Easing restrictions on small farms and improving education were the top concerns among residents at a meeting with state Rep. Norma Smith this week.
At a meeting in Clinton, Smith’s hometown, ahead of the 63rd Washington State Legislature, a couple dozen people let their representative know what mattered to them.
The divide the state route creates and how the South Whidbey area is largely passed by ferry commuters eager to speed up the 35 mph zone was a big concern of Doug Hofius, a member of the Clinton Community Council. He told Smith that more speed limit signs are not the solution.
Smith has concerns with the WSDOT and its ferries division, citing the recent added cost of the Highway 520 bridge replacement, which is estimated at $170 million. One of the issues in the legislature, said Smith, is addressing the differing needs of urban places such as Seattle or Everett and rural areas like Whidbey Island.
“That’s where we have most of our misunderstandings,” she said.
A member of the state’s Higher Education Committee and a former South Whidbey School Board member, Smith said the state’s focus is filling gaps in the “unbelievable misalignment” between available jobs and the training offered in K-12 schools. To her, it meant more technical programs to fill the state’s production sector, one part of what she called a “three-legged stool,” along with technology and service sectors.
Her role on the education committee was related to her high-ranking role on the Technology and Economic Development Committee. She touted the creation of a training program for legislators to better understand the energy sector — hydroelectric, wind, tidal — which, in turn, makes for better policies and regulations, Smith said.
“If we don’t handle our energy policy wisely, our regulations wisely, guess who is in the crosshairs?” Smith asked. “Our production sector.”
The 63rd Legislature will convene for its regular session Jan. 13.