Eagle-eyed Beachcomber readers may remember that last year we wrote about a new department forming at King County intended to improve services to unincorporated areas, including Vashon.
Called the Department of Local Services, it was up and running as of Jan. 1. More information about it will be coming in the weeks ahead, but as it takes shape in these early days, we believe it holds promise for islanders who have a range of needs and concerns, from permits to potholes to asphalt millings — still stockpiled on the island nearly a half a year after the paving project was completed and the uproar over their presence here began.
The new department includes a permitting division for development permit review, code enforcement and planning; a road services division and the director’s office, which includes the Community Service Areas program.
Last October, John Taylor, the former division director at King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks, was selected to serve as the department’s executive director. He said then that King County Executive Dow Constantine wanted to create the department so that people who live in unincorporated areas have their own version of city hall. He also said that he believes residents of Vashon and the other unincorporated areas, some 250,000 people in all, will see improvements in county services.
That is our hope, too. The island has some complicated problems right now, but if we could hold up one area that needs some high-powered assistance, it is ferry service. If we had our own city hall in the center of the island, complete with elected officials who worked there, certainly they would have weighed in the island’s ferry needs in recent months. Many islanders are deeply uncomfortable with the new schedule and its reduction of service from the island. Some have suggested an economic analysis regarding the effects those cuts will have. Many islanders also want to see technology upgrades, recommended in both the UW Evans School report and WSF’s own Long-Range Plan. We expect there to be ample opportunities for members of the new department to lend their expertise on the island and to advocate for the island’s needs with Washington State Ferries and the Legislature as we move ahead.
How the offerings of this new department will be fully launched on the island — with a splash or quietly — remains to be seen. Previously Taylor said that he expected there will be a meeting on Vashon — and that he would be visiting frequently.
But an official roll out is not necessary for work to begin. The county has designated an email address for asking questions about or providing feedback regarding county services or the new department. It is firstname.lastname@example.org. Our tax dollars have funded the department. Let’s make use of the email address — a virtual door to our own city hall.