I have no intention of claiming the last word on concepts as daunting as Power and Authority, but wish to reflect on them in the light of our desire to participate in and guide our community into the future. In the current parlance on governance, we see power and authority residing with those that are empowered by us to disburse public funds and to impose and enforce rules and regulations. That power is ours to claim or confer. If we confer it to government, but fail to articulate exactly how we want it used, somebody else will. “Not minding the store” has resulted in the corporate-controlled national government we have now. Citizenship in a democracy is not a spectator sport, but if you intend to wield your power as an individual, you better know what you are dealing with and what you think about it. Haphazard decisions get us into trouble. Thirty years ago, I decided to plant a nice ground cover called Vinca on my property. Big mistake!
In the same way, if we are to wield power as a community, we better understand the issues and have a consistent and reliable way to deliberate and come to agreement on how to act on those issues. Being an “unincorporated area” means that we have no formal governing body, but it doesn’t mean we have no power. Our defeat of Glacier Northwest clearly illustrates that. Our success there was the result of being able to focus the will of our community. How much more could we do for ourselves if we applied the same effort to deliberate, decide, collaborate, and focus on other issues?
We especially need to do this now as resources we have relied on as a community such as police protection, road maintenance, and school and ferry funding grow scarcer. We are in a period of rapid change and we need to be able to quickly and effectively address our needs as they arise.
You may remember that the Vashon Maury Island Community Council (VMICC) imploded two years ago. A different group, the All Island Forum (AIF), formed around that time to explore more collaborative, effective, and participatory ways of making decisions and solving disagreements as a community. After two years, and several AIF events, Tim Johnson, President of VMICC expressed interest in beginning talks with AIF principals to rewrite the VMICC bylaws to reflect qualities espoused by AIF. At the end of last summer, new bylaws had been written, and at the December general meeting of VMICC, they were approved. The first few meetings under this more open and flexible format seem to bode well for the future. AIF seems to be evolving into a complementary body that creates and supports learning environments where conflict can be constructively managed or resolved between groups and individuals.
As one of the new board members for VMICC under the new open format bylaws, I see our job as getting more of you to become informed, involved, or at least to voice your opinion on both pressing issues and where we need to go in the future. To the extent that more of you give us direction, we will have more power to represent the community. VMICC is set on a course to reinvent itself with a goal of becoming more representative of island aspirations and opinions than ever before. To reach that goal, your participation is everything.
Unfortunately, the distillation of an issue often comes down to a clearly defined conflict or disagreement. This is where the All Island Forum would like to become a vital resource. In order to build a really cohesive, resilient, and powerful community, we need to know how to navigate conflict, build trust, and establish common ground. Often the roots of conflict are far more subtle and circuitous than the actual issue at hand. Sometimes the problem may be one or more individuals that are a danger to the community. All Island Forum would like to facilitate the establishment of skills and resources for listening, learning, and collaborating that effectively restore the fabric of community and make us more resilient and powerful in the face of challenges that lie ahead. Judging from the amount of conflict we have on the Island, it is clear that we could benefit from having more tools in our belt.
There will be another All Island Forum event in the form of a community conversation on Sunday, Mar. 24, 3-5 pm at the Presbyterian Church. The theme is “A Vision for Vashon: Our own Community Justice System.” Come learn about and discuss the ways in which we can heal our community and create the trust and common purpose we will need to take care of ourselves in the future.
Meanwhile, there will be another general meeting of VMICC on Mon., Mar. 18, 7-9 pm at McMurray Middle School. A representative from the King County Water Taxi will be there to discuss possible grant funded capital improvements at the North End Terminal. The Septic Solutions Committee will have an update on the availability of low interest loans for waterfront septic remediation. We will try to define our next steps in dealing with the drug house problem. This will be followed by an open discussion about future topics and goals for VMICC. Come experience the new open format and weigh in on the discussions!