While I appreciate that the Whidbey News-Times is finally recognizing that there are systemic issues in Island County government, as was pointed out in their article, “In Our Opinion: Public Health nurse exodus is cause for reckoning,” it is unfortunate that it has taken a mass exodus of public health staff during a pandemic for them to acknowledge it.
Issues regarding the work environment at Island County were raised and talked about for years by staff and the county unions, and I personally talked about it extensively earlier this year during my campaign for county commissioner.
When I was interviewed by the News-Times, I talked about these systemic issues and how there needed to be change from the top down. The News-Times said that this was “vague and meaningless” and people don’t care that staff is “getting the full level of respect that they deserve.” The News-Times endorsed Melanie Bacon, one of the people who is and has been, denying that these internal systemic issues exist.
In their endorsement, the News-Times said, “Bacon … feels the county is well run, with very low turnover.” Back in the beginning of the summer, a letter was sent to the News-Times from some of the county unions talking about how “there is a toxic culture fostered at the county from the top down.” The News Times chose to not report on this, as well as other reports of issues that staff have given them over the years.
So again, while I appreciate that they are finally reporting on these systemic issues, I wish they had done their homework and looked into concerns raised by staff when something could have been done, rather than waiting until after the public health staff resigned.
My hope is that this event will trigger the beginning of a new era of transparency in Island County government and one in which the Whidbey News Times takes the concerns of staff more seriously.