“As a locally elected official, I work with members of my community on many of the complex issues that challenge our governments during difficult times. In support of Island County, I respectfully offer a short “fact check” to some of the points raised in a recent opinion piece by Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson.
Commissioner Emerson wrote that we are pushing businesses, investors and families out of our county. Data available from the Island County Economic Development Council contradicts that claim. We at the city and county level have been working together with local business owners and entrepreneurs to sustain our economy through the most severe economic downturn in our memory. Island County’s unemployment rate is on average 1.2 percent lower than Skagit County and 0.6 percent lower than Snohomish County. Permits for single-family residences in unincorporated Island County increased in a slow but steady trend from early-2009 to mid-2012 (the latest period for which data is available).
Our county is not on a tax-and-spend binge. Our county has consistently followed state law to deal with the rising cost of essential services. Remember Eynman: limiting increases to 1 percent of the revenue levied the preceding year? This limitation during upside-down economic times prevents our keeping up with inflation.
Many Island County operating departments have the lowest staffing ratio per capita of any county in our state. Our county government is operating under a balanced realistic budget in response to the hardest economic circumstances. Nevertheless, our government is under stress and our neighbors are hurting.
We’re all living in tough times that more than ever require leaders who respect their peers and hear their constituents. This is not a time to yell “Stop” as Commissioner Emerson suggests. This is the time to calmly speak the truth and move forward.
Hal Seligson, city councilman