June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:42 PM
"Our 10th District state legislators must sometimes roll their eyes and blush a deep shade of pink when they introduce certain legislation to please the movers and shakers back home.For example, who could introduce legislation to declare Island County rural without a sizeable amount of embarrassment? We're about as rural as Central Park, which is rural if you don't count all the people in the immediate vicinity. Unfortunately, densities are calculated by persons per square mile, and on that basis Island County misses rural by a country mile.This state's really rural counties in Eastern Washington have more cows than people. Garfield County only has 3.4 people per square mile. The more populous but still rural Grant County boasts 26.3 PPSM. On the wet side of the mountains, Snohomish County contains 278 PPSM, while Skagit County with its tulip fields has 58. Immediately to our west, Jefferson County including Port Townsend has 14.7 PPSM. Ritzy San Juan County comes in at only 71.Where does Island County fit in? At an astounding 346 PPSM, far higher than even Snohomish County where most of us go to do our major shopping. So how can anyone with a straight face try to call Island County rural?The answer to that question is money. The state lets properly designated rural counties keep an extra 0.8 percent of the sales tax already being collected. The money is supposed to be used for economic development, because rural counties are going through hard times.Island County leaders would like to get their hands on that money, which would mean an extra $400,000 annually to be spent on things that encourage economic development. But they don't seem to understand that most Island County residents want to retain our rural character. We aren't rural, because nobody makes their living farming. But thanks to some large tracts of land and plenty of adjoining small hobby farms, we look rural. And that's is the way we want to keep it.It appears that the state legislature won't be declaring us rural this year. It's probably a good thing. That much extra money in the hands of county leaders would result in even less rural character than we have now. Not that we don't think we should keep more of our local sales taxes in Island County. Just let us spend it the way the people want. Instead of sewer systems and industrial parks, give us more open space and park lands. That way we can keep our rural character. Not that anyone in charge seems to care. "