Opinion

People are still island’s best resource

What do we mean when we talk about “community values”?

While the generally shared desire for a quiet refuge unspoilt by change comes immediately to the fore of any discussion of a Bainbridge Islander’s DNA makeup, there’s a human component as well. Look no further than the Community Values Surveys of 1994 and 2000 for proof.

In the two most recent scientific polls of island sentiment commissioned by the city, our “sense of community” outpaced even “open natural space” as the most-valued characteristic, with “diversity of people” placing third ahead of “small scale development.” For as much as we value all those trees, we value the people who live amongst them still more.

Capturing the essence of today’s islanders, their shared values and dreams and goals and fears, seems as apt a way as any to describe the IslandWise project being undertaken by former mayor Dwight Sutton, businessman Charlie Frame, architect Rod Stevens, police detective Scott Anderson and others. Through a series of “fireside chats” now getting under way, these folks hope to meet islanders from a cross-section of the community to discuss what brought them to the island, what keeps them here and what might someday push them to seek refuge elsewhere.

Those conflicting impulses are reflected on today’s front page. In one story, a pair of young islanders discuss their experiences setting up a small business in their home – a rental of unusually low cost, thanks to the philanthropy of their landlord – and the challenge of finding the home itself. Contrast their views with those of another islander, a tireless champion of agricultural preservation for more than a decade, who has decided to give up the fight here and move on.

Our previous entries in this series have caught up with folks at the extreme ends of the economic spectrum, long-time islanders who find Bainbridge accommodating despite the changes around them, and newer residents – folks who, arguably, embody the dreaded “change” – who’ve grafted themselves onto the community and couldn’t be happier. We’ll run a few more of these household profiles before handing the project over to the folks at IslandWise.

Sutton and his group hope to codify the commonalities they find among the many people with whom they meet and publish their findings for the community to ponder.

“Then the challenge is, how do we best implement these things so that they’re not something we have published and put on the wall and walk away?” Sutton says. “How do we draw them into the behavior of ourselves, our government, our organizations? That will be another challenge.”

Join the IslandWise discussion by giving Sutton a call and setting up a time for a fireside chat. What does it mean to be an islander these days? We’ll be interested to find out.

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