Island group invites elected leaders to talk democracy

On the heels of its first community meeting, the islander-organized group Unifying for Democracy will hold a second meeting, this time with three state political leaders on hand. The group that aims to unite Vashon’s left-leaning voters in an effort to fight for the country’s democracy will host guests Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island), Dylan Cate of the Washington State Democratic Party and Shaun Scott, a field organizer for Rep. Pramila Jayapal, at a gathering on Saturday.

“We will bring material forward from the first meeting to get some expert opinions and ideas at this second one,” Kevin Jones, one of the group’s organizers, said. “It will help us set the stage, to decide if we should do anything beyond this and if so, what will that be.”

Jones said that the group’s first meeting in May saw about 50 to 60 people attend, ranging in age from late teens to 80s, with a fairly even gender split. At the meeting, attendees were divided into groups — each asked to identify issues, concerns and possible solutions regarding current threats to our democracy.

The responses from each group were collected, then prioritized.

“We had about 24 issues that we collected from the meeting,” Jones said. “The top four were election reform and funding, multicultural and multiethnic tolerance, inclusion, and, tied for fourth, news media and public education.”

And the idea, Jones explained, is to put forth these identified issues and potential solutions to the experts on Saturday.

“We’ll round up what we talked about, and the speakers will have the opportunity to address those issues,” he said. “Maybe they can offer different perspectives or even add to the ideas. Maybe they’ll say, ‘Forget it, don’t even bother trying’ to some. But the hope is to inform ourselves as a community, to take some of this information and work to figure out how to access and improve the service of our democracy.”

Jones noted that these two meetings are the result of about six months of work, with a focus on bringing different sides of the Democratic party within the community together to work on the issues determined to be the most important in the run up to November’s mid-term elections.

“How do we get the democracy we want? What issues motivate us?” Jones said. “We on Vashon have had a conversation about our democracy, but we are all amateurs. Now we are taking our ideas to the experts. Here is a problem with how democracy serves us. Let’s see what the speakers have to say. What input do they have?”

Unifying for Democracy will will meet from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at the Presbyterian church.

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