2020 Forced Us to Look Ahead

The past year shows that Vashon is a community that is capable of resilience and re-invention.

  • Thursday, December 31, 2020 5:41pm
  • Opinion

This week our newspaper looks different, with glorious full-color, front-page art by the inimitable Steffon Moody — welcoming the dawn of 2021.

Inside, we’ve compiled a lengthy look back at all the news of 2020.

Both are meant to inspire hope.

The past year shows that Vashon is a community that is capable of resilience and re-invention.

Our island was ready, in many ways, for the calamities that befell us in 2020. The leadership and infrastructure of VashonBePrepared and its Emergency Operations Center had long prepared to lead us through an earthquake. But when the pandemic arrived, it turned out they were ready for that too.

Our web of support, through nonprofits and social organizations, was strong. We saw organizations including Vashon Food Bank, Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, Saint Vincent DePaul Vashon, Comunidad Latina de Vashon, Vashon Senior Center, DOVE Project, and Vashon Care Network step up time and time again to serve islanders in need.

Staffed by its volunteer board, the Vashon Chamber of Commerce also continued to fulfill its important mission. Our restaurants and businesses did not thrive, but most of them have stayed open.

The Voice of Vashon stayed on the air. The Beachcomber kept going to press, and was perhaps better than ever, thanks to deep community contributions and support.

Our public agencies and the public servants and employees who make them strong also persevered, most heroically at Vashon Island School District, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue and Vashon Parks.

Remarkably, the commissioners and administration of our newly created Health Care District did the seemingly impossible: in a pandemic year, they brought a new provider, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, to occupy our clinic at Sunrise Ridge. Reviews from islanders who have visited the new clinic have been strong.

But while there is relief in turning the calendar of 2021, and reasons for patting ourselves on the back, we must never forget the bigger lessons of this chaotic year.

Most catastrophically, the earth’s climate is changing, rapidly. Justice is elusive. Our democracy is endangered. Our public health infrastructure is fragile. Systemic racism has poisoned our country and even our own community on a cellular level.

This was a year of loss, and the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in this country is soaring past 335,000, a figure so staggering high to be almost inconceivable.

The end of the story of this pandemic will not come easily or soon.

Americans have never been given so little and have been asked to do so much to support themselves and their families.

And our island was never insulated from all of this happening across the country this year. We have done better than most, but we have far to go.

Last month’s long public meetings, which resulted in the park district losing a significant percentage of its tax revenue after it was siphoned off by the Fire and Health Care districts, left some feeling that when pressured, our elected officials will just take what they want if it comes to that. We ask these officials to remember that we are truly all in this together.

We also hope that Vashon Fire & Rescue District, in response to a grievance, will do what so many other districts have done, and offer its paid firefighters paid administrative leave if they are stricken with or exposed to COVID-19.

And the fight isn’t over to bring true equity to Black, Indigenous and all people of color on our island. Our growing Latino community, in particular, must be accommodated, heard and given opportunities to co-create — not only in the schools but in many island forums and organizations.

There was never going to be a neat and tidy end to this bitter year. But it has forced us to take a hard look at what our priorities must be going forward.

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