Sen. Barbara Bailey, constituents discuss deeper issues over a cup of coffee

In Non-fiction, Uncategorized on January 21, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Conversation underscores need for “accountability and common sense”

Only one person was missing from Sen. Barbara Bailey’s scheduled Coffee Talks appearance at Stanwood’s Wayne’s Café last Wednesday: Barbara Bailey herself, who, due to an unexpected illness, was unable to attend.

Members of her communications team, however, were there to speak with Bailey’s constituents on her behalf.

“Senator Bailey is eager to know what is on your mind,” said Vicki Angelini, a spokesperson for Bailey. “We are here to talk with you about your concerns and take back all of that information to her.”

As concerned attendees gathered in the tight-knit space at the back of the small café, disquiets and anxieties began to fly from all directions.

“At my age, I don’t care,” said one elderly man, who expressed an intense concern over what he described as “piss-poor management” in Washington state, “but I have children and I have grandchildren that these issues are going to impact.”

One item discussed at length was the challenge of growing and operating a small business in a state that, due to its myriads of confusing laws and rules, has not created a very hospitable environment for business owners.

“The state is encouraging non-compliance by stacking up too many rules, worrying about the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law,” exclaimed attendee Angela Elgee. Elgee owns the Angelsong Retreat Center, a bed and breakfast on County Line Road.

The issue arose at the behest of Shawn DeNae of the Washington Bud Company, who based her concerns around the difficulty of trying to start a business selling marijuana for medicinal purposes. The discussion, however, quickly broadened in scope and became a conversation about how the matter affected members of the community trying to navigate a labyrinth of local, state and federal laws.

“Everyday, businesses break all kinds of rules they’re not aware of, because small businesses don’t have a team of lawyers to check every box,” said Lauden Espinoza, senior public information officer for the Washington State Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.

Another issue that raised eyebrows was Washington state’s educational landscape.

“Bailey is all about the matter of accountability across the board,” said Espinoza. “She is interested in a return on each investment.”

Espinoza explained that, to Bailey, higher education is an investment.

“Are the students in our state developing skills that will equip them to provide a return on the investment?” Espinoza asked.

An older gentleman piped up from the other side of the room: “I know what you mean,” he said. “Our grandson is like a feather in a vacuum right now. He has no idea what he wants to do.”

The concern was that students in Washington state may not be receiving an education that will allow them to contribute to the bigger picture.

“Everyone has personal preferences, something they may be passionate about,” Espinoza said, “but we have found that a lot of students are pursuing degrees where there are not jobs. Is that liberal arts degree really going to allow you to pay off an $80,000 bill to the federal government?”

Espinoza and Angelini agreed with attendees that the cost of an average student’s education in the state in relation to the value of the resulting benefits may not be balanced.

“The simple fact is,” Espinoza said, “we are not graduating students with an appropriate amount of skills.”

Although Bailey herself could not attend, she ensured her constituents that their apprehensions would be addressed appropriately.

Both Espinoza and Angelini moderated the discussion in a very empathetic way, conveying Bailey’s desire to give impetus to

Overall, the sit-down discussion of approximately one hour was a productive dialogue that left citizens feeling assured that their opinions mattered and that their voices would be heard.

The issues discussed, of course, served to highlight what Angelini called “the crux of the meeting”: “People aren’t confident the state has been doing its job,” she said, “and they expect accountability and common sense.”


This article appeared in the Dec. 8, 2014 issue of Stanwood Camano News.

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