Through the commitment and hard work of a number of islanders, the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council (VMICC) has not only come back into existence after a ten-year absence, but it has improved itself.
The VMICC was created in 1976 to provide a public town hall forum for citizen concerns. Over the years the VMICC has resolved many community issues and enabled islanders to have significant input regarding land use, transportation, housing, safety and health issues, to name a few. As a town hall forum (as opposed to a representative body), the VMICC has depended on the participation of islanders, which has been both a strength and a weakness.
In the past, if people wanted to participate in a discussion or a vote, they had to show up in person. As a result, the VMICC had developed a strong core group of committed constituents, but it could prove inaccessible to islanders who had family commitments or had limited mobility, and there were groups on the Island who felt that their concerns were not being heard.
In revising the bylaws and the policies and procedures for the VMICC, time and attention were committed to addressing these shortcomings, and important changes were made. The VMICC Board, which is responsible for setting the agendas and the budget, is now responsible for community outreach (liaison) to the various sectors on the island including affordable housing, business, culture and history, education, environment, faith, food, health and human services, Latinx, LGBTQ, recreation, safety, youth and others.
The election of seven board members has now been held online through the VMICC website, using ranked-choice voting. The seven elected board members are now tasked with selecting two more board members for their ability to effectively liaise with two or more sectors on the island that would otherwise be underrepresented.
The minimum age for voting in the VMICC has been reduced from 18 to 16 in order to allow more participation by young people. The venue for in-person meetings (when that will again be possible) has been moved from the McMurray Middle School Multi-purpose room to The Vashon Land Trust building, which has much better acoustics. Perhaps most important, islanders can now participate in VMICC meetings through video and telephone communication.
Between Oct. 22 and Nov. 3, more than 75% of the 356 people who had registered to vote cast their ballots for the VMICC Board, and the following seven candidates have been elected: Kyle Britz, C. Hunter Davis, Diane Emerson, Dawn Hylton, Camille Reeves, Nicholas Simmons, and David Vogel.
During the newly elected board’s first meeting, responsibility for outreach to the various sectors was discussed in order to see which sectors of the island were not sufficiently accounted for. During this discussion, several board members suggested that the VMICC needs to establish a stronger connection with another important sector of the island — the old-time islanders. The elected board members will be meeting on Nov. 23rd in order to select the two remaining board members, and a candidate’s ability to communicate with old-time islanders will be an important consideration.
The VMICC has already helped the Port of Seattle to locate a temporary noise monitor for airplane overflights, and there are a number of important island issues that will likely be addressed during the year ahead. The Traffic Safety Committee will be looking at pedestrian crosswalks and whether to ask King County for a radar-controlled 4-way traffic light at the Bank Road intersection in town. The development of an emergency bypass for downtown will probably also be discussed. During the November meeting, Chris Szala, Executive Director of Vashon Household, gave a presentation regarding affordable housing including the new Island Center Homes project, and the VMICC will be looking for opportunities to increase the limited inventory. Transportation issues, including ferries, buses and bridges are always a concern for the VMICC. An issue that has recently been brought to the council’s attention will no doubt prove controversial — whether to rename Maury Island.
The year ahead should be an exciting one for the newly improved VMICC.
David Vogel is a Seattle and island attorney and board member of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council.