A Message from Commissioner Bacon

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Island County

District 1 News - October 16, 2023


Thank you for reading my newsletter for the 41st week of 2023. A citizen has reminded me that October is World Blindness Awareness Month, and World Sight Day was yesterday, Thursday, October 12th. The theme of World Sight Day this year is “Love Your Eyes At Work”. Here are some free resources for workplaces to help their employees learn to protect their eyes: https://www.iapb.org/world-sight-day/toolkits-and-resources/#Workplace Thank you, Jim, for the great information!

  • Regular Session.  The agenda and recording for the October 10th regular session can be found here: https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/e235cd8c-46d1-4225-922a-2e4b446c30b6
    • This was a celebratory meeting for us, recognizing 5 people for their long tenure with the County. Big congratulations—and thank yous!—to Deputy PA Michael Safstrom (10 years), Chief Criminal Prosecutor Eric Ohme (20 years), and these three individuals who have now each been with the County for 25 years: Cynthia Watson (Camano Solid Waste), Mike Etzell (Human Services), and Cindy White (Planning). Thank you all for an accumulated 105 years of dedicated public service!
    • Public comment was heard on the animal cruelty case, permit timelines for a complicated project, and the desire to include PBRS (Public Benefit Rating System) in the comp plan update. Public comment begins at mark 00:24:02 in the recording.
    • Resolution passed on the consent agenda: C-65-23, the Rhododendron Park restroom renovation I mentioned in an earlier newsletter.
    • Resolution passed during the regular agenda: C-64-23, which establishes the Public Participation Plan and Preliminary Schedule for the 2025 Periodic Update of the Island County Comprehensive Plan (mark 00:40:44); you can read this plan here: https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/e235cd8c-46d1-4225-922a-2e4b446c30b6; page 12 goes into detail about the types of outreach we will be making to ensure public participation in the comp plan update. During the discussion, I told the Planner that we want a calendar with specific dates developed as soon as possible to share with our citizens.
    • During Commissioner’s Comments, I made it clear that I believe a PBRS update does belong in our Comp Plan work next year (mark 00:52:04).
    • The agenda and Zoom link for the October 17th meeting is here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10172023-643 On the agenda: a public hearing on amending Title VI—Animal Welfare. 
  • Business Meeting with Staff. On Tuesday afternoon, we held our first business meeting with our exterior-facing department heads to talk about general issues of interest. We focused this week’s meeting on two items:
  • Work Session. Agenda for the October 11th work session is here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10112023-638; recording here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/5018/10112023-WS-Audio
    • We met with our representatives from Gordon Thomas Honeywell Government Relations to talk about our legislative priorities for 2024. GTH works with the State legislators on our behalf, to try to pass laws and get funding that will assist the citizens of Island County. This conversation begins at mark 0:05:00 in the recording. We decided to look for funding to increase the number of beds at the Ituha Stabilization Facility in Oak Harbor, funds to aid in the management of that facility in the interim, and funds for studying our water recharge and water quality for the comp plan update. I also raised asking for funding for our Robinson boat launch; we were encouraged to first seek funds from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which we will do.
    • Public Works joins us at mark 1:07:55 in the recording. First, we talked about the results of the Diking District No. 4 Open House held on September 13, and the proposed maintenance assessment of $25.63 per parcel from 2024 – 2033. The documents for that discussion start on page 57 of the agenda. Next, we talked about the results of the Marshall Drainage District open house held on Sept 14. This was a more contentious open house, because if the assessment is adopted as proposed it will be a significant cost for numerous people in the district who believe they receive little if no benefit (they are included because drainage from their properties impacts downhill properties). We have asked Public Works to schedule the public hearing on this, but also to provide us with assessment numbers if we were to base the assessment only on impervious surface, not on total acreage. The documents for this discussion start on page 12 of the agenda.
    • A couple of months ago the Board preliminarily awarded a Rural County Economic Development Grant to an application from Oak Harbor for their proposed North Whidbey Sewer Expansion design; the award was preliminary because we were concerned about the potential of displacing some housing units. The Oak Harbor City Administrator came to speak with the Board about this, beginning at mark 2:11:38 in the recording. This conversation occurred because they aren’t able to ensure a way to do the design for this project without proposing the displacement of these citizens or else taking actions that would result in their homes becoming unaffordable (i.e. gentrification). I had just two questions for the Oak Harbor City Administrator (mark 2:27:55): (1) how many households would be displaced? (answer: around 40); and (2) given our nation’s history of disproportionately displacing minority neighborhoods for the building of infrastructure projects, what are the demographics of the citizens living in these homes (answer: this is a predominantly minority neighborhood). I was adamant that I would never support any project that requires the displacement of a minority neighborhood (mark 2:35:22). Commissioner Johnson and I both said we would be interested in providing incentives to assist the city in doing this work in a way that doesn’t result in the type of displacement that all of us expressed concern about.
