I read twice reporter Jessie Stensland’s article, “Commissioners deny grant, calling Coupeville ‘anti-Navy’” in the Whidbey News-Times this past weekend. I also followed exchanges on Facebook related to the article. I found the situation extremely troubling in regard to policy and decision-making in Island County going forward.
On the county website, I listened to the audio recordings of the Oct. 26 Council of Governments meeting in which Mayor Molly Hughes presented the application for Rural Economic Development Grant funds to upgrade infrastructure, install lighting, build public restrooms and enhance the usefulness and character of the Coupeville Community Green. It justified the use of .09 money for the purposes presented. When a motion was made by Commissioner Price Johnson to approve the application and move it on to the commissioner level, the vote in favor was unanimous.
I also went to the video of the commissioners’ Feb. 7 meeting. There were other Rural Economic Development Grant applications on the agenda also presented Oct. 26. These were discussed and passed unanimously, but there was no mention of the Coupeville application.
I then reviewed the audio recording of the commissioners’ Feb. 8 workshop. Toward the very end, Budget Director Elaine Marlow brought forward the .09 application from the Town of Coupeville, which quickly led to a heated discussion of the town’s role in responding to the Navy’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Who determined the agenda for the Feb. 7 meeting, and why was the Coupeville application not included with the others presented during the Oct. 26 meeting? Was there collusion to keep it from the meeting agenda?
If Ms. Marlow had not brought this issue to the attention of the commissioners at the workshop, would the Coupeville application simply disappear somewhere in some commissioner’s office? Was there collusion to bury the application or ignore it?
Will the public see an agenda item in the upcoming regular meeting of the commissioners where the Coupeville application will be moved upon, discussed and have a real vote? There is none scheduled at this writing.
Does this set a precedent to withhold funding for any entity that disagrees philosophically with these commissioners?
How might this type of reaction affect county employees who disagree with an individual commissioner or a taxpayer seeking a building permit?
Is this the type of leadership that leads to sound decision-making on behalf of the citizens and taxpayers in our county?
I would hope that answers to these questions would be forthcoming.
Solutions that read like the slamming of a door are not what the taxpayers of Island County are looking for. We want solutions that best serve all who found Island County to be a special place to live.
Isn’t that the role of the elected officials we all pay to serve us?