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Mayor’s bungled promise
Months removed from the Port Orchard mayoral campaign, Tim Matthes is starting to feel the heat of yet unfulfilled promises.
During last year’s contentious campaign, the group Tim Matthes for Mayor sent campaign fliers pledging Matthes would forego at least $15,000 to restore Bremerton Kitsap Access Television (BKAT) to the bi-monthly city council meetings. The fliers pledged $15,000 of his mayoral salary to restore TV access that he said was vital for transparency in government.
“It’s critical you once again be included in How this City is Run,” the flyer reads, exactly.
Some are now grumbling that this pledge is yet to come true.
“I think he needs to stand up for what he campaigned about, that’s all I’m asking.” said Larry Mitchell, a McCormick Woods homeowner.
Mitchell followed the campaign closely. He resides outside city limits and makes no apologies in his strong support of former Mayor Lary Coppola.
He claims Matthes hasn’t brought any plan or vision with him to his new office on Prospect Street. What Matthes has listed as his accomplishments, such as securing funding for the Bay Street Pedestrian Pathway and repair of the Dekalb Steet Pier, were issues championed by Coppola.
Mitchell said the city needs to hear concrete plans from Matthes.
“We need to find out what Tim Matthes is bringing to the table to work on,” he said. “We at least hoped he could fulfill things he promised during the campaign.”
One of Matthes’ largest campaign promises, bringing more transparency to the city government, is yet to be fulfilled on many fronts, Mitchell argued.
Especially with BKAT. He claims Matthes’ campaign tenant of bringing public access back secured vital votes with a crucial group of voters.
“He promised the older generation down at the Givens Center who doesn’t have computer access that he would put the council on television,” Mitchell said. “Where is it?”
Matthes said he tried to bring BKAT back to council meetings. And he has given up more than $20,000 in Mayoral benefits.
Matthes chose not to take the city offered health plan and opted instead to continue with his naval shipyard retirement healthcare, saving the city around $15,000, he said. He has also refused to put in for allowed lunch reimbursements when out on city business, he said, saving the city an additional $5,000 a year.
“I have forgoed $20,000 of my salary,” he said.
Assistant Treasurer for the city, Monica Haarstad, said Matthes and his wife opt out of the city healthcare plan, saving the city around $14,000 a year. Matthes does take dental and vision insurance at a rate of $1,369 a year. Matthes has never charged the city for a meal during meetings, but the exact savings to the city is difficult to estimate, she said.
The problem with forgoing benefits, Matthes found out, is that the money isn’t then his to spend.
If Matthes anticipated during his campaign that any salary he forfeited would fall into a Mayoral fund, he was wrong, said city councilman Rob Putaansuu.
“I appreciate how he didn’t need to use those benefits, but what happens with the money is a policy decision,” Putaansuu said, noting that it was up to the council to decide how his benefits would be spent.
The soon-to-be Mayor met with Putaansuu privately in December to discuss funding BKAT. At the meeting, Putaansuu told they mayor he would not support using funds to install BKAT back to city council meetings. Video of the meetings is accessible online the next day, and by DVD when requested through the city.
“In my opinion it’s a tremendous expense for very little benefit,” he said.
The issue seemingly stopped there. Matthes never brought his BKAT intentions to the full council or even other members of the council.
The Mayor said would rather move forward than focus on a desire that wouldn’t be approved. Putaansuu said that if the Mayor wanted BKAT bad enough, by all means he should bring it to the full council.
“I’m just one councilmember,” he said. “If four other councilmembers see the benefit of BKAT, then it’s a different matter.”
The entire episode was an example of the mayor not having a proper managerial skillset to run the city, said Mitchell. If the Mayor pledged to bring community access television to the council chambers, then the filming should have started the week after he was sworn in.
Even if it required the mayor walking into BKAT and cutting a check.
“Whether he gave up his healthcare benefits from the shipyard is no concern to the people,” he said. “Just write a personal check. That’s what we thought he was going to do to begin with.”