VMICC slated to undergo wholesale changes

A group of Islanders is seeking a large-scale restructure of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council, proposing bylaw changes they say would make meetings more conducive to conversation and allow the council to reach a greater number of Islanders.

“It’s a radical change, but when I explain it people are usually supportive,” said Tim Johnson, president of VMICC.

Johnson has been working for months with a handful of other Islanders to form what he calls a new direction for the council. Recently defunded by King County and stripped of its official status, the community council has struggled to find its way. The council can’t fill its nine-person board, and it often fails to attract the 25 attendees required take a vote.

The restructuring mo-tion, which was put forward last month by Johnson and five other Islanders — several of them active in All-Island Forum or Greentech — would make meetings less formal by ending the use of Robert’s Rules of Order. Johnson said the rules have proved problematic at meetings and even discouraged participation. Some who know the rules well abuse them, he said, and they have prevented open discussion of important issues.

“A lot of people were turned off by that because they didn’t know the rules and Vashon is not a very rule-centric place,” he said.

Under the proposal, meetings would allow for discussion on Island issues guided by the board chair and leave time for county officials and other visitors to make presentations. Instead of voting on motions, VMICC would use several methods to gauge community sentiment.

If the motion passes, Johnson said more community feedback will be recruited online. He’s prepared to set up a new website, Facebook page or email address where Islanders could make comments on issues important to them and vote in online polls.

“We might do a number of things until we find out what reaches the broadest number of people,” Johnson said. “Facebook has a lot of promise because of the large number of people who are already on it.”

Johnson said he and others who put forward the motion think many who don’t attend weeknight meetings would gladly give their voice online. Board members would try to take all comments and polls into consideration when communicating with King County.

“It doesn’t mean people can’t still put things forward and take votes and use the votes as a method,” he said. “It’s just not limited to one vote at one meeting. We wanted to broaden it out and ask all the people on the Island.”

Under the motion, the VMICC board would shrink from nine to six people, which Johnson called a more reasonable size.

Finally, an accompanying motion that Johnson and Islander John Runyan put forward last month and that will be up for vote on Monday would change VMICC’s election method, a proposal Johnson said was largely in response to the council’s lack of funds.

During past elections VMICC has sent ballots to every Island household, a method that Johnson said costs about $3,000. The motion instead seeks to establish ballot boxes around town. Islanders could vote online, print a ballot and send it in or drop it at a ballot box.

The motion would also do away with the current ranking system of voting, something that has caused confusion and complaints. Instead, each candidate could get just one vote.

“It’s one simple system,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted that the community council has undergone similar revisions in the past in response to Islanders’ needs and county involvement. He thinks the current proposal, while a major change, would make the group more relevant to the Island and help it continue its relationship with the county without formal ties.

Just recently, Johnson said, he felt the community council proved it still has influence when the county agreed to provide funds for homeowners along Vashon’s Marine Recovery Area to repair their septic system, something the VMICC had been pushing for months.

“I think the organization has been around long enough that if we do our job well we can still advocate to the county,” he said. “We just don’t do it on a pro forma basis.”

Runyan, who helped form the proposal, said he and others put forward a similar restructure motion last year, but it failed to pass and they formed All-Island Forum instead.

This time, Runyan said, he thinks Islanders see that the current system isn’t working.

“It seems to me this is a watershed moment,” he said. “If we can vote for new bylaws, ... then we’ve got a shot at making the community council really be effective.”


The motion to change VMICC elections will come before the council at its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at McMurray. The bylaws change will come before the council at its November meeting.


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