The League of Women Voters of the San Juans (LWVSJ) spring forums bring sunlight to transitions in San Juan County and the difference between islands. About 60 people attended on San Juan; 90+ on Orcas; 65 on Lopez; and 25 on Shaw.
For the first time, Ken Norris of micro station 1650 am broadcast the meeting live to the Town of Friday Harbor, only, and Tom Munsey filmed as usual. Friends and colleagues who missed the event may listen on fhtinyradio.com; or, see candidates at San Juan Public Access Media, sjmedia.org, and Cable 19.
Having chosen last November to change from a six-member Council with 6 districts in which voters elected a single Council member from just their district, April’s election is for a new three-member Council in which all County voters elect one Council member from each of three, newly designated, geographic districts. On April 23rd, you may vote for ONE member from EACH Residency District. District 1 being San Juan; District 2, Orcas; and District 3, Lopez.
Economics link the islands. On San Juan, islanders express concern for implementation costs of regulation, access to health care and the gasification plant proposed at Sutton and Roche Harbor Roads. San Juan and Orcas share solid waste responsibilities; Lopez is autonomous within the County. Using tax levies as a tool for community growth and infrastructure quality to balance cumulative debt and environmental degradation, who receives tax subsidy? Do, for instance, taxpayers benefit equally from the 50-year, +12% assessment on each property in San Juan’s Hospital and EMS Districts?
On Orcas, near growls greet news of Council’s 4-2 vote for placing a 5-member, 5-district proposition on this November’s ballot. Audience reaction has less to do with merits of proposal than with frustration at constant change. Confusion in lead-ership depresses voter turnout and County staff; and, may be resolved in court at taxpayer expense. Since their vote is first of three required “touches” in the public decision process, let your Council representative and candidates know what you want, soon. On April 10th, Council voted down proposal, 6-0.
On Lopez, the first hour for candidates drew more audience than the second for the $15.5 million general-obligation bond measure to improve facilities at Lopez and Decatur Schools. On the one hand, a modern campus acts as a magnet; on the other, higher taxes cause hardship for fixed-income folk. Upgrading building systems, adding rain catchment and energy efficiencies decrease maintenance and utility costs. Lopez voters will decide on April 23 if the educational boost to community and savings of comprehensive renovation combined with historic, low interest rates justify cost.
On Shaw, ferry service raises questions. What is result of reservation system? With breakdowns, who in queue rides the next boat? Will those without reservations miss doctor’s appointments or be delayed a day and incur meal and hotel costs? Residents and tourists need affordable, dependable transportation. With frequent ferry breakdowns and overloads, even fifty-percent maximum reserved might not work. If the Ferry Advisory Board does not listen to constituents, Council may appoint new members. Washington State Ferries weighs other concerns than islanders.
Given leadership changes and large infrastructure improvements, like $34 million loan to Opalco for improvements which requires cooperation with local governments, islanders need accurate, timely information for decision-making.
Visit VOTE411.org for Council candidate responses to five questions about local issues. Enter your address, click on 2 green prompts; above your map location, click on blue prompt, then “All My Races” above job description. A two-column format allows comparison by Residency District. For the Lopez bond, visit SJC Elections. Radio and media broadcasts or multiple news articles are also available to inform yourself. Leadership matters.