Editorial: Good governance means putting the people who are served first

During a crisis, we look to steady, consistent leadership at all levels of government.

  • Wednesday, September 29, 2021 9:48pm
  • Opinion

During a crisis, we look to steady, consistent leadership at all levels of government.

An example of that kind of leadership is Gov. Jay Inslee, who almost two months ago mandated that many public employees, including most who work in our state’s healthcare settings, schools, and public-facing state jobs be vaccinated against COVID-19, or lose their jobs.

It was a bold mandate, among the most strict of any state in the country.

Inslee made it calmly but firmly, knowing that too many people in Washington and neighboring states, especially Idaho, remained unconvinced, after months of cajoling with incentives, to get safe and effective free vaccines that guard against the worst outcomes of the virus.

Clear science, projecting that our hospitals would be overtopped with critically ill unvaccinated people unless vaccination rates went up, made the mandate necessary.

And it hit people where it mattered most — in their pocketbooks. And we can see that at least on Vashon, for our own fire chief, it worked.

In discussing his reasons for finally getting vaccinated, Vashon Fire Chief Charles Krimmert mentioned most prominently the fact that he loved his job, and that financially, he needed it.

We hope the other thousands of unvaccinated state and healthcare workers will follow Krimmert’s lead, and do the sensible thing and get vaccinated — if only to remain employed.

For them, that’s a great personal benefit, but the greater good will be to public health. It will save lives, and free up our hospitals to care for patients with other serious, life-threatening injuries and illnesses.

It will keep children safer in public schools, which Inslee also insisted should be open five days a week, with full attendance, in our state. But in order to safely attend school, unvaccinated children must be surrounded by vaccinated adults. It can’t work any other way.

We can see the way the Delta variant has wreaked havoc in our school district in just the past month. Can you imagine how much worse the situation would be if more islanders were unvaccinated? Well, yes. Just follow national news, and see how school is going in states and communities with low vaccination rates.

So here’s to good and tough governance.

And speaking of governance, we must also salute Bob Hennessey, an islander who has spent 14 years as a member of our local school board. We thank him for his tireless service and find it very unfortunate that he thought it necessary to resign from the board due to what he called a difference of opinion, between himself and his fellow board members, on what true governance should look like.

Hennessey’s deep institutional knowledge of our district was an invaluable resource.

Elections are coming up for our fire board, parks board, healthcare district and school board, and this year, there are woefully too few candidates.

These jobs are vitally important to our community, and there are too few Bob Hennesseys out there to fill them.

Vashon Island Fire and Rescue’s commissioners have gotten a workout in the past month, as they have tried to manage a public relations fiasco and keep the department on track throughout it all. Time will tell if they managed this crisis effectively, but for now, we thank them and wish them the courage to fight on to represent the people of Vashon, who expect well-paid public servants to comport themselves in a way that is aligned with the community’s values.

We hope that starting immediately, the fire commissioners will choose to conduct their business in fewer closed executive sessions, so islanders can actually hear what is being said, by whom, and how they conduct their relationships with each other. Frankly, we also hope the presence of attorneys is not needed, as it has been recently for VIFR, at meeting and meeting after meeting.

Remember: elected officials work for and answer to us. And the administrators they oversee work for them. It’s that simple.

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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
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