June 11, 2008 · Updated 2:45 PM
Hats off to newsmakers Joan Berkowitz and Dave Polis and others like them who not only see a problem, but work towards the solution.
This week AirLift Northwest announced the resumption of "MedFlights," as we islanders have come to call the medical evacuation flights to mainland hospitals. Since the previous program was suspended by the Washington State Insurance Commissioner six years ago, Berkowitz has researched and lobbied to return the service to the San Juan Islands.
Likewise, Dave Polis, seriously injured in a car wreck on Orcas five years ago, started Snohomish County's recycling program in the mid-80s and helped write Washington's current recycling laws.
Berkowitz, quoted in the Aug. 2, 2006 Sounder, said "It was a program that was working very well, without any tax dollars from the county, the state, etc. To see it get tossed out because of some bureaucratic baloney made me angry."
And Berkowitz not only talked the talk, she walked the walk. She transformed her indignation into working energy. She sought help from a hospital administrator involved in the original program, and decided to write new legislation, or see that it got written. John Evans, then county commissioner connected Berkowitz to a lobbyist and the state insurance commissioner's office.
Island musician and environmentalist Sharon Abreu and activist Rena Patty both have joined the national campaign to support legislation establishing a cabinet-level Department of Peace, through House and Senate bills, HR.3760 and S.1756. Patty is the Washington State Coordinator of this effort. She and Abreu will be attending a national conference on this campaign in Washington D.C. next February.
The parable "Weight of a Snowflake" talks of infinitesimal, lightweight snowflakes dropping and dropping and continually dropping until the heaviest of tree branches break and fall. After our record snowfalls and resulting tree damage in November, we can viscerally relate to that parable. It is by the leadership of one person who steps forward and encourages others to act for change and progress that a movement begins.
When faced with situations that demand citizen involvement, Orcas Island residents step forward. We may be a small island but the issues we face are the same as the largest of cities: growth, resources, transportation, environment. It can be quite daunting to think of changing the law of the land, or influencing government policy. But as in all endeavors, the important thing is to start, to learn, to put the best effort forward and to plan for the long haul. And to enjoy the sweat, physical or intellectual, of the work and take pride in knowing your putting your money where your mouth is.
Private citizens have the right to ask their legislators for direction and assistance and mustn't be intimidated to approach them. After all, this is the island that claimed Turtleback Mountain as its own.
Contact Representative Jeff Morris (Anacortes) at 360-786-7970
Representative Dave Quall (Mount Vernon) at 360-786-7800
Senator Harriet Spanel (Bellingham) at 360-786-7678