On November 7, 1991, the residents of Bainbridge Island vote to change the name of their city from Winslow to Bainbridge Island in response to Winslow's annexation of the entire island in 1990.
An Island or a City?
In sharp contrast to the previous year's debate over annexation, the vote to change the city's name occurred with little debate. In the annexation election, residents on the island had to decide whether an expanded city of Winslow could effectively govern the entire island or whether the area outside Winslow’s existing city limits would be better served by its own government or by Kitsap County.
Emotions ran high in the weeks preceding the annexation vote. The Seattle Times reported, “The islanders are restless. Last week there was loose talk of car bombs. Eyewitnesses encountered a political activist packing a gun, and threats were recorded on telephone answering machines.” To some annexation would mean the loss of the island's rural character and high quality of life. To others, the only way to manage growth and preserve what remained of that prized island way of life was to manage the entire island as one city.
Those supporting Winslow’s bid to annex the island organized as Home Rule for Bainbridge and argued that local government making land-use decisions would better curb development. Those opposed, led by the No City Committee questioned Winslow’s ability to govern the island and suggested the real motive for incorporation lay in their desire for the area’s tax revenue and to let developers have free reign. They feared that unfettered development would change the nature of the island and drive lower- and middle-income residents out.
Preserving the Island Character
The vote came in November 1990 and the residents’ strong feelings were reflected in voter turnout: 71.5 percent of eligible voters. The election was close -- 3,193 in favor, 3,057 against. With that slim majority, annexation carried the day and all of Bainbridge Island came under one government.
The city continues its efforts to manage growth today. A Comprehensive Plan updated in 2004 seeks to balance preservation of the community's rural nature with the demands of development. Less than 1 percent of island land continues to be used for agriculture while 41 percent has been developed for homes.
Still, the Winslow neighborhood retains its small-town feel, even with thousands of cars coming and going each day on the ferries. A number of historic structures remain and the Bainbridge Island Historical Society will reopen a renovated 1908 schoolhouse in the fall of 2007, helping to remind people of when the settlement on the harbor included just a handful of families.