Bainbridge Island City Council District 7 (North Ward) candidate Ron Peltier 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 Ron Peltier:
In the Chamber’s initial email interview: https://bainbridgechamber.com/questions-for-the-candidates-north-ward/
At the official campaign website: https://www.peltier4council.com/
At the official campaign facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/peltier4council/
Read the full interview here, or if you prefer to watch, simply jump straight to the full video version of the interview.
Stefan Goldby: In terms of community engagement, can you detail the island organizations that you’ve previously worked for, with, or volunteered at?
Ron Peltier: Yeah, back in the 1980s, I worked with the local food Co Op. And then later, I was a Little League coach on a Little League board, Coach Little League, and Babe Ruth. Was on the Babe Ruth board, too, baseball. And I worked at the recycling center. And then… I became a community activist when the Visconsi development came on, while it was being reviewed at the City for approval in 2013.
And then from there, I decided to, I was encouraged from City Council, so I ran for City Council, was elected in 2015. And I was on the Council from 2016 through 2019, for a four, full four year term. And, and so since then, I’ve… kept in touch with a lot of people, some of the Council members, and I’ve been watching most of the meetings, really interested in what’s going on the City because I think it’s has a big effect on all of us. And I think you would agree with that.
SG: Absolutely. So as you’ve been now actively campaigning and talking with islanders for a while, what are the top three concerns you’re hearing from the community? And did any of those surprise you?
RP: Well, not too much. I mean, a lot of people are concerned about land use, and water: you know, do we have enough water? What kind of land use patterns are we going to have? People do not want the, a lot of people have said they don’t want the police defunded. So I’ve heard that.
And because that was… one of the things that when we incorporated in 1991, that was one of the things that people were concerned about is that we wanted better police service than we got through the county. So that’s something I heard, oh, it was a little bit of surprise, because I didn’t remember that. But my memory has been refreshed on that one.
A lot of people just that I that I went, houses I went to a lot of people just, they don’t seem engaged, really with what’s going on. And I love it when I meet somebody who’s got an opinion about something and they want to talk about it. So a lot of stuff – say the top three – was probably… land use growth issues, water, and the police. Probably, I would say they might be the top three there.
SG: The recent draft of the county-wide land usage report suggested that the overall growth was on track to hit the projected 2036 levels, but that the growth itself was not happening in line with our community’s stated Comp Plan. Do you agree with that?
RP: Yes, I do. I do agree with that. And I’ve been a big proponent of shifting some of the density from the conservation area of the island to… basically to Winslow, and the way we could do that. The best way I think would be through a transfer of development rights program. And we’ve talked about that the City when I was on the Council, it was, it was there and we were going to do this. But maybe you’ve noticed sometimes it can take a very long time to do things at the City. Other times it can happen in one meeting and be very surprising.
But that is something that I know it was… there’s a Council member now that that I’ve talked to a lot and kind of worked on it a little bit with her -the TDR program – and looked at the ones that they have in King County. And she was hoping to get that done, but her term is going to be up. So I think sometimes Council members are surprised when they realize how long it takes to get something done. But that needs to happen.
Having more growth in Winslow especially is in line with the transit-oriented development, which is a new concept in the Vision 2050. That’s a regional plan that Kitsap Regional Council adopted almost two years ago, and I helped work on that. I was on the Puget Sound Regional Council Growth Management Policy Board when that was being worked on. And its… in part, a strategy to address greenhouse gas emissions by having people located closer to high capacity transit stations, and ours is the ferry terminal.
Plus we have we have bus traffic and when people you know, use buses and when people live in Winslow, there’s a lot of services there. And it’s a very walkable area, the closer to downtown you are. So it makes a lot of sense to have more growth in Winslow and less out in the woods. You know, you could refer to maybe as the suburbs, if you look at us as a kind of a small county. Some of the Council members take exception with that narrative, that narrative, you know, kind of sticking its nose in our business. But… I thought it was a thoughtful narrative. That that was right on. I think we need to find a way to have more growth in the center, especially Winslow and less out in the hinterlands.
SG: So that leads to a kind of obvious follow up question: What do you think requires the most urgent update in the current Winslow Master Plan?
RP: That’s a really good question. I haven’t thought about that. I haven’t looked at that Master Plan in a long time. But I think it needs to just anticipate, you know, it’s kind of interesting. I don’t know if they’re gonna work at, if the Council are going to work on that before they actually work on the new Comp Plan. It’s getting the point where the new Comp Plan review is going to be starting. So really the Comp Plan and the Winslow Master Plan kind of go together.
