Participation of islanders crucial to new community council

Please join us — it’s your island.

  • Saturday, June 20, 2020 2:00pm
  • Opinion
Ella Yarkin

Ella Yarkin

With the world experiencing a rising tide of destabilization, representation of Vashon in local government is more important than ever. As a part of unincorporated King County, the island is in a unique position, lumped into the larger Seattle area but lacking in the ability to voice its concerns to the county. Since the past community council disbanded around 2010, a hole in island government has been waiting to be filled.

The Vashon-Maury Island Community Council (VMICC) aims to fill this void by including all islanders in discussing the issues that face the island and make sure that they are not overlooked at a county level. A committed group of islanders has been working to get a council successfully up and running, taking specific notes on how to avoid the ailments that lead to the downfall of the past council.

An especially important issue of the past council was the lack of diverse participation on the island. To amend this, the proposed policies and procedures of the new community council designate each board member as a liaison to 13 plus sectors of the island, including youth, the Latinx community, and affordable housing. The board will not act as representatives of the sectors they liaison with but instead find out what issues are relevant in each community and encourage a broad spectrum of participation.

The goal of VMICC is to not simply become another island sector itself but be a unifying nonpartisan organization that the entire island can have a voice in. Coming together as one highly participatory community will lend Vashon more influence and credibility when relaying its concerns to the county.

The best solutions to the challenges that we face as a community, a nation, and a world, will come when everyone is given a platform. VMICC can serve as that platform in our community and will act as a starting point for the entire community to listen to each other, understand each other, and make sure that Vashon is the best that it can be.

Another concrete measure taken to ensure that everyone can be heard is to replace the old council’s Robert’s Rules of Order (RRO), a guide to running meetings based on the rules of the British parliament, with the simpler Democratic Rules of Order 10th Edition (DRO). In the past council, some people felt that RRO could be taken advantage of by those who were familiar with them and be used to silence others. The DRO is much shorter, simpler, and aims to fix the knowledge discrepancy and weaponization of RRO.

To avoid yet another past ailment, VMICC will not be taking money from the county and is not a government entity. This means VMICC will not be subject to the Public Records Act (PRA). The old council fell apart in part because of a lawsuit based on the PRA and VMICC does not want history to repeat itself. Minutes and agendas from committee, board, and general meetings will, however, remain available to keep VMICC accountable and transparent to the community.

Despite the pandemic, VMICC has been making excellent progress and holding virtual monthly meetings. At the June 15 meeting, there was a vote to ratify the bylaws and policies and procedures. The next meeting in July will begin to discuss issues such as road conditions and plane noise to start progress in the community, followed by the formation of a nominations committee in August to organize elections for board positions in November.

Moving forward, VMICC will only be effective and useful if the issues that are discussed are relevant and important to the island. The only way to find which issues those are is from widespread participation in the council. A large and diverse range of committed candidates for the board is crucial to VMICC being as participatory as possible as each board position plays a role in encouraging participation from various island groups. Come November, a rigorous election process and high voter turnout would kick off the council to an inclusive and effective start. Widespread and diverse participation in the council is of great importance, not just to VMICC, but to the island itself and how our community moves forward as a part of King County. Our next meeting is at 7 p.m. on July 20 on Webex. See for how to attend. Please join us — it’s your island.

Ella Yarkin is a junior at Vashon High School and the online editor for The Riptide.

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