A Message from Commissioner Bacon

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Island County

District 1 News - December 1, 2023

Coupeville Wharf

Thank you for reading my newsletter for the 48th week of 2023. I hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving. I had the very great blessing of spending the holiday with my son’s family in Minnesota. It’s such a joy to hug a grandchild whom you haven’t seen in person in over a year. My struggle is that I have a son in Minnesota, another son and grandchildren in New Mexico, and parents in California—and I have neither unlimited vacation time nor unlimited travel funds to visit them all regularly. My parents being the age they are, my children usually get short shrift in my travel plans.

Such an interesting time we live in. My mother saw her West Virginia parents—with whom she was very close—less than a dozen times in the years between when she moved to California in 1954 and their deaths in the 1980s. When I was raising my children in Minnesota we only saw my parents every two or three years, because we were a farm family without much money and plane trips were a luxury. But there’s an expectation now that we will visit our long-distance relatives often, because we in America have the technological infrastructure to support that desire. What a gift. At the same time, all our plane travel contributes to our climate emergency, a responsibility shared by all of us who travel often.

I’m so grateful to live in this time and place. I visit virtually with my son in New Mexico every week, usually on Saturday mornings when my grandchildren tell me what they’re having for breakfast and what they did that week; they hold school art up to the phone for me to exclaim over, which is fun. My mother could only communicate with her parents through letters and the occasional long-distance telephone call (because phone calls outside of your local area used to cost a lot of money—remember that?).

Anyway, this week the Board of Island County Commissioners was back at work.

