Community council has great potential

I’m excited about the initiative to bring back the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council. I hope that the new version will be even more effective than the old.

We need a strong voice to ensure that the unique needs of our islands are addressed by the ferry system, the county and other government agencies. But I hope that the community council will also help us to build on our island’s many strengths. Could the council facilitate a community conversation that would result in a vision for our islands as a model of environmental sustainability? Could the council organize task forces to develop strategies for more mutual support, living wage jobs, opportunities for young people and better support for local farms, businesses, artists and musicians? Could it help to establish a community foundation that would provide more funding for local nonprofits while making giving more rational and allocations more effective? Perhaps it could even issue our own island currency.

Of course, this is much too ambitious for a community council as previously constituted. If its members simply stand for at-large election and limit outreach to public input at their meetings, the council will have no power and provide limited value to the community. But a council could be a tremendous asset if it sees its role as listening to, uniting and mobilizing the community’s many and varied voices and skills. It might work best if members each have a defined constituency with which they can be in regular communication and to which they are directly accountable. One way to do this would be to have each councilmember elected from a specific group of neighborhoods. Another would be to comprise the council of representatives of the many and varied associations that already do so much for our community. Let’s make the most of this opportunity!

— Jim Diers

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