We know that there is a controversy about the ferry fees out there, and we are occasionally pressed for comment. So here are my thoughts:
We have all been hit hard by the economic downturn. Everyone is trying to do more with less, and that is frustrating. Sadly, it also has the capacity to make everyone look around and see if we are getting our share of resources or paying more than our share of the burden. While this is normal, it can fracture communities. The issue of how we pay for the ferry has become clouded with other issues of residency, usage, and island priorities. The wording of the new policy was close enough to the old policy that many of us didn’t notice the changes until recently. I am sure that the INTENT of the new policies was not to make anyone feel like a second class citizen. We are all frustrated by the new economic realities, and that makes the discussion much more heated. We now have a choice– we can keep pointing fingers or we can pull together as a community to solve the problem. We have a lot of smart people with good ideas. And we’re not going to get anywhere if we are all only looking at the situation from a defensive place.
One main question about the situation is: Is this a budget issue or a usage issue? For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to assume that the ferry can handle the load of riders and that this is a budget issue. There may be usage– and overusage– concerns, but lets tackle them after we take care of the budgetary ones.
In that case, the real question is how do we raise the revenues needed to cover the cost. The new fees are one way of addressing that issue. But there may be other ideas about how to address that issue as well– in fact, we’ve seen some really good ones come across our desks. And that’s what we recommend– throw your ideas on the table without emotion. Send them to the board. Nicely. Recognize that the board members are volunteers trying to make our island the best place it can be. Even the best of policies have unintended consequences that might warrant rethinking. You can even post positive suggestions here– enter them as comments (mine is below).