The most important meeting of the day June 5 did not take place in a hall of government, and those speaking were not elected officials sitting behind a dais.
The topics discussed affect you and your neighbors: The need for a community health center in Silverdale. Making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The status of new-school construction. The effort to build a new library. The Central Kitsap Food Bank ensuring people who’ve hit a rough patch have what they need to get by.
This was a meeting of people just like you, people who care about the quality of life in Silverdale and Central Kitsap. This was a meeting of the Government Affairs Committee of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce, which meets at 3:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month in the Oxford Suites Bistro on Silverdale Way.
They would love for you to join in. The meetings are casual — you’ll sit with others around a table, listen to five-minute presentations from representatives of various non-profits and agencies, offer input if you so desire, and you’re out of there by 4:30.
That’s right, one hour. Heck, this group is so cut-to-the-chase that they go by the abbreviation “GAC,” to save time from having to say “Government Affairs Committee.”
This group is an idea factory where matters go quickly from discussion to action. Here’s what came out of Monday’s meeting.
Cindy Stewart, school-to-work coordinator for the Central Kitsap School District, told of how 30-35 percent of students in the district depend on free or reduced-price lunches. If a student lives with food instability, chances are good there are other needs as well — needs that are hurdles to stability and success.
She told of a student she helped place in a job. He needed new glasses; the pair he was wearing kept sliding down his nose, interfering with his work preparing food. She took him to an optometrist who offered him a new pair of glasses. The student wrote in a letter of thanks, “Now, I don’t have to wear my sister’s glasses anymore.”
No one had any idea he was wearing his sister’s glasses, Stewart said. The teen also got braces to correct an overbite, so people could better understand him when he spoke. Glasses and braces — basics for many but unaccessible for many others — made a big difference to this teen as he begins his working career.
Stewart said she has many stories like that. That’s why Silverdale needs a community health clinic, where children who otherwise wouldn’t have access to certain care can get it. She’s pushing for a clinic like the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which provides medical, dental, mental health and nutirition services to all families, regardless of their ability to pay.
When our young people are healthy, our community is healthy, Stewart said. “They are the future. They are our community’s foundation. They are the ones who are going to keep things going.”
Expect detours around Silverdale Way from Byron Street to Anderson Hill Road after the Fourth of July weekend and until June 2018, as Silverdale Way is widened and improved. Gunnar Fridriksson of the Kitsap County Public Works Roads Division said the project will result in five-foot bike lanes, six-foot planter areas, and eight-foot sidewalks; new street lighting throughout the project area; a new traffic signal at Byron Street and Silverdale Way; an upgraded stormwater system on Silverdale Way and on Pacific Avenue; and stormwater treatment for 43 acres. Stormwater treatment is an important piece of improving the health of our marine environment.
Doug Newell, business and operations director of the Central Kitsap School District, told of the innovative new Barker Creek Community School, which opens in fall. Some students don’t “fit” in the traditional classroom setting. As the website states, at Barker Creek, students and their families all have access to a K-12 parent partnership program, K-12 online academy and classroom-based instruction program for grades 9-12.
David Brumsickle told of continuing efforts to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety on Silverdale Way.
Chris Benson, director of the Central Kitsap Food Bank, said the agency was selected by employees of Marshalls department store at The Trails for a $10,000 grant to help the food bank continue its good work.
Mark Hughes of Kitsap Regional Library told of efforts underway to raise money to build a new library. KRL’s vision of a library is that of a place of engagement. As we saw in Kingston, where the branch library is part of the Village Green Community Center, libraries help transform communities.
Based on a KRL study, Kitsap residents want opportunities to connect — and tools that help them identify those opportunities — in their neighborhoods and across the county. They want more robust social services locally. They want their fellow residents to know and see that what they do matters, that they make a difference. Kitsap residents believe in creating diverse opportunities for education that support the employment needs of the county. They believe in developing and supporting local businesses, while creating green spaces in our neighborhoods and protecting our natural resources. They believe in future-focused planning and getting residents engaged in the process.
As a center of information, KRL believes it has an important role in making that happen. You can read more about that in the KRl’s invaluable report, “Our Stories,” at KRL.org/ourstories.
I’ve just glossed over what was discussed at the meeting. Connie Weisel, chairwoman of the committee, summed up well the value of the GAC: “Many times, [members] are able to help each other, or meet afterwards and further help and inform each other. It has become very successful.”
The beauty of it is, you can be a part of it; you can help chart Silverdale’s course. Interested? Email Weisel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-692-7800. I hope I see you there.
— Richard Walker is managing editor of Kitsap News Group. Contact him at email@example.com.