there’s a family that was riding down the street – you know, three rugrats, and they bought a house up at Meadowmeer and it’s a starter home that needs a ton of work. And it’s $800,000. I mean, you tell me when you had three small kids, you could afford a house at $800,000. You know, that’s the problem. And affordable housing will help,  but the big risk with affordable housing is you’re not going to get your classic suburban, Leave-It-To-Beaver-Land house, right – you’re going to end up with a… maybe in a multifamily house, or townhouses without a yard.

So part of the solution if Winslow were to become more dense and have affordable housing, or High School or ferry district, Parks needs to step up and meet it – it would be great if they purchased that large lot down at Lynwood that is yet to be developed, you know, to the south of Walt’s, and it would be great if they did something similar in the ferry district – a big two acre park right there would be awesome. And same thing is true for the High School Road area. Because we want to protect families with children, and we need them to be happy about where they are.

SG: Should Bainbridge take a leadership position in reducing waste, educating consumers, and promoting reusable items in our communities everyday life? And if so what would your key initiatives be in this area?

KS: Yeah, of course. I mean, it makes sense. I mean, I don’t really know what what the current policy is, I know that there’s some single-use stuff. It’s a really hard nut to crack. And here’s a couple of examples why. You know, you may know this thing called “forever chemicals”, the PFA’s. I mean, it’s in most plastics, the bad stuff. And the state of Maine just outlawed it. Well, you know, what that means is the state of Maine – no one’s going to sell them anything. Everything – everything has it in it.

And I think we have to be really cautious here about return on investment. Or the return on policy. I mean, it makes sense to do the right thing, but what are we actually gaining by it? I mean, like, another weird example is that you have to use a cotton shopping bag 200,000 times for it to be equal to a plastic bag. I mean, like, it makes sense not to use plastic bags. But nonetheless, you know, for the amount of times you use it, you’d have to use it 200,000 times.

It’s just daunting, how sometimes we’re not as well informed about what the choices we’re making. Some of them are just feel-good. And I think that, you know, we have to be careful about what we are requiring businesses to do. And a lot of the mandates for example, as you may know, Europe, is requiring that all plastics, I don’t know it be like number five, or whatever the number is, but that everything can be recyclable – because like half of the stuff we take to Vincent Road, gets thrown in the dump because it’s not really recyclable. I mean, some of these issues are state and federal. And you know, the City has a very hard time. I think it’s incidental what we do.

SG: With only limited time and resources to tackle all these challenges of Bainbridge life here in 2021? Can you can you think of or name 1 to 3 specific actions you would you would hope can define the legacy of this potential term of office?

KS: Sure. I mean, I think the number one thing is to align the Comp Plan in land use. And mean, this says a lot of things, you know, one is that I think better assures us that the rural quality of life is protected. It also gives us more sustainable footprint, because we’d be developing in the areas that have services and all that – lost my train of thought here – Oh, yeah – and we would also avoid some of the, like, unfortunate circumstances that have happened, like the hotel on Winslow way.

I mean, I respect Mike Burns for his effort to make this happen. And I’m also so thankful that he’s chosen apparently not to sue the city, although he still owns the lots. But the bottom line is, you know, the Comp Plan calls for 15 unit hotel, maximum on Winslow Way, and somehow we’ve ended up, you know, with an 87-unit hotel with 50 employees in an area that doesn’t really make sense. So aligning the Comp Plan in land use would hopefully give developers a clearer picture of what it is they can do, you know, without the rigmarole that they’ve had to deal with. I would also say that another change to land use will also incentivize develop – development that is more in keeping with long term, longevity of projects.

So for example, you know, the Wintergreen Project up at Visconsi, by, you know, by Lumbermen’s. I mean, it’s great but just 31 affordable units. But you know, if you’ve looked at the site plan, if you looked at the pedestrian safety, if you looked at the tractor trailer rigs coming in, it’s a goofy place for houses, I mean, it’s just all asphalt and shingles, basically, with very limited open space. I mean, again, modifying the land used to match the Comp Plan’s vision for sustainability, really, this should be a much denser housing stock that’s there, that’s much more effectively integrated into a pedestrian environment. So I’d say that’s the number one thing: Comp Plan, aligned with land use and land use plan that’s sustainable, and moves the island in the right direction. Did you want one? Or do you want more than one?

SG: You can have up to three?

KS: Wait, I don’t have Wi Fi in the house for reasons that are too long to explain. So I have to be by the window. So I have coverage.

SG: You didn’t even mentioned broadband in your infrastructure answer.

KS: Oh, my God. You know, it’s sort of like this: Electronics, you know, the transmission from the power lines. I forget what -the EMF or something? Yeah, I mean, it’s the same thing – for that. Yeah. I didn’t mention broadband because we’re a low-tech household here, clearly.

SG: So let’s turn away from those things for the final question, which is, what kind of working atmosphere will you strive to create if elected to city council?

KS: Oh, man, thanks for that. You know, my, my education, and my professional experience has been totally based on collaboration. And what’s more, it has been totally based on just elaborate public process, because most things I have done have involved the public in a very meaningful way. And I am well-versed in this and I’m also well-versed in taking darts and arrows. Because undoubtedly, they’re coming – I don’t know what, when or where.

But I think the the most important thing is that everybody is going to be honest and direct. And I don’t know, I don’t really know how Council operates behind the scenes. All I know is that some things are kind of ugly that are said and done, that seem out of bounds to me. And I’m hopeful that people will bring integrity to what they’re doing and honesty to it. And I will, based on my experience, do what I know that I can do well and bring those qualities myself.


NOTE:  Transcript has been edited only to reduce vocal repetition and improve clarity.
The uncut video is also included here, with all questions and answers (and any glitches or technical errors) intact.

Watch The Video:

Question-By-Question Chapter Markers

00:56 Community Engagement

04:25 3 Community Concerns

08:09 Land Usage

12:11 Winslow Master Plan

13:31 COVID Pivot

15:48 Affordable Housing

19:20 Equity & Diversity

21:32 Infrastructure

25:39 School Enrollment

27:15 Environmental Leadership

29:21 3 Specific Actions

33:10 Working Atmosphere

Note: Technical difficulties at 32:15


To see all eight of the 2021 City Council Candidate Interviews, head back to the Chamber News homepage…