Opinion

‘2010 will be a year of challenges, frustrations and progress’ | Forecasts for 2010

By RICH PETERSON

In the coming year, we will be confronted with many easily predictable items — some that are probable, and others that will arrive unexpectedly. This is the way it has been and will always be.

One of the unexpected issues from 2009 was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association initiative that seemed to be on the verge of closing off the waters of San Juan Island’s west side to nearly all boating. This threat to our economy and recreation will likely resurface but probably not in 2010. There were shocks, some of them tragic, such as the death of our county’s first Superior Court judge, John Linde.

In the realm of the predictable were such things as the budget, the Critical Areas Ordinance, ferry fares and scheduling issues, a variety of discussions and decisions about the San Juan Island transfer station, and funding for solid waste handling in general. These will be with us in the coming year as well and I expect the budget and the Critical Areas Ordinance update to occupy the most County Council and administrative time.

I suspect that 2010 will also involve considerable time and energy in the attempt to modify our regulations for wireless communications in order to provide appropriate protections and coverage for county residents.

The budget problem was only partially solved by the recently approved levy lift. We created funding for 11 important programs but are left with an anticipated shortfall of about $500,000 in 2010. We will need to evaluate many additional cost-saving measures such as new consolidation of departments and/or functions.

We still have serious inefficiencies that can be corrected through the use of improved technology. Video conferencing, for example, could save hundreds of hours now used for inter-island travel to attend meetings. Our computer networking capability and digital mapping capacity have made amazing progress in recent months and will continue to improve effectiveness. The funds we have invested in these areas are, in my opinion, among the smartest use of the public’s money that we can make. When we are facing more deficits, however, it is hard to make the decisions to spend more on technology when we may have to grapple with additional personnel reductions.

The Critical Areas Ordinance adoption will continue to generate controversy as we struggle to identify regulations that both protect the environment and preserve the rights and interests of our citizens. There are obvious areas of common ground but there are also differences of opinion on the regulations needed. The likelihood of reaching broad public consensus on the multitude of details associated with this seems remote but I believe it can be obtained with cooperation, mutual respect, and reason.

2010 will be a year of opportunities, challenges, frustrations and progress. It will be a very interesting year.

— Rich Peterson represents North San Juan Island on the San Juan County Council. He was council chairman in 2009.

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