June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:01 PM
"EDC strays from its appointed pathThe taxpayer supported Island District Economic Development Council (EDC) has strayed far from its proper role under the leadership of former County Commissioner Tom Shaughnessy.During the early 1980s when economic times were difficult, the state legislature encouraged the creation of EDCs in each county. Island County jumped aboard with the help of some state funding, and county taxpayers still support the EDC through an annual payment which in 2000 is $32,000.The EDC was never universally welcomed, as many islanders with environmental leanings wondered why the county commissioners didn't also fund a counter-weight, perhaps called the Environmental Protection Council. But under former director John Hitt, the EDC did some good things by providing start-up information for home businesses, attracting more educational opportunities through Skagit Valley College, representing the interests of business in the comprehensive planning process, and helping businesses network through the Uniquely Whidbey Trade Fair.Unfortunately, the EDC has changed under Shaugnessy. He lost his re-election bid in 1998, so the EDC board provided him a soft landing. As a county commissioner, Shaugnessy distinguished himself by his tireless work against the state Growth Management Act. Unappreciative voters replaced him with a Democrat, which is unheard of in recent Island County history.Now we have the EDC's list of priorities for the coming year, and it appears it is metamorphosing into a taxpayer-funded advertising agency. Number two priority on its list is to join forces with a private direct mail advertising publication to distribute itself island-wide. The EDC has never offered to help Island County's four newspapers sell advertising or increase circulation, not that they want or would accept such assistance.For the publicly funded EDC to support one island business over others is outrageous, and it shows a monumental lack of understanding and leadership at the top. For most people, direct mail is just another word for junk mail, and this is not how taxpayers want their money spent. Unless there are some immediate changes in priorities, Island County should take a hard look at spending any more taxpayer dollars on the EDC, and EDC members should take a hard look at their leadership.Relay for Life effort amazingThe South Whidbey community showed great unanimity and enthusiasm last weekend as hundreds participated in the Relay For Life, the annual event which raises money to help the American Cancer Society.This year's total of $52,000 was $12,000 over last year and $4,000 over the 2000 goal. And the money didn't come easily -- it took hours of walking or bicycle riding, as well as the dedication needed to line up sponsors. One of the most inspiring stories was created by Carl Turpin, age 7, who raised over $1,000 for his South Whidbey Relay team to contribute to the fight against cancer. Once again, the South Whidbey business community came through when a good cause was presented.Many of those walking or bicycling the high school track carried with them their own stories of having battled cancer, or helped someone who did. Happiness, sadness, and inspiration could all be found, and all were united in the fight against the killer disease whose name we all dread. The effort not only raised money, but it helped bring the community together. The organizers worked hard with little or no recognition, and they deserve our thanks and respect."