Next year will be - what?
Newspaper editors can't predict the future any better than telephone psychics. 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 disdain, 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 discern 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 really 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 are endowed with a 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 2006 ends and innocent 2007 debuts on Monday, you are welcome to these few choice views on topics of general and vital concern.
First, as to health care, the leadership of the Martha's Vineyard Hospital and its fundraisers and donors have endowed Vineyarders with the promise of top-flight medical care and the possibility of dependable stability at the center of the Island's health care system. The new hospital and the new alliance with PartnersHealthCare and Massachusetts General Hospital are milestone achievements. Still, it is the case today - and it will be true after the new hospital is built and the alliance with MGH is working smoothly - that health care access and flexible, dynamic delivery systems for all Islanders have not been achieved. Building a new hospital and integrating our hospital into the MGH system are enormous tasks, certain to consume years of hard work by hospital leadership. As this work continues, the search must not languish for solutions to the problems of inadequate access and the crippled, underfunded non-system of health care for those who do not need hospital attention. Partners has a record of working with home health care providers, nursing agencies, and community health care providers such as Island Health Plan and its Edgartown rural health care clinic. For the hospital, Partners and the Vineyard community, integrating these services with expanded access must be a central focus over the next year, along with construction and the knitting together of MGH and MVH.
Next, the Steamship Authority. The Vineyard's transportation link to the mainland will enter 2007 with two new vessels and all the old problem - high costs, declining traffic volumes, changing travel patterns in the market, increasing demands by Islanders who have become wealthier and more itinerant. Tough, sound choices will be needed. We think this is the board and management to make them. But, will they?
Housing. Prices continue high, and despite a slowdown in volume, they are not falling. Ordinary incomes will not support home ownership any more, and rental opportunities are limited and expensive. Huge and varied efforts have expressed a heartening, community-wide commitment to address this problem before it wounds our community. But the pace has slowed, and reassessment is in order. Ordinary-income Islanders from here on cannot be made to live exclusively in subsidized housing with limited opportunities for accumulating wealth. The economy must be encouraged to expand to offer good jobs and growing wages to neighbors we need and want. All the new, affordable housing created from here on must not be publicly funded. If these imperatives escape us, the prediction here is failure.
Oh, and government. We waste so much time and so many resources. The school system needs streamlining. The county government needs a decent burial. Will the new county charter study commission conduct the ceremony? The Martha's Vineyard Commission needs to consider the Vineyard's future in more comprehensive terms - and that doesn't mean 50-year plans for in which no ordinary Islanders have an ounce of faith - paying particular attention to the economy as an engine of housing, jobs, wages, conservation, education, and general community good health.
It's too much of a list really, isn't it? We won't get to it all. 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 2007 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.