But I think we need to find some ways to like I said, like we were just talking about get getting more growth in Winslow and doing it in a way that doesn’t doesn’t destroy the small-town feel of Winslow and that’s that’s a little bit of a trick, right there. You know, smaller, smaller units, housing units, is one way. You know, there’s there’s a move to have less parking, and encourage people not to even own cars if possible. So… I would like to see it tie in with some of the stuff that’s in a regional plan about about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and also retaining the character of Winslow. So that’s about all I got on the Winslow Master Plan. But I think it needs to be thought of in conjunction with the Comp Plan, because it really is an appendix to the Comp Plan.
SG: It’s really about balancing the residential, commercial and community civic needs with preservation of natural resource resources, right?
RP: Yeah. And… I know you’re familiar with the hotel, and I won’t be surprised to get a question on that. But there was some issues brought up with the hotel – and one of the issues is, whose downtown is downtown? You know, I know that the a lot of the merchants want as much foot traffic traffic as they can get. Because the more people who come in their stores… the easier it is to make some money, pay their rent, and have a little left over. I would like to see the Winslow Master Plan address this issue of whose, whose Winslow is it?
I mean, it’s really all of ours. And I’ve seen it go through a lot of transformations over the last 56 years that I’ve lived here. It used to be a real sleepy little town, it was just for Bainbridge Islanders. Very few tourists, a few people would come on the Fourth of July, but we had two hardware stores… and at one point we had two or three auto parts stores, so it was a very working class community at that time, and it served our needs.
It wasn’t oriented towards tourists, but now we have that balance. And I think most people accept that. I think that that needs to be addressed. In the Winslow Master Plan is that balance between Winslow being for Bainbridge Islanders, and also being a place where people can come to visit. Come off the cruise ships, whatever, come over for the day. So I’d like to see that addressed. And I’m not sure exactly how we do it. But I think I think there’s a way to have some good policies and goals in the Winslow Master Plan to address that.
SG: COVID has prompted an unprecedented shift really, in the operations of the island’s businesses and nonprofits and even the City services themselves. What parts of that pivot do you think will become permanent changes, and how can the City best support that change?
RP: I think that what we’re doing right here with a Zoom meeting, I like to see more of that. Now, I do think there’s value in in-person meetings, I think the City Council maybe have suffered a little bit from not having in-person meetings – you become a little too distant to the people that you don’t know and socialize with on the Council.
I never experienced that. We didn’t, that is, COVID came after my term on Council… I would like to… see these these remote meetings be used, especially for meetings where we’re expected to drive to Bremerton to the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, plan, poll, or transport meeting – something like that. Maybe mix in some remote meetings and have some meetings that are in person just so you can get that you know, the stuff that happens at an in-person meeting. So that’s that’s one of the things I’d really like to see.
You know, as far as wearing masks and all this other stuff, I’d like to for that to go away, but it doesn’t look like it’s going away right away, so I think that I think that Zoom has been a big revelation. And, you know, there probably be other online meeting platforms that are going to come along. But you know, I think it’s something that we talked about, let’s reduce our carbon footprint by not having to drive to so many meetings, and now we’ve experienced it, what it’s like to do it – Zoom meetings actually work really well.
In some ways, for some things, they work better, because right now you can we can share a screen or can show each other a document a little bit easier than if you’re in a meeting, you got to hand it around or put it up on a screen or something like that. So I think we discovered a new tool that I hope we use, and I think we will.
SG: One of the biggest current challenges for the island’s business community is finding new employees. I mean, not just our community, but our country, basically and possibly the world. One of the biggest struggles those potential hires consistently point to is a lack of affordable workforce housing in our community. What practical steps would you propose or would you be prepared to take to address the island’s need for workforce and other kinds of affordable housing?
RP: Well, I do think that we need to look for any opportunity in Winslow, where we can build some affordable housing, unfortunately, I’m not aware of any way we can earmark it for, for workers for work as a workforce housing. Now maybe one of my things that I’d like to see the City do is have a lobbyist that goes to the state legislature and bring some of our issues there about taxes, about affordable housing. And one of the things I’d like that lobbyist to say, how do we designate if we, if we create affordable housing, how can we designate it for workers? What mechanism can we consider for doing that?
But you know, I don’t know if you know about the The Wintergreen project up at Visconsi? I think that’s, I think that’s a great opportunity to potentially get some workforce housing right in the middle of where there are retail outlets, I mean, McDonald’s, Ace Hardware, the banks, you got Rite Aid are across the street then the grocery store, Safeway. It’s close to schools, there’s a park across the street, there’s transit, there’s a non-motorized trail – I don’t understand there are some people at the City who don’t think it’s a good location. I think it’s a perfect location.
