Last week, the island’s thought-provoking news kept rolling in.
The Vashon Park District levy failed. Vashon Community Care announced it could no longer afford to offer skilled nursing services — what many people think of as nursing home care — and will offer memory care instead. Vashon Center for the Arts’ Executive Director Kevin Hoffberg posted several years worth of the nonprofit’s financial information to VCA’s website and noted that the nonprofit must continue to raise more than $1.2 million each year.
Meanwhile, in The Beachcomber office, we were putting together Destination Vashon, the tourist publication we produce every year. Cover to cover it presents sunshine and blue skies, gorgeous photos of Vashon’s wild places, art galleries and gathering places and conveys the sense that we might all step on a ferry to the island and leave our problems behind.
The contradiction was jarring.
In the coming weeks, we will likely understand each of the situations more clearly, but for now, we are wondering: Is the island at a tipping point?
Much has been made about the importance of sustainability over the years, and last week, it became clear that in many arenas, we have been living beyond our means, sometimes because of personal choices, sometimes because of larger forces — and with the best of intentions.
This fall, we will vote again to support the Vashon Park District. We will also vote on the creation of a hospital district. The island has been down this path before, having voted on such a measure three times already: in the 1930s and in 1949 — noteworthy for the history fans among us — and most recently in 2006. The boards of the Vashon Health Center (now the Neighborcare clinic) and Vashon Community Care had come together and proposed creating a hospital district in 2005. Their mission: to support primary care and long-term care on the island. The effort was soundly defeated, with approximately 70 percent of those who voted casting no votes.
Last week, with the news from VCC, it was impossible not to wonder, what if we had voted yes on that measure? Would we have strong primary care and elder-care systems in place?
We have some hard choices coming up, given our tax laws, since funding a hospital district could hurt the park district. Recent developments indicate that might not be the case this year, which is good news. Still many of us are sagging under the weight of property taxes and the island’s rising costs and are reluctant to add any more to that load. But wishing the facts away won’t make our choices any different.
Over and over, we have seen the results of putting off hard choices — and the results are now in. We have reached a time of reckoning. As has always been the case, we are all in this together, and it is up to us to make wise choices, for our own well-being and that of the community, going forward.