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Serving Orcas, Lopez and San Juan County

WEDNESDAY, March 27, 2013  VOL. 46, NO. 13  75¢ 


Helping kids get the food they need by COLLEEN SMITH ARMSTRONG Editor/Publisher

For students who come to school hungry, there is a safety net: classroom snacks and the state lunch program. In the past, when those kids leave campus and head home for the weekend, they are on their own. For the last three years, Orcas School has been trying to fill the gap so kids aren’t hungry on their days off. The Weekend Packs for Kids program provides a grocery bag of goodies for students to bring home on Friday. “Because of the design of the program, we try to be healthy but also provide food that kids can make at home without an oven,” said K-8 Principal Kyle Freeman. Items include cup of noodles, juice, milk, cereal, chips, crackers,

granola bars, fruit, tuna and fruit snacks. Some bags are customized for specific needs – one family only eats vegetarian. The pilot program was launched after Freeman saw how many kids were using the state’s free and reduced breakfast/lunch program. It’s a number that has grown steadily. Four years ago, 30 percent of the student body was part of the program. Last year it was nearly 60 percent. In addition, the elementary office hands out apples as a daily snack. “We go through apples by the case,” Freeman said. Islander Rita Bailey was instrumental in getting Weekend Packs for Kids off the ground. She has now handed over the reins to School Counselor and “Readiness to Learn” Specialist Nancy O’Brien,

Colleen Smith Armstrong/Staff photo

Left to right: K-8 Principal Kyle Freeman, counselor Nancy O’Brien and PTSA board member Kate Long. PTSA Board Member Kate Long and volunteers Kiki Coe and Bobbie Cunningham. The first

year saw around 30 participants. This year, 44 kids are bringing home a grocery bag of food on

County council candidate conversations Part two of a three-part series by SOUNDER STAFF

The revamped three-person council was approved by the voters in November. The three members will be elected countywide from “residency districts” comprising San Juan, Orcas and Lopez and nearby smaller islands. Lisa Byers and Rich Hughes are running for the Orcas Island District 2 position. Byers is the director of OPAL Community Land Trust. Hughes is a councilman for Orcas West. He is also co-owner of Ray’s Pharmacy.

Lisa Byers

Sounder: What do you bring to the table that is different from the other candidates and why did you decide to run? LB: My career has been to serve my community through public service. I have successfully managed a complex nonprofit business that develops real estate for affordable housing. I have used a combination of private and public funds to achieve a public purpose, and I have worked with volunteers as well as paid staff to get the job done. This is similar to the county in many ways. Much of the county council’s work relates to adopting regulations related to land use. I have obtained five land-use permits for sub-dividing properties, and overseen projects that required more than 100 building permits. I understand the frustrations of the permitting process, and I have the experience to help make it better.

I have many skills that are the right match for the county council. I have been a frugal manager of budgets – maintaining an organization with less than 6 percent in administration and fundraising expenses during good times and bad. I am a creative and thoughtful decisionmaker – gathering the information necessary to make investments and take calculated risks that have succeeded time and again. And I am a leader who gets the job done – I have repeatedly been elected to serve as the chairwoman or president of volunteer organizations. Sounder: How do you plan to balance the county budget? Do you support renewal of Prop. 1, the voter- approved property tax increase that expires at the end of 2015? LB: It is too soon to make a determination about the renewal of the Proposition 1 property tax increase that was approved in Nov. 2009 by 57 percent of the voters for the period from Jan. 2010 – Dec. 2015. The services supported by that tax increase are important. The tax funds a portion of senior services, the fair, county parks, extension programs, public health, the sheriff and the prosecutor’s office. However, the tax increase was necessary, in part, because of a loss of revenues from other areas. As the economy recovers, it is possible that these revenue streams may also recover. In addition, the county should continue to look at ways to streamline functions and partner with other entities to keep costs down. Sounder: What is the single most critical issue facing county residents?

LB: The biggest issue facing many county residents is the viability of the economy and the community. “How do I continue to live here? Will my kids be able to live here? What will happen to my business? Will I be able to get the services I need to stay here?” There are many ingredients necessary to tackle this problem. We must diversify and strengthen our local economy. The council needs to work with representatives of all local business sectors to reduce barriers to their success, and to promote opportunities, such as local co-ops and OPALCO’s efforts to bring broadband to the county. We need to support businesses by zoning adequately so that they may have space to grow. We must insure that farmers are able to work the land and that producers of all products made in the islands are able to get their goods to market – both locally and on the mainland. We must continue to provide affordable housing, and to support and promote our schools. If young people can find work and housing, they will raise their children here, and we need a diversity of ages to remain a healthy place. Sounder: What accomplishment are you most proud of as director of OPAL? LB: I am most proud of successfully navigating the current recession. OPAL Community Land Trust provides permanently affordable housing on Orcas. When the recession


Friday afternoon. The kinds of families who sign up range from single parents to working families. At the start of the school year, K-8 parents receive a letter explaining program. There are no requirements to participate. “We don’t ask how you use it,” Freeman said. “We were amazed at how fast they signed up and how many bags line up in the hall … It’s hard enough to ask for help or


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Islands' Sounder, March 27, 2013