2010 was tough, 2011 will be better | Editorial

2010 was a tough year. We have reason to believe 2011 will be better.

As of this writing, our county jobless rate is 6.9 percent. That means about 550 of our friends and neighbors are collecting unemployment checks. And the actual unemployment rate could be higher.

This year, one of the oldest real estate companies on San Juan Island closed – John L. Scott, formerly Orca Properties, founded about 60 years ago as Dougherty Realty.

Several storefronts are empty. Sales tax revenue is still at 2004 levels. Real estate sales are sluggish.

And yet, we’ve weathered the storm. Oh, it’s been tough, but the fact we’ve survived tells us a lot about our community. And it gives us optimism for 2011.

Town employees helped balance the budget for 2010. They took unpaid days off and a few vacant positions went unfilled. The result from that and other financial restraints: The 2011 budget is balanced. No utility rates will be increased. No more unpaid furloughs for employees. And perennially flooded Spruce Street will get fixed.

New businesses have opened. Existing businesses have expanded or moved to larger quarters.

Our $30 million hospital, Peace Island Medical Center, is on track to open and accept its first patient in August 2012.

Remodeling is under way at Brickworks, the future year-round farmers market and events center at 150 Nichols St., Friday Harbor.

And islanders continue to have each other’s backs. Non-profits, public agencies and service clubs provide clothing and food, help pay utility bills, provide free and reduced-fee dental care, provide transportation to and from medical appointments on the mainland, connect islanders with jobs and paid internships, and help businesses finance, grow, hire, manage, market and plan.

Islanders continue to be engaged in lively discussion of the issues of the day, be it ferry funding or food franchises or government regulation or attaching satellite tags on orcas with darts. More evidence that we care.

Life on the rock is a beautiful, vibrant experience. We need to remember that. And we need to remember (paraphrasing Robert Fulghum) that as we ride out this tough economic cycle, we’ve got to stick together.

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