My name is Michael Durland and I have lived on Orcas for 40 years. I have been a member of the Marine Resources Committee and a first responder for Island Oil Spill Association. I have a contractors license and have navigated the permit process. I own and operate two local businesses.
We are talking about the same issues now as we were four years ago, transient vacation rentals, overdevelopment, environmental safeguards, inconstant permitting practices, and the fair treatment of all our citizens.
I will stand up for environmental safeguards to protect our Islands natural beauty. I feel we need to do more to safeguard Puget Sound and the Salish Sea from oil tankers to prevent a major oil spill. I support the efforts to protect the Orca whales that frequent our waters. We need to do more to protect our established inns and lodges from the proliferation of transient rental rooms which disrupt neighbors and are a burden on our infrastructure. There are too many unnecessary lawsuits against the County that cost us all. I will stand up for your rights as a citizen of this County. I will listen to your concerns and act upon them rather than pass them on to the next election.
The County Charter states that the County Council shall ensure that all actions of the County are compliant with all codes, laws, and procedures. I have seen first hand the current Council flaunt their elected duties. I have talked to others who were afraid to stand up to arbitrary decisions for fear of retaliation. This is not the way I will treat you if you have a question about devious actions of the County. A few years ago I proposed a Citizen Grievance Committee to hear citizen concerns before going to court but it was shot down by this Council.
We all need to work towards a more diverse and self sustaining economy. Tourism will always be a large industry and bring dollars to the Islands but as we are seeing we cannot rely just on tourist dollars. I will ask for ideas and solutions from our diverse population to achieve this. I will not be afraid to step in if you feel you are being disenfranchised by County employees or elected officials.
My views and goals:
Transient Vacation Rentals: This is the singular most talked about topic for the last four years. I was impressed by the Vacation Rental Group and their research and suggestions. I favor an immediate moratorium on new vacation rentals until this issue can be addressed. Home Stay where the owner lives on the property is favored over absentee owners or corporate ownership.
Budget: Now more than ever we need to pay close attention to the County Budget. I noticed that when Milene Henley explained budget cuts there was no mention of the Prosecuting Attorneys budget. I see that the budget for the PA's office has increased from approximately 1 million in 2015 to approx 1.5 million last year. The Council needs to take a good look at the number of lawsuits against the County and determine why there are so many. A number of years ago I proposed a Citizens Grievance Committee to review citizens complaints before it lead to a lawsuit. This was shot down by the current Council. I find that over the last 5 years San Juan County has hired over 30 outside attorneys. Why does a County this size with an already large budget for the Prosecuting Attorneys Office need to hire another 30 attorneys? This is all paid for by your dollars which could be put to better use elsewhere.
Low Cost Housing: The non profit groups on the Islands have done a good job of providing low income and low cost housing to those in need and we must support their actions.
Agriculture: I grew up on a farm and know the struggles of agriculture. The County must support our farmers and support finding new ways to provide agricultural products to residents and visitors alike.
Environmental Safeguards: One of the reasons we all live here is because of the diversity of the environment. My time on the Marine Resources Committee and the Islands Oil Spill Association has educated me in the many ways that the County can assist, or detract, from preserving our natural resources. I will error on the side of preservation keeping in mind the expense of studies and permits for development.
Development: My experience as a contractor has enlightened me with the perils of navigating the County permit system. Every election there is talk of streamlining the process but I find it still can be a nightmare. I will talk with both sides to see where the bottlenecks are and to see what the County can do to assist the process.
Diversity: We need diversity in both demographics and economics. Tourists bring a more diverse experience for all islanders but there has to be limits on depending solely on tourists dollars.
We must realize that all of the above are interconnected. If we are to have a vibrant and diverse ecosystem along with a sustainable economy all these issues must be addressed equally. The County must listen to all opinions and apply the rules fairly to all. I will work towards this goal with the help of the many qualified and involved individuals that call these Islands home.
In short I will listen to your concerns and comments and act on them rather than push them down the road to the next election.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org 360-317-3667