EDITORIAL: A welcome voice for Island County

October could bring the the official birth of something that has long been in the works — the Island County Council of Governments.

The organization will be comprised of Whidbey Island’s three cities, its port districts and the county commissioners. They started meeting informally about a year ago, and now all that is required to make it official is approval by all parties involved. That could happen as early as this month.

Some voices, such as that of County Commissioner Mac McDowell, have warned against creating “another layer of government.” It could be perceived as that, perhaps, but it is no such thing. Nobody will have to go to the Council of Governments for a septic permit, auto license or land use permit. Nor need we worry that the Council of Governments will instigate a new tax — it has no such authority.

Instead, the Council of Governments will simply put all of Island County in one room for a change, where representatives can discuss issues they have in common. County Commissioner Mike Shelton described this as “a commonality of interests.”

As the years go by, such commonalities are increasingly common. Transportation is the obvious one. All parts of Island County have a shared interest in everything from road improvements to present and future service by Island Transit and Washington State Ferries. There are also common interests in communications technology, tourism enhancement, environmental protection and business creation. By putting elected leaders in one room to talk about these issues, knowledge and experience can be shared and effective approaches determined.

Oak Harbor, Langley and Coupeville are disparate cities, but they have a lot in common. The Island County Council of Governments will allow them to speak with one voice on many issues. And that’s important, especially in an age when most projects are funded in whole or in part with state and federal dollars. Usually, those dollars go to the communities with the strongest unified voice.

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