Our community has a tremendous opportunity this April to elect Rick Hughes as our county-wide council member.
Rick brings a unique perspective to the council, one lacking from this past council, and the one before it, and the commission before it, and the commission before that.
That perspective is one of an active business owner, community activist and long-term islander.
Lisa Byers is a deeply impressive candidate. In other circumstances, other times, we would be proud to support her. But these are not just any circumstances, and we do not live in just any times. What we are seeing here is an evaporation of our working and middle classes, and a collapse of our rural lifestyles and identity. What we are living is a crisis in the heart of our island community. Much of this is driven by a regulatory structure that has become at best bewildering and at worst actively hostile. As business owners, employers, and parents we see this every day.
All the candidates hold creating economic diversity their highest priority, as have most of their predecessors, but Rick has the unique experience, depth and humility to actually help make this happen. One example of this we have seen is our introduction to Rick; acting as a self appointed, unpaid liaison, he tracked us down to supply grass-fed island meats for the Orcas School cafeteria program. Once we agreed to supply the school he beat us up on price to stay within budget. Rick identified a need, manifested the solution in a matter of weeks, and did so on a shoestring.
Rick was moved to involve himself in politics after his ambition to add a juice bar to his Eastsound pharmacy turned into a nightmare of wasted time, pointless regulations and unnecessary expense. This sort of experience has become the norm for San Juan County business owners.
This election has been framed as a choice between “protection” and something much darker. Rick’s personal experience exactly pinpoints the true issue. It is not, in fact, a choice between protection and the alternative. In San Juan County, density zoning, transfers of development rights and the ongoing, excellent work of our land conservation organizations achieve true protection. Making the installation of a juice bar next to impossible protects nothing, but makes it that much harder for our beleaguered business community to serve and employ us.
This election represents a choice, rather, between bureaucracy and people, between endless, exploding process and a focus on outcomes, between trim, responsive government and infinitely expanding budgets, deficits and taxes. The choice is stark; San Juan County has the opportunity to reform, or to double down on the policies that have made our County champion in three unhappy categories: We boast the highest per capita county government spending in the state, and the lowest rate of earned wages in the state. We are also the only County in the state to have increased dollar-for-dollar spending since the advent of the great recession, at the cost of two tax increases. This is the legacy of our most recent council. Tackling this job will require a strong, outside perspective to identify the problems and incredible grinding persistence to implement solutions. Rick stands out in his race, and in all the races, as the candidate best able to do both. Whatever the makeup of the next council, we feel that Rick will be an irreplaceable voice for reclaiming sanity in San Juan County government.
Rick is a doer, a listener, and a man of great integrity. He also has the rare willingness to throw himself into crazy projects, such as running for office. We feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to vote for him.
We are delighted to support Rick Hughes for Council this coming month, and we urge others to do the same.
Nick and Sara Jones