Better next year
Newspaper editors can't predict the future any better than Tarot card readers. We shouldn't try.
Plus, although the editorialist's powers of moral and political suasion may be regarded as considerable by some cherished readers, most of these believers have forgotten the frequency with which they have carefully studied the writer's calls to action and, with a cheery sort of heedlessness, done other than was proposed. Or taken no action at all. And maybe we were all better off as a result.
The editorialist's ability to see trends in community behavior, to know the public mind, to unmask the scoundrelly public officials or exalt the diligent ones, may be regarded as uncanny, but it is all just luck. Luck, and the happy fact that sitting to one side closely observing the activities of one's neighbors is the newspaper's job.
But editorialists have constitutionally unlimited resilience. Helplessly, they will form and deliver opinions long after the merry, heedless forces of evolution have deleted the newspaper reading gene from humankind.
So that even today, as 2005 ends and innocent 2006 debuts, you are welcome to these few choice and oft-repeated views on topics of general and vital concern:
First, health care. What continues to be missing, and by its absence puts Island health care in doubt, is a community plan for the health services it needs, wants, and can afford. We mean a plan that is financially sound and one that is conceived in honest bargaining among providers, insurers, and the community, taking each and all into account. The Island Health Plan and its health clinic represent steps in that direction, but it's just a start.
On the other hand, the hospital, its tens of millions in financing provided by a few very wealthy benefactors and only the small change by us, its primary customers(maybe), wears all the finery of a community hospital without being one. Whose hospital will it be, Islanders must continue to ask.
And the decades old question remains. what next, and how will the services we need be economically integrated and supportable over the long term?
Next, the Steamship Authority. The Vineyard's transportation link to the mainland will enter 2006 with great promise and big problems. High costs, especially for labor, declining traffic volumes, private competitors who sip (and sometimes gulp) revenues that might otherwise help fund SSA service, plus changing travel patterns in the market and increasing demands by Islanders who have become wealthier and more itinerant: the list is long and unforgiving. Tough, sound choices will be needed. And this may be the lineup of members and management to make them? We shall see.
Housing. Prices are high and rising. Ordinary incomes will not support home ownership any more, and rental opportunities are limited and expensive. Huge and varied efforts represent a heartening, community-wide commitment to address this problem before it wounds our community. The Martha's Vineyard Commission has, in its recent Cozy Hearth decision, acknowledged that housing is an issue whose time has come. But careful steps are in order. Will all ordinary-income Islanders from here on live in subsidized housing with limited opportunities for accumulating wealth? Will the economy be encouraged to expand to offer good jobs and growing wages to neighbors we need and want? Will all the new, affordable housing created from here on be publicly funded?
Oh, and government. We waste so much time and so many resources. The school system needs streamlining, the county government needs a decent burial, the Martha's Vineyard Commission needs to consider the Vineyard's future in more comprehensive terms, paying particular attention to the economy as an engine of housing, jobs, wages, conservation, education, and general community good health. The schools and the towns and all of us need working, computerized information system links. And we need results-oriented leadership to get this work done.
It's a familiar list. We've never gotten everything done that we meant to get to. Maybe we should simply acknowledge that it has been a year of good and bad. We admit that we are scarred and uncertain, but we know that there is a very great likelihood 2006 will be better.
And we know there is always smiling promise and opportunity - especially in your neighborly, encouraging, indulgent, and enthusiastic company.
Happy New Year to all.