I was one of the activists who opposed that development, because I didn’t think we needed another shopping center. And I think now that would be a very good use is to have some housing there. I was disappointed that the City – that a majority of City Council – wasn’t willing to enter into some kind of a development agreement with the developer to help make sure that project happens, because that’s a huge opportunity to make… a substantial amount of affordable housing – 31 deed-restricted, affordable units, and then the rest of them are going to be affordable to some extent because they’re small units. And so their market value is going to be, it’s going to be less.
Gonna be more like your condominiums you see across the street there and near the Safeway there, they usually have the cheapest prices on the island. So, you know, I’m not for big projects out in the conservation area like at the Suzuki property. I think that’s a wrong place, but I will support when is at the right place. And this concept is the right place. It’s already developed. And like I said, it’s close. It checks off all the boxes for where you want affordable housing.
So yeah, we definitely need some workforce housing. And there’s our opportunity and the City has also stepped up. Council, the other night, they decided to, to help HRB with 550 Madison, that project that Cutler and Anderson are doing, there at the NE corner of Wyatt and Madison. So that was good, but that’s only 13 units, $2,000,000. 13 units. And they put some other money just as contingency – $1.7 million. So I support all that. Let’s just make sure we put it in the right place.
SG:How do you think we can best help equity and diversity be increased on Bainbridge?
RP: Well, some people say housing so they want a lot of density everywhere. I’ll agree with some additional density. Like I said in Winslow, I don’t agree with island-wide increases in density. I’m concerned about our water, the sustainability of our aquifers. I think one of the first steps in this, I was one of two Council members that went to a meeting, one of the first meetings where we had a Race Equity Task Force. And what I heard was that people of color, were feeling, they weren’t feeling wanted, or they weren’t feeling welcome on Bainbridge Island. Because not all people of color are in need of affordable housing, for example.
But what was missing was a sense of understanding that they didn’t feel welcome in the community. And for me, that’s the first step – to talk about that. And for those of us who just take for granted feeling welcome – maybe understand going out of our way to welcome somebody who is a person of color or, or whoever, who doesn’t feel welcome. And you don’t really mean for them to not feel welcome. So it just means going out of our way to do that.
That’s that’s one of the important things is to listen to these dialogues about race and equity. And one of the issues that was brought up was just having people of color having access, knowing about City government, opportunities to be involved and since, since that time, this was a couple was about three years ago, when that started. We now have a Planning Commissioner that’s African-American, we have already had Rasham, a Palestinian-American on City Council, and now we have an African-American there in Brenda Fantroy-Johnson. So I think we made some progress. I’m not sure how we, I think we just need to keep talking in dialogue and be open. And we’re going to have some differences, you know, people, some people are going to want to put density out at Suzuki or somewhere and I can’t agree with that. But I’m still going to want to talk and I hope they will too. So that we can, we can talk about it and get more comfortable with each other and understand where we’re coming from, mutually.
Can I add something?
SG: Of course.
RP: I like to add that that in 2016 I sponsored the Indigenous Peoples Day resolution. I worked with the island’s Indipino community and with the Suquamish tribe to make us 23rd city in the United States to observe Indigenous Peoples Day. So I believe in racial equity, I believe in recognizing our tribes, having good relationships with our local tribes and that we’re living right next to the Suquamish. So this is not, it’s not a new thing to me. And I’m really proud of being able to work with our, you know, Indipino and local Suquamish tribe to get that, to sponsor and get that approved by unanimously by the City Council.
SG: You’ve talked about water, so I’m assuming that’ll be one – but what kinds of infrastructure improvement is most needed on the island?
RP: I think that non-motorized are, are probably the most needed. Now I know that there’s an issue with electrical reliability on the south end and a lot of people are working from home – now they’re discovering that it can be really disruptive if you’re working from home and you can’t rely on electricity, and you have to have a generator. So that that sounds like that really does need to be improved. And it’s creating a bit of a conundrum.
We don’t have a lot of control over the electric grid. We can, I think if the Council speaks in a unified voice, they can influence PSE, but I’m not sure what the options are, they don’t want to underground. And so there it looks like there may be some impact to people who have a new high power transmission line going by their house.
But for me, I’m really concerned about non-motorized improvements, we’ve talked about them… there was quite a lot of fanfare for the non-motorized transportation plan that was approved in I think 2004. And so we’ve… talked about all these things that we want to do, and we’ve gotten some bike lanes built in some places, and some paths. But still today, if you go up Blakely Avenue from Bucklin Hill up to Blakely School, there no bike shoulders. And that’s bizarre because there’s a nice wide shoulder on the side of the road that’s not paved, that could easily be paved. And it’s just, it’s just strange to me that we haven’t got around to that.
