Last Thursday’s Vashon Health Care District meeting at the Vashon Presbyterian Church started off with a humorous exchange between its board members.
It began when the board of commissioners’ president, Tom Langland, remarked upon calling the meeting to order that he had “no idea” how to do that, “so I’m just going to do it.” The meeting was only the second since islanders voted for a hospital district in November.
The comment prompted another commissioner, Donald Wolczko, to reply that he should have remembered to bring his gavel. Langland told him he could just “take your shoe.”
A few minutes later, Langland explained “the ground rules” of every meeting and said that as board president, he’d be responsible for “controlling the tempo” of the meetings.
“We’ll see how that goes, too,” he said. “Luckily, we’re a very friendly and like-minded group so far.”
The remark prompted commissioner Eric Pryne to interject, “we’re just getting started,” causing other board members to laugh.
“I’m sure it will be more contentious later,” Langland said.
While it’s too early to say what the future of health care for the island will look like under a public hospital district, islanders should know that in just two board meetings, the commissioners seem to like each other — and that’s no insignificant matter.
With the election behind us, many islanders — whether they voted for Proposition 1 or not — are observing the board’s meetings as a way to determine if having a hospital district was the right course of action for Vashon. If they come to believe the board members have good personal chemistry, it could go a long way in creating public buy-in for the commissioners’ decisions regarding health care services.
Those decisions include the hiring of a superintendent, the health care district’s chief administrative officer; determining, through a needs assessment, provider(s) of health care services; finding interim funding for 2020; and, later, establishing a levy rate on people’s property taxes to help pay for the cost of those services.
The commissioners’ “friendly and like-minded” mentality also appears to extend to how board meetings will be conducted. Langland told the public at the Dec. 11 gathering that the board would not adhere to “strict interpretations of Robert’s Rules of Order.”
“That’s more appropriate for what’s going on back east, or a larger group, or certainly a group where there’s not a lot of harmonies,” he said. “For now, we’ll use the elements of parliamentary procedure, but in just a kind of friendlier version.”
The somewhat formal procedure held true during the board’s public comment portion on Wednesday. Langland allowed a woman who showed up late a little more time to speak beyond what was initially allowed. Towards the end of the meeting, he allowed several other residents to speak, including one man who asked if the board would come up with a mission statement for the new hospital district.
The Dec. 11 board meeting showcased the commissioners’ fondness for one another, as well as their respect and appreciation for their constituents. There is reason to believe that all those elements translate into sound decision-making for island health care.