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General News · 24th July 2010
norberto rodriguez dela vega
The title of the painting I am including is Our Dysfunctional Community, it is a piece I made for the current Small Works show at the SchoolHouse Gallery.

Let me explain why I believe we have become a dysfunctional community. The main characteristics of such a community are: there is fear instead of hope; division instead of unity; we are focused on self-preservation instead of community well-being; there is isolation, cynicism and anonymity instead of interaction, openness and collaboration; we use destructive attacks instead of positive dialogue.

Without thinking in any local individual, nor group, in particular, what I tried to show in this painting are different groups no talking to each other, pulling in opposite directions, the clowns and the naked emperors, the bullies. And I think this picture could represent many communities.

I have lived in Cortes Island about 12 years. I know, I am still a new-comer and don’t know, nor understand, many things about this community. But something I do know is that we need to restore our sense of community and become functional again.

Now, one of the reasons of our current situation is the confrontational issue of our Community Halls. They are one of the things I love the most in this island, and as we know, for different circumstances both Halls (Whaletown and Manson's) are running into financial problems to keep them operational.

There is no question in my mind that the Halls provide tremendous value to the Cortes community and the issue is how we can keep them in functioning order, without mixing it with other community interests, nor personal agendas.

I think there are several alternatives we can explore to secure the required funds to keep the Halls operational. Unfortunately, we have mainly focused in the taxation alternative, and this idea has ignited huge discussions in our little island for the past few months.

Personally, I do not want any more taxes, I can not afford any new taxes. Sorry for this, I wish I was in a different position. but this is my reality.

I am positive that we can work together as a true community to show we care for these Halls and find ways to keep them operational. For instance:
- looking into cutting some unnecessary expenses;
- revising the kind of programs, services and facilities that we truly need;
- reducing our expectations on the things we want in the island, like having the same kind of services, facilities and activities than we used to have in the big cities (as a matter of fact, one of the reasons many of us moved to this rural island is to have a simpler life, away from many big-city things we didn't need);
- working together in fundraising events;
- looking into special provincial and federal grants;
- embracing the fundamental concept that we are One Cortes Community, not two or three in different geographic areas in this tiny island.

We must be realistic about the local economy in the island, many young people are really struggling because of lack of local jobs and opportunities; the overall cost of living in the island keeps going up every month, and I am afraid it will only get worse; there is lots of uncertainty for the future.

We should be looking into giving a boost to our local economy, not paying more taxes for every new “community need”.

Let me say it again: I do love our community halls and am positive we can find ways to keep them open without paying more taxes.

So, can we restore our sense of community and return to being functional? I think we can:
- by turning fear to hope;
- by transforming division into unity;
- by moving from isolation, anonymity and cynicism to focusing on others and on community well-being;
- by interacting, collaborating and finding solutions that work for all of us.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the Small Works show, the very last two days of the show are this Saturday and Sunday, from 2 to 6 pm. There are more than 100 works from more than 30 local artists.