"Levy success up to absentee votersFor what is likely the majority of South Whidbey voters, the crucial April 25 school levy election has already commenced. Absentee ballots started arriving in mailboxes last week. This is not an ideal situation. At some time the state legislature should look into it. It is not right to start an election three weeks before the polling places open, and well before many citizens are even conscious of the issues. Those early absentee ballots carry too much weight in a local election. Take the failed February 29 South Whidbey school levy, for example. People who walked in to a polling place to vote supported the levy request by a whopping 67 percent -- well over the 60 percent needed to pass. It was a different story for absentee voters in February, however. The levy garnered just under 53 percent support from those voters. Unfortunately, they were the majority and their will prevailed. There were 2,841 absentee ballots cast to only 2,555 walk-in ballots. The levy fell 24 votes short of the 60 percent needed to pass. The number of absentee voters is growing all the time as more and more people request that ballots be sent to them on a continuing basis. It used to be that absentee voters had to request a ballot each election. No longer -- now, the ballots keep on coming, and that makes it difficult for volunteer levy supporters. In the past they could mount a major vote-yes effort beginning a few days before the actual election. Today, that campaign needs to continue for several weeks. That's a lot to ask of volunteers, no matter how dedicated they are to our schools. As a result of all this, the burden of passing the April 25 school levy rests primarily with our absentee voters. Don't cast a no vote in an effort to make an anti-tax statement, while thinking that the levy will pass anyway. Realize that a no vote will seriously jeopardize education on South Whidbey, gutting our art and music programs, boosting class sizes, causing lay-offs, and jeopardizing athletics. Absentee voters who want to send a message about taxes should write their legislators. All voters should send the same message in the April 25 election, whether they vote on election day or three weeks before through the mail -- we support our school children and our teachers. The April 25 levy needs 60 percent voter support to pass. With the help of absentee voters, we should be able to hit 70 percent. That would send the kind of message we can all be proud of, and make a loud statement that South Whidbey remains a wonderful place to raise children in a supportive community. Y2K bombed, but still be prepared Islanders were somewhat disappointed that the much-ballyhooed Y2K disaster never occurred Jan. 1. Well, nobody wanted an actual disaster, but some inconvenience would have been nice after all the time and money many of us spent preparing for the possibility of massive computer failures. Just because Y2K didn't happen doesn't mean that some other disaster isn't waiting around the corner. That's why Gov. Gary Locke has declared April Disaster Preparedness Month. The governor's designation is a timely reminder to all of us that it's still important to be prepared. All citizens should be able to be self-sufficient for three days, which is the time it might take for help to arrive should a major earthquake strike the Northwest. Experts say we're overdue for the big one, so it only makes sense to get ready. It's not a big thing to make sure you have food, fuel, clothing, and basic medical supplies to last three days. Simply organizing items you already have might do the trick. Make sure you take time this month to be prepared. You won't regret it when the big one hits. If you need more information, contact Island County Emergency Services at 360-240-5572."

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