Commentary, Editorial Page


Self Governance and Social Agendas

Feckless: Lacking initiative or strength of character; weak or ineffective.

In a whirlwind of public policy, which you may have missed, Redmond was the sudden recipient of a new homeless center; by the time most citizens knew of the project, it was already an accomplished fact. The center was originally intended for Kenmore, but the citizens of Kenmore were alerted before approvals could be rushed through. Filling their council’s chambers, they delivered such a blend of hard questions and statements of opposition that the project was not approved.

You might assume this was a triumph of democracy, but Jay Inslee was outraged, using the term “feckless” to describe the little people who disrupted the plans of the public ecosystem. The project was moved to a more compliant Redmond, and Inslee then turned to the state legislature, supporting HB 2474, which would permit the state to punish any community that inconvenienced such pet projects. Broad-based backlash against this piece of authoritarian statecraft saw the bill quickly abandoned.

Not one, but two triumphs of democracy? That might sound like the happy ending, but you can be sure that all the technocrats with all their pet projects are still on the prowl. What might this mean for Vashon?

Without questioning the merits of our own new development at the Vashon Community Care Center (VCCC), it is a fact that the project was assembled and committed to before the public was made aware of the plans. The public was invited – after the fact – to marvel at it and submit questions that may or may not be addressed. Our betters in county and state government have a playbook, and it worked here on Vashon, and in Redmond. Don’t be surprised if some reprisal hits Kenmore in the next year or two.

One of our affordable housing developers once commented during an interview on Voice of Vashon that public policy chooses favored themes, and all the money flows towards projects that fit the theme. I believe that 20 years ago, the concern was for members of our community with modest means – they held down jobs, had families, and Vashon benefited by their being a neighbor. Thus, affordable housing. But public favor has drifted away from such people, moving instead to serve irregular immigration, people with addictions, and/or mental illness. More and more of what is to be built with public funds will serve these communities.

For a new kind of development, there are always questions a community would do well to ask before committing. What is needed when somebody arrives who doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t necessarily know or respect our laws or customs, and is going to be unemployable for the foreseeable future? Or, what is needed for somebody who exhibits periods of disruptive, threatening, or even dangerous behavior? What sort of staff of translators, social workers, medical specialists, critical transport, and law enforcement must be immediately available to reasonably host such new members of a community?

These and more are the questions which the citizens of Kenmore asked their city council. The mayor then decided that her duty in this situation was to hold back approval. One governing approach is to have answers to the questions before you start. There are other approaches, most of them much more authoritarian.

Vashonites would do well to take a hard look at long-empty buildings here on the Island. VCCC has been snapped up, but there are more. You can even look at open acreage – the state can usually brush aside development obstacles that would entirely block a mere citizen. Washington just disclosed that the sum of $340 million dollars was scheduled to granted to irregular immigrants.

How big a facility could they build on Vashon for a paltry $5 million? What if the budget was $20 million? Unlike Kenmore, Vashon has no authority over projects on our Island; we have to live with what the King County Council decides for us. Dow Constantine was as indignant as Inslee in responding to Kenmore’s decisions, making it likely indeed that a project on Vashon might proceed at a brisk pace with little concern for community input.

Vashon’s only real defense is to be proactive. For something as massive as a county or state project, the only option is to apply pressure as early and as vigorously as possible. As a community, we must keep an eye on each major property, and the local organizations that might be used to usher in a new government development. We don’t need to reject – NIMBY-style – all developments. But we certainly want to make sure the hard questions are answered before we have to live with the results.

March 7, 2024

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loopeditor Writings and other postings by the Vashon Loop Editors