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General News · 30th August 2017
Hello Cortes,
After reading the most recent Marketer flyer, which has tons of opinions about the hall tax, I want to share my personal experiences . I have lived on Cortes about 12 years, own property, and have volunteered hundreds of hours here. I sat on the WCC board for 3 years. The first year I joined because it was falling apart, and I felt it was my time to give back. There was nobody who wanted to be on the board and due to circumstances the hall was about to shut down. My first realization was that things were so broken because of the previous "drama" with the proposed hall taxes. It created much division and hurtfulness in our community. An entire WCC board before me had resigned, folks had moved off Island because of it, and friendships were destroyed. I guess its a hot topic. There was no energy at the hall, most people just wanted to avoid it because it had been so toxic. The following 2 years I was president on the WCC board. We secured 2 grants and did amazing renovations on the place. This was not easy. It proved so challenging and taxing to board members and was only successful because we had some fabulous, committed, community-minded people who kept moving forward with it, and who became so incredibly burnt out by the workload of it. I will never be involved with grants again, its not FREE money and it's exhausting.
The only constant in life is change, and life evolves. This is not the Cortes it was 20 years ago, or 50 years ago, or 100 years ago. The Gorge hall barely stays afloat year by year. The costs to run a community hall are great. We have insurance, heating, maintaining food safe kitchen, bi-weekly water and well testing, septic tanks needing to be emptied, and general maintenance to the building. This is all run on volunteer time. I realized early on it's a very frail thread which holds it all together, and just barely. The grants are never a guarantee...and any given year we can be denied (not out of laziness, but because that is the nature of grants). Not to mention the hundreds of volunteer hours it takes to write grants, and the general unenthusiam of volunteers who are willing to endure such tedious and boring tasks. If we ever are to not receive the annual grant money, its 100% guarantee that the hall would close down. Volunteers? Ample fundraising opportunities? My experience on the board was that they are few and far between. There is not much satisfaction sitting on a board that can barely finance the hall from month to month. If we had an annual bit of extra funds to pull from, I believe we would attract more volunteers because it would be more inspiring to help shape and create community programs. Right now it is bare bones survival tactics. I believe that without the hall taxes our community halls will be shut down in a few years time. I may not have a need for the parents and tots program personally,but I do recognize that its programs like these that shape Cortes into the supportive and kind community I feel honored to live in.
There were 16 babies born this year on Island, Cortes still continues to be a young, diverse, supportive community. The youth raised here go into the world wanting to help, they are empathetic, kind, and stunningly beautiful. Our elders are treated with respect and taken care of here. The whales have returned for their 3rd year, after having been missing for the last 30. We live in a special place, let's take care of each other. Let the small things go.
I stand with community.
I stand with Hall taxes.
-Ashe Biela
(I am speaking for myself, not for the WCC board)
Thank you Ashe
Comment by Mae Sherwood on 2nd September 2017
Thank you Ashe for your well written comments regarding the hall tax. I was a volunteer for many years, sitting on the Board of the WCC, organizing classical music concerts, salad bar, pie table, plant sales and other activities too numerous to mention. It was always a matter of raising money for the Club and sometimes there was just not enough. We even resorted to raffles. Extra funds in the form of a tax would be extremely helpful. Some of the people who are against the hall tax are not those who volunteer very much. The hall tax is not intended to stop the volunteers from volunteering - there is a satisfaction in helping out. A referendum would give us a voice so we would know everybody's opinion.
Thanks for this Ashe
Comment by Gary Cork on 1st September 2017
It was so great to get your perspective on the operating of a community hall!
I appreciated your clarity in describing the difficulties that you and your board have faced.
I feel that the community will have a greater understanding of what is involved.
Well said!
Comment by Nancy Kendel on 1st September 2017
Thanks Ashe, couldn't have said it better myself!
We support the Hall Tax
Comment by Harvey Family on 1st September 2017
Nicely written article Ashe - I agree with your views after spending 2 terms on the WCC Board.
Great comments that Romina made - what an economic driver the Friday Market at Manson's Hall is. Thousands of tourist and local dollars are spent each week, and are then poured back into the community in which we all live. How many times does a dollar made at Mansons Hall change hands locally?
One island, one community, many voices - let's shoot for harmony!
Thank you
Comment by Loretta Tennant on 31st August 2017
I would like to add my thanks for your highly informative letter.
Do People Want A Future Here
Comment by Romina on 31st August 2017
Thank you for your accurate account of what it is like to volunteer on a hall board here. It is demoralizing to not know if you can pay insurance, heating or admin staff. All the people in the past who have suggested this or that short-term fundraiser have often not wanted to meet their suggestions with their own sweat equity. It was as if many believed some magical fairies were supposed to come up with funds and free labor every time there was a financial crunch. Instead programs and days open have been cut and the roof is left to leak, which canít go on forever. Grants and volunteer energy are not reliable. There are real bills that have to paid to keep a public building open and provide community support, which reaches far beyond its doors. If those doors close that is a significant loss to not only the community spirit but also the island economy. We will all feel that and most keenly property owners. Do folks really believe as we lose infrastructure the value of their property will go up?

