Whidbey primary races: Adding to the discussion

The primary election is under way. The League of Women Voters forums have ended, voter’s pamphlets have been received, ballots are in thousands of Island County homes and some people have already voted. To add to the public discussion, here are some thoughts on the races that will be decided in the Aug. 19 primary in Island County.

Coupeville Library expansion

Sno-Isle Regional Library, working with the Town of Coupeville and the public, has come up with a very affordable way to expand the town’s library. Costs were kept down by the decision to increase the size of the present library rather than build a new one.

Residents are being asked to vote on two issues. First, should the service area should be expanded to the boundaries of the school district, to assure that every household that is likely to use the facility helps pay for it? The answer to this is an obvious “yes.”

Second, voters are being asked to approve a very modest property tax increase of 7 cents per thousand to finance the expansion. The library will approximately double in size, giving it the room it needs to expand programs for children and adults, enlarge its collection, and add a much-needed public meeting room for the town.

Both proposals deserve overwhelming support from the community. A library is a treasure and must keep pace with growth. For 7 cents a thousand, the Coupeville Library proposal is a bargain.

Superior Court judge

The primary election will decide the race for Island County Superior Court Judge. Incumbent Vickie Churchill is being challenged by local attorney Craig Platt.

Whether judges should be subject to elections is a controversial matter. Platt, in fact, told the Whidbey News-Times that he disagrees with it. But still he’s challenged an outstanding judge who easily deserves another term.

Requiring judges to face the electorate is a good thing. If any misconduct is alleged, then voters can judge the judge. And elections force judges to get out of their comfort zone, meet the people, and explain what they’ve been doing the last four years.

In Judge Churchill’s case, that’s a lot. Not only does she preside over half of the Superior Court cases, she has been instrumental in launching the successful drug court, the future mental health court, and in building the new juvenile detention center. She’s a tough judge, but one with a heart for giving willing people the help they need to keep them out of prison. Her work has been exemplary and she should be a shoo-in for another term.

Platt is bright, experienced and devoted to justice. Some day, he could make an outstanding judge in his own right. But we don’t need a new judge at this time.

District 1 commissioner

The race for Island County Commissioner, District 1, is fascinating. South and Central Whidbey have four candidates to pare to two in the primary, and no elected incumbent with a heavy advantage. Throw in the fact that one serious candidate, Curt Gordon, is not affiliated with a political party, and you have one of the most interesting elections in years in Island County.

The “Top Two” in the primary election outcome should certainly include Democrat Helen Price Johnson, an outstanding leader on the South Whidbey School Board with extensive experience in small business and community volunteerism. She’s too good a candidate to pass up.

The other primary favorite isn’t so easy to decide.

Phil Bakke, the affable appointed Republican incumbent, is the former planning director with extensive knowledge of the minutiae of planning. Reece Rose, another Republican, is intent on not raising taxes whatever the cost, and Curt Gordon, the independent, has a long history in private business, with the South Whidbey Parks District, and as a community volunteer.

Rose, a former Libertarian, is too prickly for the job. Good labor relations is important, and she’s too quick to blame spending on employees for the county’s upcoming budget woes.

That leaves Bakke and Gordon, both of whom are quite qualified. But from the District 1 perspective, Gordon is the better choice. He’ll bring a new approach, he’s got deep roots in the community through his family, business and volunteer efforts, and he’s not afraid to propose new ideas, such as allowing higher densities along transit routes.

Sending Helen Price Johnson and Curt Gordon to the finals in November would assure District 1 a fresh start on the Board of Island County Commissioners.

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