Our Methods

Making lasting changes in San Juan County through advancing ordinances that reflect our shared values.


We have the ability to create lasting meaningful change in San Juan County through influencing the County Council to pass ordinances or through citizens’ initiative.  The goal is to advance laws that represent the core values of a majority of islanders. From climate action and environmental protection, to equity and justice, we can be a bold example of what a progressive community can accomplish. 

Politics 101: shall > should

While politicians and organizations often talk of the incredible policies they are advancing it is important to understand what those policies actually accomplish.  What they actually require as opposed to just what they say. National, state and local governments have all advanced policies that sound incredible.  That read as if they are going to save the world, but in the end, while they mention a lot, they don’t really require much. While there are notable exceptions, unfortunately, this has been true is San Juan County as well. 

This is the difference between “should” and “shall.”  When we read a policy being discussed by our County Council does it say the county “should” do something or does it say the county “shall” do something?  This is a serious distinction. If the county “should” do something, the action can be considered, but not advanced. If the County Council or another County decision-maker decides that they are not going to advance that policy, so be it.  There is no law saying it must happen.

If by contrast, the language reads “shall,” there is a much stronger mandate that the action take place.  “San Juan County shall prohibit the use of any single use plastics.

” This is a mandate and much stronger than saying, “San Juan County should prohibit the use of any single use plastics.”

This often plays out at county level with county resolutions vs. ordinances.  A resolution generally deals with matters of a special or temporary character while an ordinance prescribes permanent law. Resolutions often highlight a special event such as longtime employee leaving or a day of recognition.  They are also used however to state a position the county is taking but – and this is super important – they do not carry the weight, or strength of an ordinance.  When the county adopts an ordnance it is the law that shall be followed within that county until it is repealed or revised.  A county resolution can sound amazing, but in the end often does not have any real teeth.  A resolution cannot necessarily force the County Council, other elected officials or department heads to follow it. If we want serious county action, we should be pushing ordinances… for ordinances are incorporated into the County Code of laws and resolutions are not.


“Should” (Resolution)

“Shall” (Ordinance)

Acknowledges contemporary matters Prescribes permanent law
State a position the county takes Enacts the position the county takes
Considers action Advances action
Cannot force County Council Can force County Council

Be the Change You Want to See

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