During a town hall meeting at McMurray Middle School last year, Joe McDermott, who represents islanders as a member of the Metropolitan King County Council, was asked how the county can better communicate with Vashonites. Part of McDermott’s answer included saying events like the one he was participating in are helpful.
“And it’s already been said tonight one meeting like this a year isn’t adequate,” he said.
We agree, Mr. McDermott, it’s not. So why hasn’t there been a town hall with the county on the island since you made those comments in June of 2018?
Whatever the reason, islanders will have that opportunity at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23, when King County’s Department of Local Services will convene a 2-hour “Town Hall Open House” at Vashon Island High School, 9600 SW 204th Street (and by the way, McDermott himself will be there).
One county official told The Beachcomber these meetings are a way for Vashon-Maury islanders to have a “one-stop-shop” opportunity to meet with personnel in the various divisions housed in Local Services, a department set up with unincorporated communities like Vashon-Maury Island in mind. The department was launched Jan. 1 after gaining approval from the council McDermott chairs. It received initial support from County Executive Dow Constantine.
We strongly encourage islanders to attend this town hall — or any meeting with public officials — because constituent feedback should have the biggest and loudest microphone when it comes to what happens in our communities. And while it’s hard to predict exactly how the conversation between residents and officials will go before the meeting next Monday, we hope the tone is civil at a time when Americans are so divided over politics on the national stage.
The good news, one official with King County told The Beachcomber, is that the general public’s attendance at these Local Services town halls is increasing, although there’s only anecdotal evidence to suggest that.
A quick Google search doesn’t show much in the way of town hall attendance studies. But the Congressional Management Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that promotes more interaction between Congress and the public, found that after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the average attendance of a town hall with a congressional representative was 281 people. Maybe not that many people will show up to Monday’s town hall, but it would be an encouraging sign that people care about their government’s workings if they did.
The tenor of town halls can vary — just think about the ones that include politicians with a national name recognition. Earlier this summer, during a CNN town hall, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio was heckled over his handling of the Eric Garner case. This example — and countless others — could perhaps teach us all that having an opinion doesn’t mean we have to leave politeness at the door.
So if you want to hear from Mr. McDermott and other county officials about what they can do to help the island, then attend the Sept. 23 town hall. And if you have something you want to tell them, don’t be afraid to speak into the microphone. Civic engagement is one of the strongest ways to hold our government accountable.