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Clinton’ s future among top concerns lobbed at Rep. Smith

Ollie Fee, an occupational therapist on Whidbey Island, speaks to state Rep. Norma Smith at a Clinton Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday night. She was concerned with school funding falling short of its needs after hearing Smith discuss the role education has in the state’s economic development.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Ollie Fee, an occupational therapist on Whidbey Island, speaks to state Rep. Norma Smith at a Clinton Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday night. She was concerned with school funding falling short of its needs after hearing Smith discuss the role education has in the state’s economic development.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Revitalizing Clinton, easing restrictions on small farms and improving education were the top concerns among residents at a meeting with state Rep. Norma Smith this week.

At a meeting in Clinton, Smith’s hometown, ahead of the 63rd Washington State Legislature, 26 people let their representative know what mattered to them. Held in the Clinton Community Hall, with empty storefronts across the street and just up Highway 525, stimulating the ferry community was a chief issue.

The divide the state route creates and how the South Whidbey area is largely passed by ferry commuters eager to speed up the 30 mph zone, was a big concern of Doug Hofius, a member of the Clinton Community Council. He told Smith the council has made it clear to the Washington State Department of Transportation that more speed limit signs are not the solution.

Smith has concerns with the WSDOT and its ferries division, citing the recent added cost of the Highway 520 bridge replacement, which is estimated at $170 million. One of the issues in the legislature, said Smith, is addressing the differing needs of urban places such as Seattle or Everett and rural areas like Whidbey Island.

“That’s where we have most of our misunderstandings,” she said, later adding that she would try to attend a Clinton Community Council meeting to hear their ideas of how to stem the outgoing business tide of Clinton.

A member of the state’s Higher Education Committee and a former South Whidbey School Board member, Smith said the state’s focus is filling gaps in the “unbelievable misalignment” between available jobs and the training offered in K-12 schools. To her, it meant more technical programs to fill the state’s production sector, one part of what she called a “three-legged stool,” along with technology and service sectors. 

Her role on the education committee was related to her high-ranking role on the Technology and Economic Development Committee. She touted the creation of a training program for legislators to better understand the energy sector — hydroelectric, wind, tidal, etc. — which, in turn, makes for better regulations and policies, Smith said.

“If we don’t handle our energy policy wisely, our regulations wisely, guess who is in the crosshairs?” Smith asked. “Our production sector.”

One woman in the Clinton Chamber of Commerce crowd said she was disappointed in students’ inability to understand personal finance, debt and balancing a checkbook. Smith agreed, saying that she would do what she could to encourage schools to add financial literacy to their curriculum, even if it was making it part of a math lesson.

“It breaks my heart we have kids that will not compensate, for decades, the degrees for which they went to school for,” Smith said.

A Glendale farmer said she was distressed by regulations that made it cost-prohibitive to sell raw goat’s milk, to which Smith agreed that existing agricultural regulations put too much pressure on farmers in the Puget Sound area.

The 63rd Legislature will convene for its regular session Jan. 13 until March 13, a time Smith said will be concise and productive.

“Our goal is to keep it that way,” she said.

 

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