    • The agenda for the October 18th work session can be found here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10182023-642 On the agenda: discussion of fee schedule updates, a PBRS application for six parcels on Camano, and discussion of a code amendment cleanup regarding RAIDs (Rural Areas of Intensive Development).
  • We held our last Budget work session on Wednesday afternoon, mark 3:08:20 in the audio above. As regular readers of this newsletter know, I am extremely concerned about our readiness for emergencies; I spoke in support of the request to hire someone in our Department of Emergency Management for the next couple of years who would work on emergency preparation plans and training for both employees and citizens, as well as an idea developed at this meeting to create an Emergency Preparedness Fund of $100,000 (the emergency preparation discussion begins at mark 3:56:18). The Board will vote on the 2024 Budget in early December.
  • Next Tuesday, the 17th the Board of Health will meet at 1 pm. Agenda: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10172023-644 Chris Kelley, our Hydrogeologist, will give a presentation on the Island County Public Health Hydrogeology program, including a basic review of aquifer science and approaches to groundwater data and cross-team collaboration. The BOH will also vote on a proposed proclamation, “Health in All Policies (HiAP),” an approach to public policy that recognizes the profound interconnection between public policy decisions and the health and well-being of our communities.
  • Next Wednesday, the 18th, from 4 – 6 pm, the Board will hold a listening session with builders and developers to discuss the major challenges they are experiencing with Island County’s permitting process. Speakers have been pre-selected from the building, septic, and permitting agent industries to ensure the Board has adequate time to hear concerns and ask relevant clarifying questions. County staff will also be in attendance in a listening capacity. Anyone interested in listening to this meeting is invited to attend in our Coupeville hearing room or via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/94793544731?pwd=bGc1UkE5WU0rZk13WXhwY0diMVBEQT09 Meeting ID: 947 9354 4731, Passcode: 251025; or by phone at +1 253 215 8782 (one-tap mobile: +12532158782,,94793544731#,,,,*251025#).
  • Yesterday, I attended meetings of two regional boards I serve on, the Transportation subcommittee of SWISS (Snohomish, Island, Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan Counties, a group that works together on legislative solutions for issues of mutual interest); and the Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA).
    • SWISS transportation subcommittee—I raised an issue that San Juan and Island share: the need to protect our Capron funds gas tax reimbursements our two counties receive from the State because our citizens pay gas taxes even though we don’t have the State highways that other counties have; Capron reimbursements pay for much of our County Public Works road work, and we need the other counties in SWISS to support the continuation of this for us. San Juan Council Member Fuller and I also share ferry concerns, and we will participate in another meeting on that issue next week (note: Commissioner Johnson represents our county on the Behavioral Health subcommittee of SWISS; Commissioner St. Clair serves on the Broadband subcommittee).
    • NWCAA: most of the clean air violations reported in our region last month were due to illegal outdoor burning of prohibited materials during a fire safety burn ban.
  • Upcoming Public Hearings:
    • October 17 regular session (10 am): Animal Welfare code revision
    • October 24 regular session (10 am): Diking District 4 assessments
    • October 24 regular session (10 am): Expanding the boundaries of the O-ZI-YA Community Club Water System
    • November 7 regular session (10 am): The 2024 Long Range Planning Work Plan and Docket
  • Island County’s Department of Emergency Management will conduct two free 3-day 20-hour CERT basic trainings:
    • Camano Island: October 20-22, Vista Madrona Station
    • Whidbey Island: Coupeville Nov 3-5, BOCC Hearing Room (Fri & Sat) and Oak Harbor Fire Station (Sun). Fri 5-8; Sat and Sun 9-5.
    • Register by emailing dem@islandcountywa.gov for a registration packet.
  • This year’s Ebey's Forever Conference will take place November 3rd & 4th in Coupeville. This is also the 45th anniversary celebration of the Reserve's enabling legislation being signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. In addition, the community potluck will be held at the Crockett Barn on November 3rd, a (free) ticketed event this year. Tickets for the conference, the conference sessions, and the community potluck can be found both at ebeysreserve.com and at the ticket page here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ebeys-forever-conference-2023-registration-528625813037?aff=ebdssbdestsearch
  • You can find all of my newsletters for 2023 here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Directory.aspx?EID=62
  • Most Mondays I hold Monday Tea with Melanie at 3:00 pm at the WiFire Community Space, 1651 E. Main Street, Freeland, an opportunity for citizens to speak with me and with each other about issues of interest to them. What often happens is, people will come the first time because they have a particular question for me, then return the following weeks because they enjoy being part of the broader conversation.


“People couldn't understand why my mama would have this blind kid out doing things like cutting wood for the fire. But her thing was: He may be blind, but he ain't stupid.”    ~Ray Charles