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General News · 17th May 2010
Bernice McGowan
I attended the very depressing special general meeting of the WCC the other night. Although it was one of largest-ever meeting of the WCC, it was depressing because it seemed that much of the meeting consisted of confusion and grandstanding ranging from petty to nasty. Like me, I think many folks came to the meeting to get the facts and to make an informed decision, based on those facts, about what our Club wants to do. “The facts” probably filled about an hour of a 2 1/2 hour meeting -the rest was just depressing and disturbing..

So that is my “review” Now on to the rebuttal:

The “cons” to the questions at hand seemed to centre on:
1. OMG another tax!
2. Why should folks from Whaletown area support the repair and maintenance of the Manson’s Hall?
3. Why can’t we just fundraise and volunteer like we used to?
4. Insinuations and innuendo about incompetent management of both organizations

Thankfully, no one stood up and suggested that we don’t need either Hall and why not just let them rot.

Unlike a lot of people, I do support taxation by the Regional District for our community halls. To me, it just makes sense as a way to ensure some stable, basic funding to ensure that we still have them twenty + years from now. Our Community Halls are old (way older than most of us) and need lots of ongoing maintenance and repair. The costs of “doing business” and the requirements around record keeping, insurance, reporting etc are way more onerous than they used to be. We have a proposal before us that is essentially sound, though admittedly needs some tweaking. Bottom line: we need to get money to keep what we have.

I believe that it is very important to a community to have public gathering places. Since we do not live in a climate that would support a “Zocalo”, this space needs to be inside and warm in the winter.. These places are ours to attend meetings, see a movie, have a party, be it a birthday or a memorial for a dear friend. Manson’s Hall, in particular, has provided many services to the entire community as well- at least 3 different physicians have practiced out of it, it houses a post office, it was the first office of the Credit Union, it houses the first island thrift store, it houses the library. Many of these operations, which serve the entire island, have outgrown that space, but they might not exist if they had not had that building to live in for awhile. So, I strongly believe that our community needs these public gathering places and we need to keep such spaces for the future.

My responses to the above "cons":
1. The dreaded “T” word -no, I don’t like them, I hate the HST, I disagree with lots of things Ottawa and Victoria do with my money, but I do like roads, schools and universal health care which are supported by my taxes. And yes, I will be a pensioner sooner than I would like to think and I do worry about not having enough money to pay my taxes. However, this is a tax that would directly support something I really believe in and that makes my life and community better. It is also as local a tax as you can get – aside from the approx 2% admin fee charged by the RD (some island organizations charge 10-15% admin fees), most of that money will stay here by buying local services and hiring local folks. Probably not a penny of it will go more than 2 ferry rides away.

Taxes can also provide a fair way of getting the whole community to share in the cost of something that benefits all of us. If there was a way to get each island resident to pay up each year, that might be better- but I don’t know of one.

We also have some safeguards in the proposals for limitations on amounts with a universal cap and the need for yearly approval of the membership. It is bovious to me that increases would be a hard sell. I think these safeguards would help ensure accountability from the two organizations about how they use our money. I do think the cap should be much lower.

2. Whaletown versus Manson’s -Sigh! Could we all get past this, please? However, this did trouble me a bit, since I do like to get value for my buck, until I realized that I do actually get value from the Manson’s Hall (see above). Also, the SCCA has told us that they need a significant amount to do urgent repairs and maintenance- once these are funded, community approval should be needed for future tax rates (yes, I did hear the argument that taxes never go down, but we do have a mechanism for stopping them from going up)

3. Fundraising and volunteering- Having been an active member of the community since I moved here (35 or so years ago) and having been on the WCC board and the CCHA Board, I know that island fundraising is very tight and takes a huge amount of effort for generally a fairly small gain. Grant applications take lots of time and there are not many which support capital costs for public buildings. We are really fortunate that we have some very generous private donors in this community, but we should not rely on them as stable future funding.

This is also not a fair way to get our money- it is always a small number of people, and usually the same few, who do most of the work. Been there, done that! Yes, our communities got together and built these Halls many years ago, but I am pretty sure that there were some individuals and families who put in lots more time and money/goods than their neighbors, yet we all benefit.

I also know that there are way more worthy groups on the island vying for the same pot of community money and volunteers than there used to be so the pot gets spread pretty thin. There will always be a need for involvement from the individuals who value community service.

Perhaps the one good thing that may come out of all this brouhaha is a renewed energy for fundraising and volunteering. (I expect this to last a year or two.)

4. Insinuations and innuendo -What can I say? If you would like things done better go to the meetings, suggest changes, ask for a copy of the minutes, take a position on a Board, but get involved rather than abusing volunteers who do their best.

Disagree if you like, but thanks for considering my opinions.