So, one of my priorities is that I think we need to figure out a way to find money and to have more basic facilities for bikes and pedestrians. And there’s a little bit of disagreement about that right now. But I think we need to do it, we can get the most bang for our dollars with it, that is shoulders on roads. So that’s what I’d like to see us focus on.
SG: What do you think that the overall trend of falling enrollment in Bainbridge’s highly-rated and well-funded public school district is most indicative of?
RP: Well, it would be hard to say it doesn’t have to do with the price of housing, because we’ve seen housing prices go up and up. I did read recently that enrollment went up this year. And so perhaps there’s more young families with children that you know, are doing well, and they can afford housing here.
I know when I was doorbelling, I saw a fair number of school-age kids and younger families, and also a lot of older people too, but so hopefully, hopefully, that the islanders in childbearing years with kids are going to be able to afford to live here, some of the affordable housing that we talked about earlier, like the one project at Visconsi, that’ll help, you know, hopefully, there’ll be kids who will be there. So I really think it has a lot to do with housing.
And you know, and I think it’s important for people to know that we can’t just wave a magic wand and influence the price of housing. We really can’t. I mean, it’s, a lot is market driven, you know, like opening up the island for a lot of development. I’m not convinced that would make housing significantly cheaper, I think it would just make for a lot of expensive housing. So these projects like 550 Madison and Visconsi, and also preserving some of the other affordable low income housing we have… and hopefully this year is a trend that will continue with more families with kids being able to afford to live here. We’ll see.
SG: Should Bainbridge take a leadership position in reducing waste, educating consumers and promoting reusable items in our community’s everyday life? And if so, what are your key initiatives in that area?
RP: I don’t have any initiatives in mind, but I do believe that we should do that and that we need to. I think one of the things that we learned from the plastics ordinance was the importance of talking to our local businesses who are most affected by things like, you know, a ban on plastic forks and covers for cups and that sort of thing. Yes, absolutely.
I mean, I was working at the recycling center back in the 1970s and later – so I this is something that I, you know, felt strongly about for a long time. In our household, we try to minimize our plastic waste and reuse things and reuse plastic bags. And, you know, it’s hard to do. And the state is, you know, some of this is at the state level, what they’re doing is they’re going to gradually require more recycled content in plastics that are sold in Washington State, sold and used in Washington State with the idea of helping to create a market for recycled plastic. Now it’s happening too slowly. But it’s happening.
You know, so I hadn’t anticipated any kind of, you know, initiative on my part. But I think it would make sense for us to be talking and have somehow have a regular way to have an ombudsman or somebody like that who’s talking to the business community, because what’ll happen, things will happen in the City and the business community kind of seems like they’re blindsided. And we don’t want business owners to have undue influence, but still, we need to be communicating with them. Because I think that they’re part of the selling point of Bainbridge Island is far more progressive and more green.
So the more we can minimize waste, it just bolsters our reputation, I think it’s good for business, if we do it the right way. So you know, you’ve got me thinking maybe if I get elected, it’ll be one of my initiatives. What I like to do, you know, when I was on a Council, I had a list of stuff, things I want to work on, and I looked for people to work on with it. And I’d be doing my research and looking for an opportunity to bring it forward. And so, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of stuff, it’s just when you’re on Council, there are a lot of things that, that are going on. But I’m glad you brought that up.
SG: So maybe with that list in mind, you know, there will only be limited time and resources to tackle the challenges of Bainbridge Island life on Council. So perhaps you could think and name 1-3 specific actions that you would love to to define the legacy of this potential new term in office.
RP: Yeah, the City just kicked off the groundwater management plan project a couple of weeks ago, and that’s something that I advocated for about seven years ago, as a member of the public during the Comp Plan workshops – was that we needed the groundwater management plan, I was aware that they have one on Vashon Island. And we need one, I was in agreement on that. But what it’s going to look like – there’s a there’s a term and concept called “safe yield.” And that’s that’s where you basically preserve the level of water groundwater in your aquifers. And that way allows the your wetlands and streams to still function normally.
So that’s, that’s something that I would like to be known for, along with other Council members that we, that we approved, worked on and approved a good groundwater management plan that’s going to protect, you know, our water security, and in our critical areas and our wetlands into the future, and an uncertain future with, you know, some record drought that we’ve had, so that.
