Let us know what you think ...
- Overview - Of the 36 elected positions to be filled, 24 (67%) are uncontested. We think having that many uncontested elections is an indicator of an unhealthy democracy. Is it really an election if there is no choice? Some of the uncontested elections involve very influential positions too, such as the "race" for the mayor of Friday Harbor. Also, it seems like politics is a family affair in San Juan County. Two spouses of current or former Council members are running ... Carrie Lacher for Friday Harbor Mayor and Lauren Stephens for Fisherman Bay Sewer District ... and Lacher's husband, former Councilman Howie Rosenfeld, is running for San Juan County Hospital District #1. In addition to the individual races, there is a ballot measure for Lopez to fund the Solid Waste District for the coming year. Also, there is a county-wide measure to amend the Charter. A "yes" vote on the Charter amendment would allow voters to petition for a change in our county's residency districts, rather than have that power rest solely with the Charter Review Commission. A "no" vote would leave things as is.
- San Juan Island - Of the 17 races, only 4 are contested ... one for the Port, one for the Hospital District, one for Parks and Recreation, and the Friday Harbor Council race between Farhad Ghatan and Matt Shildneck. Of the 4, the race for Hospital District has probably attracted the most attention. That race pits former Councilman Howie Rosenfeld versus newcomer Mark Schwinge. By this stage of his political career, Rosenfeld is a well-known commodity, and without having analyzed any of the specific issues in this race, the Trojan Heron thinks it is a welcome sign that new blood, like Schwinge, is willing to run. However, we would love to hear readers' comments about this race.
- Orcas Island - Of the 11 races on Orcas, only 1 is contested. Unfortunately, this is an unwelcome Orcas pattern. Need I remind readers that Orcas also had the only uncontested Council race in recent memory when Patty Miller ran unopposed for Council a few years ago. Orcas voters are generally well informed and active, but when it comes to running for office ... many well-qualified Orcasites prefer to sit on the sidelines.
- Lopez Island - As delightful as it is to make fun of Lopez, of the 8 Lopez races, 6 are contested. If only the rest of our county could have as many well-qualified candidates running as Lopez does, our democracy would be in much better shape.
Most of the contested Lopez races are for the School Board. The slate of School Board incumbents supported a lavish multimillion-dollar school bond measure that got crushed at the polls during the last election (how many times does that happen?). They are being challenged by newcomers emphasizing fiscal responsibility and performance rather than profligate spending. The incumbents include a Friends director (Dixie Budke) and others with ties to the Lopez Community Land Trust (Clive Prout and John Helding). The challengers mostly have strong financial and business experience ... and one of the challengers, Teddy McCullough, has a unique perspective as a recent Lopez High graduate. Teddy is currently in college in Washington DC and, if elected, intends to juggle his college and School Board responsibilities by attending School Board meetings telephonically.
There is much passion on Lopez about the future direction of the school, and speaking of passion, that brings us to the Lopez Port District race. Incumbent Dan Post is being challenged by former incumbent Bob Porter. There has been a lot of smoke blown about this race, unfairly aimed at Dan Post. Post is an effective voice for transparency at the Port, and Post has been the subject of special-interest scorn over the years because he believes the Port should serve the broader Lopez community rather than simply serve pilots. The other two Port Commissioners, Bruce Dunlop and (County Planning Commissioner) Steven Adams, simply want Post eliminated, and Bob Porter is their candidate. That's a problem because watching Dunlop and Adams manage the Lopez Port is akin to watching Lucy and Ethel wrap candy ... they're in over their heads and unable to keep up ... but some of Dunlop/Adams' antics have even warranted more serious scrutiny. Earlier this year, according to sources, the FAA Inspector General and the FBI opened an investigation looking into some of the Port's affairs.
One of the best summaries of the Lopez Port race is a comment left by Nick and Sara Jones on Lopez/Salish Rocks, which is copied below. Many of the points raised by Nick and Sara could just as easily apply to any of our county races.
We have been following with some interest the race between Dan Post and Bob Porter for Port. It seems that the complaint about Dan, the argument for replacing him, is that he is not a "team player." This is an interesting line of attack, to say the least. It implies that the best candidate for any given position is the one who is going to get along with the others best. Kind of like seeking out a beta personality puppy if you already have a couple of dogs in a family.
A port commissioner is a public official spending public money. It is a position requiring as high a level of probity and integrity as any other elected position. A get-along go-along attitude is the worst qualification we can think of for any position of public trust. Conversely, the willingness and fortitude to consistently ask hard questions and challenge received wisdom is the highest of recommendations for such a position. Over twenty plus years on the Port of Lopez Dan Post has demonstrated a heroic willingness to ask the hard questions, over and over again. He has done so in the face of scorn, mockery, and endless personal attacks.
Dan Post has also been the only Port Commissioner to consistently push to expand the mission of the port to serve the wider community. He spearheaded the effort to have the Port take over the dump, at a time when the received wisdom was that turning our facility over to San Juan Sanitation was the only viable outcome. The Port effort did not come to fruition, but it led directly to the takeover of the dump by the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District, on which board Dan tirelessly serves. Dan pushed to improve and lease port owned lands for agriculture--providing economic opportunity and local foods, and he continues to advocate for the Port to take on the much needed project of commercial water-front access on the island.
Dan Post is a small-town hero, a tireless doer and a man of deep integrity. Please join us in supporting him for another richly deserved term as Port of Lopez Commissioner.