Letters to the Editor

Council fails to inform in outage | Letters

As you wrote in your editorial of Nov. 11, our community has responded well to the disruption in telephone and internet service.

True, but with one notable exception. And that exception is our county government.

During the “State of Emergency” to use the County Council’s terminology, we endured a near-complete information blackout. Our local government should have sent to all island residents daily one-page updates and information sheets. These could easily have been sent via the reliable US Mail.

Not once did the county communicate with its citizens. Not once did the county advise each of us what caused the communication interruption, when 911 would be restored, where we could go on the island to find internet service, where there were hot spots for cell phone service, or when we could expect to have service resumed.

The county may claim lack of information, but they knew or should have known infinitely more than the individual citizen.

We were compelled to rely upon rumors, friends-in-the-know at OPALCO, contacts at the island ISP’s, and trial and error.

The council did take time to declare a State of Emergency. But is it too cynical to ask if the council used the emergency as a convenient ruse to give the county access to state and federal funds?

We are left to wonder what role our elected leaders and their staff might play in a future emergency such as an epidemic, a wildfire, a cessation of ferry service, or an earthquake. Would there be again an information blackout? Would the county again ignore its citizens while ringing bells for more money and sending its staff to off-island workshops on disasters more appealing to its sensibilities such as oil spills?

I still naively believe that the sole duty of our elected public servants is to serve the public. How many tree rings do I have to grow before I realize that the time has come to put away such childish things and concede that our county is simply a very expensive and largely superfluous appendage that cannot be excised?

Robert deGarve, San Juan Island

— Editor’s note: press releases and updates about the outage were circulated to local media/news outlets by the county communications and emergency management departments over the course of the recent communications outage.

 

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