I would like to see us make some progress on traffic concurrency, and specifically developing levels of service for non-motorized transportation and making that part of the concurrency certification for new development. I think that would light a fire under the City, I think they would get a lot more interested in building non-motorized facilities if that were a limiting factor for new development, because the City has a built-in bias for development. And if development were impeded by a lack of non-motorized facilities, I think that we’d see a natural drift towards more funding for non-motorized.
So the water… you know, the Comp Plan is coming up again. And that’s one of the reasons I want to be on the City Council, I would like to see us preserve – and I was around for the last update – where the Council gets the final word, I would like to see us improve our Comprehensive Plan to be more internally consistent. You know, I, we knew that it wasn’t at the time. And that’s something I had an issue with, but you know, one Council member doesn’t decide what, you know, you have to compromise and you have to be part of the sausage making and sometimes it’s not pretty.
But I like to see a Comp Plan that was more internally consistent, to maintain our emphasis on environmental stewardship and just, you know, protecting the quality of life and the character of the island, but still addressing other issues you have. I think the key here is that we need Council members and members of public that are partnering with our Council members and in serving on advisory bodies and boards, who are up for the challenge of innovating, and finding creative solutions to things.
And I’ll give you an example of something. When I got on Council in 2016, one of the things that people are really concerned about were clear cuts, there was a lot of clear cutting happening where the developer building on a residential lot could clear the lot from, you know, the whole thing, they could take all the vegetation, and that was a vexing issue for a lot of people. And so I got into committee with two other Council members and a couple of planning commissioners, and we worked on that issue for a couple of years, a year and a half. before we found the solution.
And we finally figured out how to use low-impact development, which has to do with stormwater and aquatic recharge, and specifically is included in the critical areas regulations, and identified by the state as a critical area of critical aquifer recharge areas. And we, we took a lot of work, it wasn’t obvious how well all these pieces fell together. And we found I believe the only way to legally require the retention of native vegetation on the island. So that is the kind of creativity innovation that we need going forward.
We need Council members who roll up their sleeves and take on these challenges and do so over a sustained period of time. You know, focus on, an issue that needs to be you know, the whole thing with the transfer development rights… Council members need to focus on that, and have a few things that they want to do, focus on it, do their homework, look at how it’s done elsewhere, and just keep pressing on it.
Otherwise, what happens, it’s just all this stuff that you talk about, if the City has a huge work plan – there’s a lot of stuff on their work plan, too much. And you just end up spinning your wheels, oh, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do that. You talk about it every, you know, three months, and you don’t get anywhere and after a while just falls by the wayside. So I think I’ve kind of veered off of what you asked me. But that would be another thing is I’d like to see the City – in the City Council – better at managing its work plan. To be realistic, and to be better in touch, too, with its limited bandwidth for actually getting things done. So it doesn’t think it can do more as an institution – it’s really going to get done and it does a better job of prioritizing things.
SG: I think you’ve given me a nice segue into the final question, which is -What kind of working atmosphere will you strive to create if elected to City Council?
RP: I want one where people you know, you get it, sometimes you get at on a board or group, you may not like everybody, but you got to remember that everybody on there is elected. Generally speaking, sometimes you have appointments, but they all deserve to be there. And whether you like ‘em or not, you get to work with them.
And to set aside all the politics, personal stuff, and be able to to listen to what your colleagues have to say. And when someone has a good idea, give him credit. It’s the idea that counts, it’s not who thinks of it. And to really focus together and elevate the way you do your business. You know, sometimes I’ve watched Council, I’m a little disappointed in the process.
So I have some ideas about process, how it can be improved. But I think it’s just – set aside personal feelings and politics and focus on getting good things done for the community. And that means listening to community members, listening to colleagues, and working with community members as well as your colleagues. So that’s that’s what I would hope and, and when I was on the Council, last time I did work with my colleagues and members of the public.
A lot has been made of my relationship with the former City manager, but we actually worked on stuff together. He wrote a landmark tree ordinance. He took on to do that. And he consulted with me and another Council member to get that done. And when I was the deputy mayor we got along fine. I mean we have a history of of the stuff that had happened. But we set that aside and that’s what people need to do is take your personal feelings when we have an issue with somebody and put it in a little box somewhere off to the side. You don’t have to forget about it, but just set it aside for now and focus on getting good stuff done for the community.
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
00:53 Community Engagement
02:12 3 Community Concerns
03:40 Land Usage
06:39 Winslow Master Plan
10:06 COVID Pivot
12:11 Affordable Housing
15:51 Equity & Diversity
21:34 School Enrollment
23:28 Environmental Leadership
26:15 3 Specific Actions
32:40 Working Atmosphere
To see all eight of the 2021 City Council Candidate Interviews, head back to the Chamber News homepage…