Editorial: Community council discovers an even keel

Two interesting developments occurred at the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council meeting Monday evening.

First, Hilary Emmer, a former board member who has often been at odds with the current nine-member board, stood up and apologized for what she called her “bad behavior” at a previous meeting. Then Tim Johnson, president of the board, stood up and made a plea for what he called an “armistice” between the warring factions that often appear at the general membership meeting. He, himself, he said, would start — he’d put down his arms and “serve in whatever capacity you want me to serve.” 

It was a promising beginning to a meeting that was otherwise rather uneventful and quite peaceable — as the group, with 26 members present, just enough to meet a quorum, made its way through various proposed changes to its bylaws.

Unfortunately, they didn’t quite have the two-thirds needed to pass a bylaw change that would have put an end to Roberts’ Rules of Order, a stultifying set of parliamentary procedures that, as member John Runyon rightfully pointed out, has been used by some at the VMICC meetings to wield power and stifle debate rather than provide order and offer up a framework. 

Nor did they have the votes to add the concept of “consensus” to the organization’s toolbox. 

Indeed, with some of these proposed bylaw changes, fewer than 20 of those present voted. At one point, when The Beachcomber reporter stood up to move to a different part of the room, a board member came up to her and urged her to stay, fearing the group was about to lose its quorum.

The scant attendance was unfortunate. At the same time, it was encouraging to see a group of people discuss, debate and move through complex material amiably and well.

It’s hard to know if Monday’s peaceable meeting — the first in quite some time — suggests a shift at the community council. Interestingly, it comes at the same time that a group of Islanders publicly put forth another vision for an organization that could provide a venue for community-wide discussion and debate. (See “An open letter to the community” on page 8).

The vision that group is putting forward — a collaborative forum premised on a set of rules they believe would encourage civil dialogue and engagement — is very compelling. Even if our current council has discovered a more even keel, we should seriously consider the concept this group, a collection of thoughtful and engaged Islanders, is suggesting. VMICC’s history of scant attendance — except when the council’s members are at war with one another — underscores its ongoing effort to find traction, relevance and a meaningful voice.



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