Guest Opinion | Women Under-represented on Planning Commission Open letter to County Council

— from The SJI Women’s Group —

To the San Juan County Council:

The San Juan County (SJC) Planning Commission is comprised of nine men even though the majority of our county’s population is female. SJC has one of the few Planning Commissions in Washington State comprised entirely of men.

SJC Planning Commissioners are appointed by the SJC Council. As required by state law and county code, the Planning Commission provides public process, holds public hearings, and makes recommendations to the Council regarding land use regulations and the Comprehensive Plan.
We ask the Council to appoint women and other members of the community who represent our county’s demographics to the Planning Commission.

The SJI Women’s Group

About us: The SJI Women’s Group was formed by the organizers of the Women’s March on Friday Harbor. We are dedicated to furthering the rights, health, and safety of our diverse community and our environment through intention, conversation, and action. We stand in solidarity with our island community to protect the land we all share and the basic human rights we all deserve – recognizing that vibrant, diverse, and healthy communities are the strength of our county and our country; that women’s rights are human rights, and human rights belong to all.

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Guest Opinion | Women Under-represented on Planning Commission Open letter to County Council — 5 Comments

  1. The Planning Commission vacancies are announced continually in the media and County e-mail. The terms of current Commissioners are listed on the County website. One has to apply to be considered. Has any woman done so and been rejected?

  2. Yes, the announcements are made public — but as with any volunteer opportunity, most “applicants” have been approached to “apply”. If women are never approached, then they are less likely to apply. Appropriate outreach can easily be done by the County Council or individual members of the Planning Commission.

  3. For context, two women from San Juan Island served on the Planning Commission with distinction for multiple terms and left only when the Council instituted term limits. At that time, a few years ago, there were two additional women on the Commision, one from Lopez who also served for multiple terms, and another from Orcas island. As someone who was observing the committee appointment process when the Commission went to the new system of broader advertising of vacancies, I do not recall any women applying. In any event, that information is certainly available from the County.

  4. In support of what Peg has noted, I must say that the present 9 man PC is an anomaly during my 30 years in SJC. I too have witnessed women playing exemplary leadership roles for multiple terms on the PC. Rather than suggest that the PC is some male bastion to which women are not admitted and pleading with the CC to make things right, members of SJIWG who consider themselves to be qualified might consider stepping up to the plate.

  5. Yes. Step up. We need to practice equality in thought and deed. Family and social influences begin at early ages and shape a person’s sense of self and prospects. Influences can be subtle and difficult to pen down later in life. We’re at least left with one clear option when we suspect imbalance– encourage those who would be so inclined to step up. Make it clear that all good minds irrespective of sex (as well as many other characteristics and traits) are welcome, wanted and, most especially, needed. Intentionally create open fields of opportunity by what you say and do. Then, let free will, choice and skill do the rest. Happily, much has improved on many fronts. Still, more work is needed to create that color (and sex)-blind society that we know delivers both the best “individual” and the better society…a real win win.