Covering local news these days is a demanding job

The fracture between Sea Mar and VHCD impacts our local taxes, but more importantly, the health of our community. Beyond that, at issue in the current situation is Vashon’s continued control over what happens in our own community.

As summer turns to fall, it’s been hard to keep up with the pace of unfolding news on Vashon.

Last week, we reported on the announcement by Sea Mar Community Health Centers that it would leave Vashon’s Sunrise Ridge Clinic.

This week, we report that Sea Mar has now said it would, in fact, like to stay there, using the facility as a base camp as it expands its presence on Vashon, all without continued involvement or subsidy from Vashon Health Care District (VHCD).

The fracture between Sea Mar and VHCD matters to all islanders. It concerns our local taxes, but more importantly, the health of our community. Beyond that, at issue in the current situation is Vashon’s continued control over what happens in our community.

While Sea Mar’s announcement — that it would like to not only build a new healthcare clinic here but also perhaps provide other services including dental care and affordable housing — sounds generous, we agree with VHCD board president and longtime islander, Tom Langland. We’d like to know a lot more about these ambitious plans.

Quite frankly, those of us who have been on the island for a long time know too well what can happen when Vashon does not control its own healthcare decisions, delegating them instead to off-island healthcare providers such as Highline, CHI Franciscan and Neighborcare.

We also have the recent and painful experience of seeing Transforming Age, another large off-island nonprofit, shutter Vashon Community Care (VCC) one year ago — a care facility for elders that had island roots going back to 1928.

Transforming Age executives, too, touted ambitious plans for the facility when they took over the operation of VCC. Now, it continues to sit empty, with a fate not to be determined by islanders — something that still stings. That said, Sea Mar does deserve our gratitude for the revitalization of our clinic and the care its stellar staff has provided to Vashon patients since late 2020. Whatever happens, we want that staff to stay on Vashon. The Sea Mar story alone would be enough to report on — but wait, there’s more.

This week, it has been our disturbing duty to report on the investigation of a local teacher, now placed on administrative leave after being accused of serious misconduct. King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) is also involved in the matter, conducting what it now describes as “an open and active ongoing criminal investigation.”

There’s plenty of talk around town about this — including many second and third-hand accounts of who was involved, and what happened to whom, when. You won’t read those accounts on our pages, but rather, only known, vetted facts about the case, obtained from authorities and those directly involved in the situation.

We must adhere to the highest standards of our profession when it comes to this kind of story, taking great care not to cause additional harm and never, ever naming suspects in a criminal investigation unless they are charged with a crime.

Even in the cases of those who are charged with crimes, we do not put on trial and convict members of our community on the pages of The Beachcomber, ever. Our job is to report known facts that the public has a right to know. That said, in a case such as this, we hope that the school district will operate with as much transparency as possible, going forward, as a public institution that holds the community’s trust and treasure.

We’ll continue to cover the story, of course, and get to other important stories, as well, that have taken a back seat in the tumultuous last few weeks.

We owe island readers a follow-up story about how the Vashon Post Office has, in the last month, suspended home residential service in neighborhoods including Patten Lane, Point Vashon Drive, Corbin Beach, Burma Road and Sylvan Beach communities, citing safety issues on narrow roadways.

We owe islanders reporting on Vashon Island Fire & Rescue’s changes and plans under the direction of new Fire Chief Matt Vinci. We need to get back to Transforming Age, to find out if there are any new developments with VCC.

There are important environmental stories, stories about island nonprofits, and profiles of remarkable people in our community that we need to bring to you.

But we need your help. As many people who call or email our editor with a story idea know, we’re again down to one person in our newsroom and looking to hire an additional reporter. It’s a job that requires real skill, but also, a heart for community service.

With this much news on Vashon, we need The Beachcomber more than ever to provide accurate, responsible journalism about life in our community. Think about it.

Is community journalism something you or someone you know might like to try, as an act of service to Vashon? Even if you write only one story for us — perhaps that heartwarming feature story or personality profile you’ve been asking us to write — we’d be grateful.