EDITORIAL: Loss of task force members is unfortunate for Vashon

Two of Vashon’s representatives on Washington State Ferries’ Triangle Route Task Force resigned last week and a letter sent to the force and later provided to The Beachcomber reveals that one member’s habit of speaking up about problems facing the system outside of meetings was cause for his being asked to resign.

According to the letter sent last week, the work of the task force was “being undermined on social media and in local media coverage,” which was allegedly in violation of the force’s charter. While the charter makes no mention of speaking up on social media or to the press, Ferries officials say there were verbal agreements regarding the need to bring up concerns not only publicly, but in task force meetings. But being honest with those affected by the ferry system and its challenges should not be grounds for dismissal or forced resignation.

Greg Beardsley, head of Vashon’s ferry advisory committee, was asked to resign from his Triangle Route Task Force position because of the comments he was making on social media and to The Beachcomber about the triangle route, ferry system and his frustrations with the “quick win” solution that has been put in place. He did not hold back his opinions and say that everything would work itself out. He pressured Ferries to come up with a better plan, which is exactly what was, and is, needed on the force.

Most recently, Beardsley called on islanders to take photos of what they found problematic on boats — leaving partially empty, long lines — and send them with a letter to the ferry system. He said the complaints could serve as documentation if the ferry issues ever go to “the next level … the Legislature or the governor.”

“If half the island is complaining, that is a pretty powerful voice,” he said in a June 27 Beachcomber article.

While Beardsley’s encouragement of sending in documentation of issues is far from what the ferry system wants to deal with while the temporary “quick win” solution is ongoing, it’s a necessary part of the process and gives frustrated islanders a voice that doesn’t always feel heard.

A second Vashon task force member, Hugh Turner, also resigned shortly after Beardsley. He said he was frustrated by the process and believed the whole task force, and effort to fix the system, is a publicity stunt by Ferries. He said on social media that Ferries “don’t have a complete picture of ‘where we are now’” and his patience had worn thin.

Both men have years of experience with engineering, transportation and logistics that could have been put to great use if Ferries were to put aside concerns about public image and get serious about informing the public, explaining limitations and listening to the experts they had volunteering their time.