Whidbey League of Women Voters encourages voter participation

Thanks to the Whidbey Island League of Women Voters, islanders are becoming more aware that there is an important election starting late this week.

The League sponsored a Candidates and Issues Night Tuesday in Oak Harbor, and there’s another one Thursday in Coupeville. If you missed the Oak Harbor event, be sure to be at the Coupeville Recreation Hall at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Island County Auditor Sheilah Crider said she planned to mail out ballots this week, so voters should find them in their mailboxes soon. Although the official primary election date does not fall until Tuesday, Aug. 19, thanks to the mail-in ballots most voters will have long since cast their ballots by the time election day rolls around.

This is not just another ho-hum primary. Two important issues will be resolved. Central Whidbey voters will decide whether they want to create a Coupeville Library District to coincide with the school district’s boundaries and, if so, whether a tax should be approved to pay for upgrading and expanding the existing library. It’s estimated to tack another $20 a year onto the tax bill of someone owing a house valued at $300,000.

The other issue to be settled involves Island County Superior Court, where incumbent Judge Vicki Churchill is being challenged by Craig Platt. The winner will not have to compete in the November general election, as the matter will be settled on Aug. 19.

In other local races, the most competitive appears to be for Island County commissioner from District 1, which encompasses South and Central Whidbey. Appointed incumbent Phil Bakke is trying to retain his seat against challenges from Curt Gordon, Helen Price Johnson and Reece Rose. Bakke and Rose are Republicans, Price Johnson is a Democrat and Gordon is unaffiliated with any party. This is an interesting test of the new “Top Two” primary, in which the top two vote-getters advance to November, regardless of party. Fortunately, we don’t have professional pollsters in Island County telling us what’s going to happen. We still have to wait for the vote count.

There are a host of other races on the ballot, from governor to U.S. Congress, to 10th District Senate and House races. Many candidates are dreaming of pulling off an upset in a summer primary when a lot of voters may not be paying much attention. But in Island County that is not the case, as the League of Women Voters is making sure everyone has a chance to meet the candidates of local importance.

It’s not easy hosting a Candidates Night, as it requires notifying the candidates, reserving a room, finding a moderator, and welcoming the public. When you’re in Coupeville tomorrow night, remember to thank a League member for furthering democracy in Island County.

Don’t forget about orcas

Whidbey Island’s Orca Network continually does good work in keeping orca whales in the minds of islanders and others who love Puget Sound.

The small population of Southern Resident orca whales delights islanders on a regular basis on both sides of Whidbey Island. Their great black-and-white bodies can be seen in Penn Cove, Admiralty Inlet and Saratoga Passage as they pursue their favorite meal of salmon. People with view homes see them most often, but sometimes others get lucky and see them while boating, walking the beach or taking a ferry. It’s a sight that is never forgotten. Without the orcas, the Puget Sound area would lose its soul.

On Friday, Aug. 8, the Orca Network is remembering a dark chapter in the history of Puget Sound: the days in the 1960s and early ‘70s when orcas, then called killer whales, were captured and sold to aquariums. Forty-five whales were captured while 13 others died in the roundups. The population barely survived and to this day is still struggling to recover. Orcas are long-lived in the wild, but only one captured orca is alive today. Efforts continue to free Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium and bring her home to Puget Sound.

The Captain Whidbey Inn, which overlooks Penn Cove in which the most notorious orca roundup took place, is the site of the Aug. 8 event. There will be displays, speakers and much information on how to help save the orcas. If you want to get involved, email info@orcanetwork.org or call 1-866-ORCANET. Proceeds further educational efforts, which is ultimately the only way to save the orcas.

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