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Editor's Column: County needs to look more rural

Islanders could make it much easier on our overworked legislators if they would just look more rural.

Rep. Barbara Bailey and Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen have again introduced bills to define Island County as a rural county. This isn’t just something to put on some real estate company’s brochure when it depicts an inviting island development on 300 formerly rural acres, it’s got real meaning to it. In this state, if you’re designated “rural” you get more money from the government.

For those of you with memories not addled by Dance Wars and primary election coverage, you will recall that only a few years ago Island County was designated a rural county by the poobahs in Olympia. Somehow we lost that designation. How we did it isn’t exactly clear. Either the legislation didn’t jibe with the 1.5 billion laws already on the books, or some powerful legislator visited Whidbey Island, saw all the Volvos, Mercedes-Benz SUVs and Toyota Prius hybrids, and concluded we couldn’t possibly be rural. Real rural people would bury such vehicles in an irrigation ditch sucked dry by global warming. Either way, $40,000 disappeared that would otherwise have gone toward economic development endeavors, which our county commissioners are eager to restore so they can use it to pave over more rural acreage.

Our problem is you can drive all the way up the island and not notice much rural land except for Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, which, had it not been designated as such years ago, would today be the Northwest’s largest trailer park thanks to its hundreds of acres of flat, low-lying fields with good perc that are easily accessible to storms rolling in from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. By federal law, it’s impermissible to build a trailer court that’s not susceptible to flood or storm damage of some kind.

Thank goodness we have farmers and not trailers on Ebey’s Prairie, but there’s something unreal about it, as if it was frozen in time, which it was. We watch farmers plowing their fields, but suspect that if we got closer we’d see that they are Disney robots, going through the motions for the tourists. It’s so beautiful that it doesn’t have that authentic rural look we see in Eastern Washington, where there’s nothing to see but miles of wheat fields punctuated by the occasional barn with “Go Cougs!” inscribed on it.

What we need to do is adopt a more rural look so we can help our legislators regain our rural designation. That will require sacrifices from everyone: Buy a pickup made in America; wear bib overalls a couple of days a week; go together with neighbors to buy a real John Deere tractor, not some pathetic garden tractor; when it’s rainy, take off those waterproof Rockports and buy some black rubber boots at Cenex; uproot the metal deer and blue heron figurines in the yard and replace them with simulated cows and chickens; and say you’d like to vote for Ron Paul if only he’d continue our constitutionally mandated agricultural subsidies.

When this is all done we can tractorcade to Olympia to show our support of the rural county bill. And no, you can’t stop at Nordstrom’s on the way.

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