That’s civic engagement

For too many of us, our civic engagement consists entirely of our ballot.

This week’s front page features a thoroughly researched article by former Beachcomber editor Leslie Brown on a local debate over regional utility Puget Sound Energy (PSE), and how it seeks access to place new utility infrastructure on the island.

“Gripping stuff,” you might think, from that description alone. But the topic is important, and it’s got islanders talking about many competing values — such as environmental protection, property rights, safety, and the public’s right to know what their government (or government-regulated companies) are up to.

The topic has led the Vashon-Maury Community Council to vote to form a committee to look into PSE’s practices on the island.

Leslie’s article adds facts and perspectives culled from painstaking reporting to that discussion. She spoke to at least a half-dozen people who signed PSE easements, those who have brought their concerns to the utility company, and other local subject matter experts on the island.

We hope that her reporting will prove valuable to the committee members as they continue to discuss this complicated situation, as well as to readers who seek to understand it.

After all, that’s our job: to research and present the facts. We’re professional information gatherers, and in our best moments, we can inform readers and elevate the quality of civic discussions on topics, like this PSE story, that are important to the community.

The Community Council, like us, also carries civic responsibility. Like a municipal city council, its job is to represent Vashon to the broader world. And like us, it carries a lot of power: King County listens to council members. Local and regional organizations catch the pulse of the island through the meetings. The Council’s meetings and resolutions have influenced the county’s comprehensive plan, charted environmentally-minded agendas, and given residents a space to be heard.

Like all community organizations, the council works better when more people get involved. It needs your voice, your concerns and your perspective. We encourage everyone to find out more about the Council’s work at and attend its upcoming meetings. The Council is an un-elected body: all islanders are invited to join, and vote.

Your voice is important.

For too many of us, our civic engagement consists entirely of our ballot. Voting in local, state, and national elections is a great place to start, but it shouldn’t end there. Get your boots dirty in the wonderful woods of the democratic process.

You might just find that you like it.