I was off our Rock for most of February on a cruise from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Antartica. It was an amazing adventure, and of course I filled my iPhone’s memory to capacity with thousands of photographs that I now need to sort and describe.
When I got back last week, I took some time to go through all the editions of this newspaper I had missed while away, and I was struck by how much Big Stuff happened in those four short weeks. Herewith, my thoughts on the top stories on our Rock last month:
1. The Oak Harbor school bond levy failed… again. This was the one that would have rebuilt two crumbling schools in a district bursting with students needing more classrooms. Only 35% of eligible voters bothered to vote even though their ballots came in the mail. About 55% of those who did vote supported the levy — but it needed 60% to pass. What’s up with all the parents who didn’t vote and all those who voted no? Sometimes it looks to me as if Oak Harbor residents just hate all taxes and try to avoid or defeat them; it’s a military town, after all. And when you’re in the military you never worry about who’s going to pay for what you’re doing. Somebody else above your pay grade worries about that. Bottom line: shame on Oak Harbor for not supporting its kids and their schools.
2. The mayor of Coupeville formally proposed that historic Front Street be made one way after more than a century. Anybody who’s every strolled Front Street knows how dangerous it can be with cars going in both directions hunting parking spaces and pedestrians darting out in the middle of the street. The one-way idea has been around since at least the 1920s but never went anywhere. Let’s hope that this time it will finally be accomplished. With traffic flowing in just one direction, parking will be less difficult and darting out into the street on foot will be a little less dangerous.
3. Two NAS Whidbey pilots got to buzz their jets over the Super Bowl in Arizona on Feb. 12. Both of the local pilots were women. They joined three other all-female crews from Navy Air Station Lemoore, California, to commemorate 50 years of women flying in the Navy. The world has changed indeed!
4. Angel de la Creatividad, a 30-foot steel sculpture by Mexican artist Sebastian, will apparently be placed, at long last, along the Oak Harbor waterfront at Flintstone Park. This was the sculpture worth at least a half million dollars that was donated to the city more than a year ago. It stirred up quite a ruckus as many locals couldn’t figure it out and disliked it, while more still wanted to scrap it and build a new windmill instead. I, for one, will be happy to see the Angel at Flintstone. I will enjoy telling friends and visitors what a struggle it was to accept this world-class gift.
5. SPiN Cafe received a federal grant of $636,000 to help it find and rent a new location. SPiN has been serving homeless and vulnerable people in North Whidbey for a dozen years, most recently at a church parish hall. It has received only a small amount of support from Island County and almost nothing from the city of Oak Harbor. Somehow it has found enough donors to help it maintain a day shelter with meals for the least among us. It’s good to know that the federal government recognizes how important SPiN’s work is — even if some in our local community don’t seem to.
6. WhidbeyHealth named Nathan Staggs as the hospital district’s new chief executive officer. I believe this makes him about the fifth or sixth CEO WhidbeyHealth has had in the past decade. The job doesn’t seem to have much longevity; some quit, others get fired. Let’s hope Mr. Staggs breaks that mold.
7. And finally, and perhaps most important, the will of Joseph Whidbey, for whom our Rock is named, was discovered at a house in Mazon, Illinois. Old Joe sailed with Capt. George Vancouver in 1792 and went all around our island trying to see if a river emptied nearby. He died in England in 1833 and it’s not clear how the will ended up in Illinois but now it’s safely in the hands of the South Whidbey Historical Society.
Yes, indeed, lots happened on our Rock last month.
Harry Anderson is a retired journalist who worked for the Los Angeles Times and now lives in Central Whidbey.