A voice from the VMICC wilderness

Having sat on the board of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council and shown up for meetings of the board, general council and the recent forums since July 2009, I have come to a startling demographic conclusion about our Island. I know what the census and other statistics indicate about the current population of Vashon Island and its Siamese twin, Maury Island, but I regret to inform you that only 25 people live on Vashon. Shocking, I know, but apparently true, as these are the same 25 (or 20, sometimes less!) people that I meet and greet at every type of community council meeting from board to general to forum — the very rooms where ideas, motions and, ultimately, decisions that impact the present and future Island lifestyles of those 25 or so residents are made.

Being a resident on the Island is the only criteria for membership in the community council.

A quick look over the past year’s agendas told me that some pretty important issues were presented, discussed and in many cases decided on by the council. All 25 or so of us know what’s up on citizen’s rights regarding private property and King County (July 20, 2009), failing septic systems in marine recovery areas (October 19, 2009), the fund for Puget Sound’s plan to restore parts of Quarter-master Harbor and Raabs Lagoon (Feb. 15, 2009) and SeaTac noise issues and study (May 17, 2010).

The same hardy 25 or so were educated by Julia Larson of King County Rural Economic Strategies (March 15, 2010) and, on June 21, 2010, our little band was at the general meeting to listen and be listened to by our 34th District legislators Sharon Nelson and Eileen Cody. Both seemed surprised that their Vashon constituency was so small in population, but you can be sure that we told our legislators just what the 25 or so of us wanted for our Island.

Now I gotta admit the forums did spike the meeting population a bit. The fall tourism forum brought in well over 50 people. The winter recycling forum did the same. And let’s not forget the spring free recycling event where the council organized removal and recycling for batteries, monitors, computers, appliances and old water heaters. We figured one truckload by the recycling company ought to do it for the 25 or so of us residents. Well, ferry traffic must have been huge for that weekend because people brought massive amounts of “needs to be recycled” stuff — enough to fill 25 trucks as well as one ton of “not OK stuff” that council members took care of themselves. That word “free” must have generated a heck of lot of off-Island interest. It sure kept the 25 or so of us busy.

Those 25 or so faithful attendees know that the community council has the power to endorse, alter and influence the future of the Island. Maybe it would help review how the community council works. There is a board. All meetings are open to the public, and the community residents attending the general meetings held on the third Monday of each month vote on these community decisions. Attendance of 25 (yes, that magic population number) is required to have a quorum for a vote and the majority — yup, the votes of just 13 intrepid residents — pass or fail a motion. And do our votes count beyond our little floating piece of rock and dirt? You bet they do. King County funds our council to the tune of $10,000 a year and is in constant contact with the council via the county’s designated representative. The decisions of our Council have various impacts within the county, depending on the department, issue or rule affected. But impact we do have.

One of the best examples of the incredible power us 25 or so Islanders wield will be demonstrated at the July 19 meeting of the community council. Up for a vote is whether to extend the existing Town Plan to the north in order to extend the service boundaries of the sewer district. Interestingly enough, none of the property owners affected by this motion were in attendance at the recent forum on the issue. Just remember, us 25 or so will be voting on a possible alteration to the Town Plan that will, either way, affect Islanders, and you have to live with it. If the motion is approved by the Community Council, it will then go to the King County Council. And if we vote it down, it dies. Now that seems like power to me.

Planning a move to Vashon Island? Love what you have found here? Want to have some say in the future of your community and lifestyle? I urge you to show up at the Community Council meetings. Surprisingly enough, the 25 or so of us don’t really want all the power conferred on us — we’d love to share it. And like any small town, us 25 or so have our differences but we are generally a pretty congenial group and are eager to add to the population.

— Chris Beck serves on the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council executive board.

Community council meeting

The VMICC will hold its general meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, July 19, at McMurray Middle School.

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