I live on Cortes Island. I don’t have kids in play school. I don’t have a market stall, nor am part of the pottery guild. I seldom attend dances or dinners at either hall and mainly, for me, Mansons Hall is a place to collect mail, score Thrift Store finds and point visitors to buy market treats and get a sense of Cortes community. At the same time I will unequivocally be voting YES for the Hall Tax because as a property owner, I am invested in Cortes and the community. I know the Halls contribute greatly to the quality of life of the friends and neighbours who surround me, who serve me, who I work for and work with. This is not an altruistic endeavour. I want my local economy to thrive. I want to attract and keep a diverse population of all ages and backgrounds, and I want my land to be worth something. Allowing Cortes to become an island of bare-bones infrastructure does not help anyone’s retirement plans. It does not contribute to people’s ability to stay on their land or help its resale value.
Halls that host dances, fundraisers, community dinners and classes for young and old bolster Cortes island’s livability and local economy. Friday market is an economic engine that supplies or augments many resident’s income. It attracts locals and tourists alike and generates money that is circulated throughout the island. Market booths, classes and programs not only allow many to make ends meet, but also provide a space for people to network, launch, and augment small ventures, and it generates income that spills over to other local businesses. The Halls cannot out-price their renters. A reasonable rental cost within the means of middle and lower income island residents makes for sustainable and diverse bookings. It allows people to live here and function in community. This helps maintain a healthy local economy.
While I do own land, I do not have a high income. I sometimes struggle to make ends meet but that struggle would be far worse if I did not have a diverse and resourceful community to rely on. If I want to live here I can not just think about my needs in isolation. I am in an interdependent relationship with those around me. It is demoralizing to ask volunteer board members or a skeleton staff to exist within a tenuous support system, never confident that they can pay for insurance, heating or repairs, or keep their doors open. Grants, which most often are given for only certain projects but not structural costs; and volunteer energy, which fluctuates greatly, are not reliable. The Halls need income stability. Many in the past who have suggested this or that short-term fundraiser have not wanted to back their suggestions with their own sweat equity. There is no inexhaustible pool of volunteers ready to meet the needs of the hall every time a crucial bill has to be paid. If the doors close that would be a significant loss, not only to community spirit, but also to the island economy. Property value does not go up with loss of community infrastructure.
The vast majority of island communities fund their halls. They recognize how important they are. As it stands, Cortes struggles to attract and keep young families and workers, who are vital to the island economy. If you want to retire here, who will be looking after your service needs if you allow for only the most bare-bones of social resources? As a property owner who is invested here, I am not interested in cultivating a ghost town. While you will never find a time when I am not on a tight budget, I know I can find the money for the Hall Tax because I recognize the Hall’s value to the community extends far beyond its doors.