Letís just look at one example. Friday market is an economic engine that supplies many residents with income that is also spent on island. It brings in both local and tourist money and that in turn circulates through the island. In addition, it allows many to make ends meet, start or amplify a small business and network with others through markets and activities held there. The spill over affect of that consumer traffic to businesses in Mansons is significant. Do I really need to mention all the other things that happen at the hall from dances to fundraisers, Christmas dinners to play-school and classes for young and old. All of it bolsters Cortes islandís livability and the local economy. You canít out price your renters, and a reasonable rental cost within the means of lower income people makes for sustainable and diverse bookings. It allows people to live here and function in community and that intern helps maintain a functioning on island economy.

In Canada you have to subsidize certain infrastructure because the overall payoff to community and economy reaches further and is more dispersed than just what happens inside the hall itself. That is why most communities fund their halls. They recognize how important they are. As it stands Cortes struggles to attract and keep young families, which are vital to the islandís economy. If you want to retire here, who in the future is going to look after your service needs if you decide to make this island the most barebones when it comes to community resources? I realize people donít know what theyíve got till itís gone;†however, as a property owner who is invested here, I donít want to see Mansons turn into a ghost town as more and more people find fewer community resources and spaces to want to even remain.
Thanks Ashe.
Comment by max thaysen on 31st August 2017
nice words, and courageous. I stand with tax-supported halls.
100% guarantee the hall will close down ?
Comment by Wendy L. on 30th August 2017
Fear mongering doesn't help. Both the Manson's and Gorge Halls have been around longer than most of us, and when grants weren't available nor the ubiquitous grant writer (s) taking their cut of the funding.

Take a good look around Cortes. For a tiny island with ~1000 population we have how many halls and appropriate public venues for 'community' use?
It's high time to start looking at other facilities to accommodate 'community' needs, instead of individual halls attempting to assert dominance over others with a hall tax. Why apply for grants with their ensuing administration/managerial costs to duplicate infrastructure found in other public venues on Cortes.
If it can't happen at one place other options are there.
Big picture for a small island.
In support of community
Comment by Catriona Vega on 30th August 2017
Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. I'd say many of the organizations that exist on island through grants, donations and volunteer energy (often a small handful of dedicated people) could say the same regarding the challenges keeping things running as you witnessed with the WCC. It can feel like squeezing water from stones. I can't imagine life on Cortes without the halls, whether I step foot in the market or attend the many events and interest groups that hold events there or not. There are few venues on Cortes available throughout the entire year, not to mention the potential for emergency shelter. If there were not programming for children of all ages through to senior activities and community events like Lip Sync...what kind of shell would we be living in? And yes, whatever each individual's opinion, let's do our best to stay respectful, connected and supportive of this community as a whole. It is a beautiful place to call home. Gracias!