Big decisions for islanders this election season

One thing could be said before the results came in: A lot is at stake for islanders.

This edition of The Beachcomber went to press just hours before ballots were due in this year’s election. While we were not able to report on the election’s outcome in this issue, one thing could be said before the results came in: A lot is at stake for islanders.

Flip through the King County Voters’ Pamphlet and there’s no shortage of information to chew on, but Vashon-Maury Island seems to be at a crossroads when it comes to its health care and parks.

That’s due to two measures both known as Proposition 1. One of them asks voters whether to replace the existing Vashon-Maury Island Park and Recreation District levy and the other if they want a hospital district.

These ballot measures come against the backdrop of uncertainties for island health care and parks.

Park District commissioners say without the levy, the district would go broke next year. The levy is essentially the lifeblood of the district, providing almost 80% of its funding. Without it, the district would burn through its cash reserves, commissioner Doug Ostrom has said in the past. Park District officials are hopeful islanders will vote for the $.45 levy, as a $.52 one was voted down by islanders earlier in the year.

The health care situation is not as black and white. If voters approve the creation of hospital district no. 5, a five-member board of commissioners would oversee the island’s health care needs and likely contract with a provider to maintain essential medical services (the district would not create a physical hospital).

But if this Proposition 1 does not pass, the island’s current primary care clinic, run by the Seattle-based nonprofit Neighborcare Health, would face an uncertain future. The organization has admitted that it is “challenged to fully support the cost of primary care operations,” feeding into many islanders’ fear that should Prop 1 not pass, the area would not have a primary medical clinic. Neighborcare, however, has said it has not made a decision on the future of the Vashon clinic beyond election day.

Come Nov. 7, the date of this Beachcomber’s edition, voters will likely know whether the island has a hospital district or not and if its parks will remain open. These decisions come after months of considering the possibility of higher property taxes or whether a board should be the final arbiter on health care matters for the island. A voters’ guide, as well as hard-working community members who sponsored forums on each of these matters, helped them decide.

The Beachcomber’s coverage on parks and health care this election season was meant to be informative, not supportive, of the ballot measures before voters. Throughout our coverage, however, we can’t help but think about the fact that this election seemed to be a real test for the island — a test that it can continue to be the place that it is for people who live here. Because depending on the outcome, islanders could have to consider their own Plan B.