By County Councilman Jamie Stephens
My fellow County Council members and I hope you will join us in a Community Conversation about the future of the San Juan Islands and the role of its county government in the years ahead.
This is an opportunity to consider doing things differently as we begin to climb out of the economic downturn. This will not be a county show-and-tell; these meetings are being held so that we can hear your thoughts and ideas about living, working and enjoying life in the islands, and what you need from the county government.
We’ll be hosting a series of four meetings, repeated on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan Islands, plus a one-day conversation on Shaw on Saturday, March 16. You may attend any meeting, based on whatever works best for your schedule.
The meetings will use a roundtable discussion format with small groups discussing and reporting their responses to each question presented. At the end of each round of “Conversation”, a summary will be prepared and posted on the county’s webpage. If you can’t attend the meetings, you will be able to offer your thoughts through a blog on the county’s website.
Again, this is your time to tell us what you think the priorities should be, going forward from here. Our job is to get you and your neighbors talking, and for us to listen.
The first Conversation’s “kickoff” will be a general discussion about the quality of life in the islands and what’s important to you. From there we’ll get into a discussion about the strengths we have in maintaining this island quality of life, our “weaknesses”, the “opportunities” ahead, and the threats to our quality of life. This first series of conversations will be held Feb. 5, 6 and 7.
The second meetings, March 5, 6, and 7 will cover public services needed to enjoy living and earn a living in the islands. We want to hear your thoughts about what role the county should play in not just providing some services directly, but in seeing that all service needs are met.
After discussing what is important to us and what services are needed, the next conversation will focus on our underlying economy. Where will the jobs come from into the future? Will the economy provide the financial foundation to our families, businesses and community to maintain or enhance our quality of life? The conversations on economy will be held April 2, 3 and 4.
Finally, how should we shape county services to meet your needs in setting the priorities of government? These are the tough decisions, balancing needs, wants and resources. The last of this series of conversations will be held April 16, 17 and 18.
The final report from all of your comments will be pulled together and presented to the new three-member County Council and for the new county manager to use in putting together the 2014 budget and, more importantly, planning the future of San Juan County’s government. We’ll be there to host and to listen, we look forward to hearing from you.
— Editor’s note: Lopez Island's Jamie Stephens is chairman of the county council.