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General News · 13th August 2010
Join us - Saturday August 14th
10:00 am at Linnaea School

To find solutions to the community hall issues.
If you can't come for the whole day, please come at 10:00 am. and stay as long as you can.

I feel the need to speak to a couple of the concerns that have been voiced regarding the Open Invitation to the Community that I wrote last week. From my perspective, we haven’t even scratched the surface of the creativity and wisdom of our community. With the energy we have wasted fighting about this, the builders of this island could have made another hall with a sauna, a hot spring, and a rollie coaster. We have a lot of issues that we need to be talking about, but I can’t imagine who would be willing to go through what just took place regarding the halls.

Some people have said “Why is this meeting happening? We have already voted and the nay-sayers lost. It is been one of the more ugly conflicts in our history and let’s just let it lie. People will eventually forget their anger and the Cortes spirit will heal. That’s just the way these issues are handled here. It has always been that way and it always will.” These are valid concerns and they deserve answers.

The Strathcona Regional Board received about 140 letters from Cortesians that were opposed to one thing or another regarding the by-law and became concerned about that level of resistance.

Have you ever considered that it’s not who we are that turns every little daffodil into a terrible problem, but rather the way we come together to figure out how to proceed that is the real problem? When a complex issue is before any community, people need to talk out their thoughts as long as they need to in the company of others that are interested in that same topic. Others listen and then add their point of view. Ideas are developed and then can be submitted to the larger group to see if that idea has traction. Instead of that, I attended a meeting in Whaletown where a man got up to speak and was stopped. “You’re not speaking to the motion on the floor,” he was told. “I know you don’t want a tax, but if you did, would you like it to be $85.” That man didn’t come back to the next meeting and neither did about a third of the people that attended the previous meeting. Many I have spoken to were furious that they didn’t get their questions answered with that meeting style and many blame the people that ran the meeting.

My point here is that there are no bad guys in this nightmare, just that the initial phase of a community process needs to use a method that allows everyone to work through their issues. The SCCA and WCC boards consist of some of the most devoted community supporters that live here. There is no doubting that fact.

Other people have said “Whaletown seems to be full of trouble-makers. The south end of the island has the numbers to out-vote Whaletown and so they should just accept that reality.” There is certainly no doubting those numbers. About 200 residents are SCCA members, including some of us living in Whaletown. That’s about one fourth of who lives here. The other three fourths are either not organized, living in Squirrel Cove, or have a variety of reasons for not participating.

So what is an example of an issue that still hasn’t been adequately addressed? Here’s one I hear. There is a common story about why the SCCA didn’t get a regular grant that would have covered most or all of the shortfall. In this story, the granting agency wrote to the SCCA board about outstanding issues from 2006 thru 2009 describing incomplete bookkeeping practices with regard to the grant money. If this is in any way accurate, the system needs to be changed. In the adjusted system, when there is a danger signal like that, it would be shared with the members and then it would be a problem for everyone to deal with. In the current version, it seems that the board is taking on responsibility for problems that should be addressed by the entire membership. That seems like an obvious need, but no such adjustment has been mentioned to me.

There are other concerns that still need to be addressed, questions like “When did the halls start to become unable to manage themselves financially?” “Do we need some kind of an advisory group to watch over the organization’s finances?” “Why don’t the halls operate like any other business and make detailed and regular financial statements freely available to their constituents?” “Where is the budget and what will be done differently so that the halls operate within that budget?” Noba wrote in her last note that “the SCCA will do their very best to provide audited year end financials for 2009/2010 as well as a budget for 2010 and beyond. . . . and hopefully make this information available a few days before the meeting of August 14th. That time has come. Is whatever information that was collected in this regard posted on the tideline?”

Somebody asked me, “What happens when you have two people in a group that absolutely differ in their opinions?” That’s a real problem. The answer is that those opinions are built on personal experience and an entire way of looking at the world. Once those opinions have been expressed, each person could describe some of the background for their opinion. What kinds of experience have you had that led you to end up with your current opinion. After such an exchange, those two people may still disagree, but they will understand each other better and respect comes from understanding. Right now, we ain’t got very much of that.

Most of us, me included, aren’t that fond of listening. When other people are talking about opposing views, we don’t listen, we reload. Taking an hour or two to just listen to the experiences behind differing opinions is a gift to the community in itself.

My final point is this. I believe this to be as true as the rain. Living here in the closest thing to paradise, if we can’t adopt a respectful way of allowing everyone to develop and express their concerns regarding matters that affect everyone, then the world is hooped.

John J. Anderson