Open Letter To The County Council
Congratulations on your election. I sincerely wish you the best in this job.
I am hopeful and concerned for the future of our county so please take my comments in that spirit.
Having taken part in the debates and arguments over the creation and evolution of the Charter, I have some opinions, backed by evidence and reason as to why the voters approved the propositions and how the Council can move forward under the new system. Please allow me to summarize the most important lessons learned as former Freeholder and Charter Review Commission Chair.
The CRC was focused upon how the Charter was working to meet the needs of Islanders. The most important lesson I learned is that these islands need to be unified. We should never forget that our islands, with their diverse interdependent communities, must be unified in the way they are governed.
The people we elect should always act in the best interest of the entire County not just their own island. I see this as one of the main reasons voters passed Proposition 1 with the mathematical precision of representation by countywide voting.
Second, the Council needs to be strong and show leadership. That was the point of Proposition 2. You are the people’s best hope for making positive changes in our local government. You need to stand up for the people and take control of the management of the County in our best interests. We expect you to be active in controlling staff not staff controlling you.
The original Charter unintentionally shifted power away from the people by weakening the power of our elected representatives. Council members came and went but staff remained in place. Administration and staff became a force that sometimes acted outside the control of the Council.
Administration and key staff people will naturally assume the leadership role when leadership is lacking. As the part-time Council members revolved out and new ones came in, the Administration and staff became the leaders. In some cases they acted less like public servants and more like overlords that felt superior to the citizens. As the representatives of the people it is your job to shift power back into the hands of the electorate.
The lesson to be learned from history is to be decisive and positive. The people need your leadership. Take responsibility for your own actions right or wrong. Doing nothing is not acceptable. We simply can’t afford it.
It’s easy to delay decisions when the choices are poor to begin with but this leads to complacency and inaction. On the other hand, making a decision and then working hard and enthusiastically to see the decision through will lead to positive results. The result may not be perfect, but your willingness to make hard decisions in the face of uncertainty means you have the courage to take responsibility for your actions and for the outcome of your decisions.
Proposition 3 was passed by 85% of voters. The people want open government. Meeting together as a group of 2, no matter how innocent it may seem to you, is a poor choice that could create legal problems for our county.
Your relationships with each other should be forged in open public session. That way no one is left out of the discussion. You can meet as frequently as it takes to hash out issues and do it in public session. This is a full-time job serving the public. Meeting once or twice a week may not be enough.
Let the manager do his job. He/she doesn’t need to be at every meeting. Don’t let the administration and staff, decide what the agenda is. Please lead the way.
The people have delegated more power to you as our representatives. Please use it to improve our county.
Thank you for listening.
(Gordy has been writing a fun filled -for the most part, and sometimes even fact filled- column for The Island Guardian for eight years. He has a talent for poking fun at us while pointing out the absurdness of the unintended consequences of many of our actions, and has become a must read for politicians and the populace. Gordy graduated with honors from Seattle Pacific University with a degree in Philosophy. He also attended Theological Seminary. He has spent most of his life sequestered in the remote San Juan Islands where he has survived by fishing, hunting, and growing prize-winning vegetables. He once owned a small chain of grocery stores in the islands. He has served on many committees and has held elected office. )