Islanders last week unanimously approved a motion to overhaul the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council’s bylaws, putting in place a model that some hope will create a group that’s more collaborative and productive in addressing Island issues.
The motion, put forward in the fall and approved last Tuesday in a 39-0 vote, will eliminate the council’s use of Robert’s Rules of Order, which some have said bog down meetings and prevent conversation.
Under the new bylaws, VMICC board members will gauge community sentiment on Island issues by conducting informal polls and hearing comments at meetings and collecting feedback online via Facebook and email. Board members — rather than Islanders at meetings — will then vote on issues, presumably informed by what they’ve heard, said VMICC board president Tim Johnson.
“We’ll entertain a representative government ourselves a little more,” Johnson said.
“Theoretically you’ll reach out to a lot of people who don’t show at meetings and find out what they feel,” he added.
Johnson, who was part of the group that put forward the motion, believes that under the new model the board will be able to more effectively communicate Islanders’ views to county officials and will in turn form a better relationship with them. He called the relationship critical since the council this year was defunded and stripped of its semi-official status.
“Getting on top of the future with our elected officials is important,” he said.
The restructuring proposal was put forward in September by Johnson and five other Islanders, several of them active in GreenTech or All-Island Forum. The group spent several months crafting the proposal, which was then reviewed by VMICC’s governance and policy committee.
A small group of people skeptical about the proposal showed at last week’s meeting, Johnson said, and questioned whether the council should take away Islanders’ voting power and give it to the board. A long discussion ensued, he said, and a couple small changes to the motion resulted — one being that the board would contain eight members rather than the proposed six.
‘They wanted to make sure it took more yes votes to get something decided on,” he said.
Several well-known Islanders spoke at the meeting in support of the motion, Johnson said, and ultimately those who had doubts presumably changed their minds, as no one voted no.
He said the give-and-take discussion that occurred was promising to see.
“It was the beginning of what I’ve been hoping to see, that our meetings and interactions are more related to discussing what’s on our minds instead of lining up on opposite sides of the vote,” he said.
In the coming months, Johnson said, he and others will focus on how exactly to implement the new model and would likely set up a new Facebook group and email chain to reach out to those who don’t regularly come to meetings.
Johnson admitted he doesn’t know exactly how the new bylaws will play out, but said clearly the old model wasn’t working.
“That’s the exciting part; it’s something new to try,” he said.
Meanwhile, the council is also looking to fill a vacant seat on its eight-person board. Islanders Terry Sullivan, Max Slade and Stephen Buffington were recently voted onto the council, while Carl Sells resigned for personal reasons, leaving an open slot.