Submitted by Michael Durland.
I moved to Orcas Island in 1977 and raised a family here. I have served as a member of the Marine Resources Committee and a member of Island Oil Spill Association. I started and continue to run two local businesses. I ran for County Council in 2016 on a platform to aid in developing a more diverse and sustainable year-round economy, by creating a more consistent and stable governmental regulatory platform for people to invest in and build their futures here. Now more than ever we need this leadership.
I see changes happening that are at odds with the reasons we all came and stayed here. A recent survey of tourists concluded that tourists come here for the same reason we live here — slower pace, rural lifestyle, natural beauty. We do not need to continue to advertise for more tourism and build more infrastructure to accommodate more tourists when by doing so we destroy what we all know and love and the very same thing that tourists love about the Islands. We need to find a balance between tourism and a diversified and sustainable economy.
The last few months is proof we cannot continue to expand our tourist-based economy without regard for the consequences. The County is now in the midst of a Comprehensive Plan Review which will determine land use activities for years to come. San Juan County needs strong leadership who will listen to the citizens and respond responsibility to preserve our environment at the same time secure our economy for future generations.
We must protect and preserve our water resources and fragile ecosystems and preserve our rural way of life. We need to find a way to protect our working citizens with well-paying jobs and affordable housing. We cannot burden our retired and senior citizens with more tax debt. We should welcome tourists to our islands as a benefit rather than a setback to our own economic development and enjoyment of our islands. We should explore ways to be more self-sufficient with alternative energy and a thriving agricultural and technological economy.
My goal is to create a more diverse and sustainable year-round economy aided by a more consistent and stable government where everyone is treated equally and fairly. I will impose a moratorium on new Transient Vacation Rentals until we have better control of our resources. This council has hired over 30 outside attorneys in the last five years. I will work to slow down County litigation and work to resolve differences peacefully rather than in the courts.
I support the work done by Opal, Homes for Islanders and Lopez Community Land Trust in providing low-cost housing. I support more educational opportunities so both our young and old are better prepared to enter the workforce. Everyone should be able to make a decent wage and buy a home in the place they were raised.
I see problems that keep getting kicked down the road to the next election. Deer Harbor has had a parking problem for decades with no permanent solution in sight. In the future, an electric autonomous vehicle could transport visitors and locals alike from remote parking to downtown Deer Harbor. A fleet of electric vehicles at the ferry line would decrease our carbon footprint. This may not work now but soon we may be able to summon an autonomous electric taxi with a phone app. We need forward thinkers. I invite you to contact me with your ideas to see what works. We have thousands of intelligent hard-working people living here who have ideas and are willing to lend assistance in moving forward to preserve our rural way of life, our economy, and bolster our local economy.
A vote for me will ensure our Islands future by protecting our natural resources, our diverse ecosystems on land and sea, and our citizens young and old. When elected I will tap the vast resources of forward thinkers to safeguard our economy and our Islands. I am not one to talk an issue to death. I would rather solve it and move on to the next.