  • Regular Session.  The agenda and recording for the November 28th meeting is here: https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/59cd68dd-5e7e-48f7-8067-8d7ac7058101
    • Public comment this week focused on the homeless camp on Hoffman Road and a request by a citizen that the Commissioners pull an item from the consent agent to discuss and vote on in the regular agenda (which we did; see below).
    • We pulled these two items from the Consent Agenda and moved them to the regular agenda:
    • A grant agreement with the Washington State Office of Public Defense for the purpose of Improving the Quality of Public Defense Services. Commissioner Johnson wanted to speak to the fact that the State will give the County only $56,740 in 2024 (a $2000 increase from 2023) to provide public defense to citizens in need of those services in State cases, even though our County’s cost to provide those services is close to $1 Million per year. I think you’ll find her comments enlightening; mark 00:07:29 in the recording.
    • Ordinance C-79-23 (PLG-003-23) Amending Island County Code Chapter 17.03- Rural Areas of Intensive Development (RAID) Uses. The Commissioners pulled this from Consent to Regular upon the request of a citizen. We approved the ordinance, but during the discussion we decided that in future—particular while we’re working on the Comp Plan next year—when the Planning Commission forwards something to the Board after holding a public hearing we will not automatically put the item on the Consent Agenda. Although we are not obligated to hold a public hearing on something after the Planning Commission has already held one, for transparency sake and in order to give citizens the maximum opportunity to provide public input we will usually want to discuss and vote on those items in Regular Session, going forward. You can hear this discussion beginning at mark 00:14:47 in the recording.
    • We held a public hearing on Resolution C-73-23 (R-35-23) Amending Island County Code 15.03, Clean Water Utility, an administrative matter to bring the code into line with practice on how Public Works reports to the Board about Clean Water Utility capital projects. There was no public comment. The ordinance was approved.
    • The agenda for the December 5 Regular Session is here: https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/8f6c8298-f042-4d04-ab69-bc836930d40d On that agenda: the public hearing shown below, a petition to vacate a portion of Mutiny Sands Road.
  • The Council of Governments (COG), Island Regional Transportation Planning Organization (IRTPO) and the Island Local Integrating Organization (ILIO) met this week.  
    • The COG agenda is here https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_11292023-658 the recording is here https://www.islandcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/5585/11292023-COG The COG will meet next in January.
    • The recording of the IRTPO meeting is not available yet. I spoke with Public Works about my expectations that they improve the speed of their posting of IRTPO materials for the public, and I have hopes that we will see that improvement soon. The IRTPO will hold a meeting on December 27 to continue our work on the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) in order to be ready to hold a public hearing to adopt the plan in February.
    • The job of the ILIO is to develop, coordinate, and implement strategies and actions that contribute to the protection and recovery of the local ecosystem. We normally meet quarterly, but we decided on Wednesday to meet at least bimonthly in 2024 in order to better contribute to the Comprehensive Planning Update discussions.  
  • Special Session on the Budget.  The Board will hold a special session next Monday, December 4, to hold public hearings to adopt the 2024 Island County Budget. The agenda for that special session, including the zoom link and links to all the documents, is here https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/f170117c-eb7f-4822-bae2-fb2c9db388cf We will hold four public hearings associated with this activity:
    • Resolution C-68-23 Adopting the Island County Budget and Diking District No. 4 Budget for Fiscal Year 2024.
    • Ordinance C-69-23 Increasing the Taxing District’s Prior Year’s Levy Amount for the County Current Expense Property Tax Levy to be Collected in the 2024 Tax Year.
    • Ordinance C-70-23 Increasing the Taxing District’s Prior Year’s Levy Amount for the County Roads Property Tax Levy to be Collected in the 2024 Tax Year.
    • Ordinance C-71-23 Increasing the Taxing District’s Prior Year’s Levy Amount for the County Conservation Futures Property Tax Levy to be Collected in the 2024 Tax Year.
  • Work Session.  There was no work session this week. The agenda for the December 6th work session is here https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_12062023-662 Included on that massive 8-hour agenda: draft workplans for 2024, an overview of the Shore Friendly program, discussion of certification of levies for the collection of taxes in 2024, discussion on first planned actions related to the Countywide Planning Policies for the 2025 Comprehensive Plan update including the Office of Financial Management (OFM) Medium Population Projection, and discussion of some proposed Public Works code changes for blanket utility permits and the unopened right-of-way code.
    • Coming up on the December 13th work session: discussion of proposed revision to the Fireworks code to ban mortar fireworks in Island County and reduce permitted July fireworks days to 2 days instead of 3.
  • Other Upcoming Public Hearings:
    • December 5: Road Vacation, Mutiny Sands Road
    • December 19: Public hearing for PBRS Application 171/23
  • Today was the monthly meeting of Island Transit Board of Directors. It was a busy one.
    • We discussed a salary survey of non-represented positions.
    • We approved the 2024 Budget.
    • We held the Exit Conference with the State Auditor’s Office for the year ending December 31, 2022. The mission of that office is “to provide citizens with independent and transparent examinations of how state and local governments use public funds, and develop strategies that make government more efficient and effective.” Those of you who remember the financial troubles that Island Transit went through some years ago under different management will be comforted to know that one of the things the auditors looked at was the financial condition of the organization and they found that Transit operations complied with the types of compliance requirements that could have a direct and material effect on each of its major federal programs; also that there were no deficiencies in internal control over compliance. The audit report will be published on the state’s website next week, https://sao.wa.gov
    • We also celebrated the kind and wonderful Beth Munns, retiring Oak Harbor City Council member who has been the Chair of the Transit Board for the last three years. Thank you, Beth, for your many years of public service. I have really enjoyed working with you!
  • This was a big week for the Port of Coupeville—the new pilings on the Wharf are in! Now we can expect that iconic wharf building to remain available for the enjoyment of  Whidbey Island residents and visitors for many generations to come. If you’re wondering what was done, check out massive new silver-colored piling on the corner of the wharf in the photo above, and compare it with wharf photos from before this week. Congratulations, Port of Coupeville and Town of Coupeville—this has been a lot of work, but our grandchildren’s grandchildren will be grateful for your patience in getting this important preservation work done!
  • This week the Canvassing Board certified the November 7 election. Here are the final results: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/4051/Current_Results The voters approved all of the bond and levy proposals. Kristina Mayhew, the Chief Deputy Assessor, stopped by my office to tell me that although it has been approved, voters will not see the property tax increase for one of these bonds, the South Whidbey School District bond, until 2025 (the other bonds/levies will be reflected in 2024 property taxes). If you have any questions about why taxes will not be taken out for this particular school district bond for another year, you should contact the South Whidbey School District, not the Assessor or the County Commissioners (because it is their initiative and their decision, not ours). There will be discussion on 2024 taxes during our Wednesday work session.
  • As I type this from my office in Coupeville, it is really windy. We received notice today from Puget Sound Energy that our region may experience damaging winds late tonight from 11pm and into early Saturday morning. Another system with wind and rain is scheduled to arrive on Sunday afternoon and PSE will be “monitoring that closely.” Please stay safe.
  • 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, and I am also available once a month in Clinton, just before the Clinton Community Council meeting the last Monday of the month (note: there will be no Clinton Community Council meeting in December). Below are my Mondays through the end of the year, as of now:
    • Monday December 4 – 3 pm WiFire –Yes
    • Monday December 11 – NO
    • Monday December 18 – 3 pm WiFire –Yes
    • Monday December 25 – NO
    • Monday January 1 – NO


“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.” ~Thomas Jefferson