Please, anyone who attended last night’s meeting — weigh in with things omitted from my brief write-up or if you heard something different.
About 40 (wild guess) islanders attended last night’s LICA meeting (Oct. 26, 2011) with Barbara Brenner and Carl Weimer (District 3 County Council Representatives). Carl and Barbara began by briefly describing County advisory committees, how they are formed and function (function varies but none makes decisions). Then, they said that they wanted to learn if we want a new ferry advisory committee and if so, whether we’d prefer a permanent committee that would address various issues or whether we’d prefer another short-term task force to work on one specific issue.
Questions and discussion ranged around numerous topics raised in Carl’s earlier post, including pros and cons of each approach. Carl noted that a hybrid committee was feasible, that is, a standing committee to deal with routine or ad hoc issues but also empowered to establish subcommittees with additional persons having specific skills required to address a particular issue (e.g., long strategic planning, boat replacement, etc).
At the end of the meeting, a show of hands indicated that a majority of islanders present favored a hybrid committee over just a pure ‘generalist’ committee, a short-term ‘task oriented’ one, or none at all.
Many other issues were discussed, such as the composition and number of a new committee, to whom the committee would report, what goals it would have and who (islanders? Councilors? both?) would set them. A question was raised about the relationship between the Port of Bellingham (which islanders pay taxes to) and the County Council. The brief answer: there is none – the County Council and Port of Bellingham are separate legal entities, so anyone interested in seeking Port funding needs to ask the Port Commissioners directly.
Many agreed that official recognition was important and that having at least Council and Public Works liaisons would help smooth functioning and ‘buy in’ from the County. Some problems that hindered the usefulness of previous island-based transportation committees were briefly discussed.
Opinions varied and no decisions about any of these items were attempted. Discussions were uniformly productive, civil and respectful.
An opinion was expressed that many islanders would like to see the Council’s official response to the Task Force’s work before setting new fares (generally done before January 1 of each year) and probably before trying to set up a new advisory committee. It appears that Frank Abart is currently working through the (long and very detailed) Task Force report, so that he can offer well-informed recommendations about its suggestions to the Council. Barbara and Carl said they’d try to schedule Frank to give a status report at a council subcommittee sometime in November, after the election. Barbara commented that it would be helpful if islanders (especially task force members) could attend that meeting to potentially answer questions. They said they’d inform us of when that is scheduled.
PS The LICA potluck dinner beforehand was, as usual, outstanding and a great time to visit. Lummi Islanders are such great cooks!