It has been a big week in politics, with news from the election still making headlines and troubling news stories, slightly worse than usual, coming out of Washington, D.C.
Here on Vashon, though, there are some happenings worth noting that could easily get lost in the crush of news from elsewhere.
Joe Nguyen is our newly elected state senator. There were many islanders who supported Shannon Braddock, who is clearly experienced after many years of working with King County. We believe she would have served Vashon very well. But we have also been impressed with Nguyen, and in the past week, he did a few things that were not just business-as-usual for a newly elected official. To a reporter here, he gave his personal phone number and email address for publication in the newspaper. That was startling, but even more startling, on a Facebook page, he provided that same information for islanders to reach out to him should they feel he is not being accountable to us and our ferry needs. On Sunday night, he rode the full triangle route with islanders Rick Wallace and Steve Stockett to better understand the route and some of its issues.
We cannot expect Nguyen to walk on water — and we know his learning curve will be steep — but after much ferry struggle in recent years, his attitude and attention are extremely welcome.
Our state representatives were also on the island last week. We would like to see them here more often, but we appreciate that they came out for the conversation on school funding, and we appreciate the Vashon Schools Foundation for making it happen. There were many notable parts of that conversation, first and foremost, the dire financial picture the school district is facing. But another came somewhat late in the meeting, when school board member Toby Holmes spoke up in a clear, calm way and addressed Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon. The two representatives had been talking about some of the other pressing needs in the state aside from education. It would have been easy to listen and feel the weight of the state’s myriad problems mounding up. But Holmes cut through all that and said to them, essentially, “You work for us, you represent us, and we expect results.”
To top it off, the Vashon Schools Foundation provided 1,000 post cards to them from islanders asking that they address the regionalization problem, lift the levy lid, fully fund basic education and provide flexibility to local districts in how they spend money.
Certainly, they have now heard from Vashon loud and clear. We hope they will act.
Finally, in recent months, it has been apparent Vashon is facing serious challenges, with the Neighborcare funding shortfall and a new ferry schedule that may reduce service in the evenings. It is clear we are now adding a funding problem at the schools to the list, barring help from the legislature.
We hope last week’s flurry of activity was a sign of things to come and that there will be more public forums on the island with our elected officials and representatives at King County for meaningful dialog as we face the challenges ahead.