By Ken Stern 

Adding various numbers up


January 11, 2023

At the start of the new year, one way to assess the year just passed is by looking at the numbers contained in budgets and reports and reflecting back and projecting forward. From front to back in this issue of the Weekly News, there are all kinds of numbers – and information to be used in decision making.

The coronavirus pandemic has not ended, but is no longer a crisis. In Skagit County and statewide, the rate of new infections has slowed and the number of people being hospitalized and dying are increasing at a much slower rate. While almost three-quarters of the people in Skagit County have gotten at least one vaccination, less than 30% of us – fewer than one in three – are fully boosted. Numbers are not available for analysis, but folks in the greater La Conner area are more likely to be fully vaccinated than elsewhere in the county.

The Skagit County Public Health Department starts the new year having closed their testing site in the Cascade Mall, a sign of a greatly reduced need and the ready availability of at home tests. As it has become easier to test, fewer results are being reported to health departments. A corollary is that people with symptoms are less likely to test. An accurate assessment of the status of COVID-19 locally, statewide or nationally is now more difficult to make.

La Conner residents and the town government can readily measure the record breaking tax revenues collected from all sources. Round up $5,988,197 and it comes to $6 million dollars. That is 17% more than the $5.1 million elected officials and staff projected would be collected a year ago.

While the tourist-fueled sales tax revenues exceeded $675,000, the town’s composting operation is equally golden – or green – in producing revenue. Its management deserves praise for both increasing revenue and reducing expenditures, thereby netting $115,000.

One number that has not been carefully tracked but that definitely rose throughout the year was the involvement of La Conner residents in local government affairs. More bodies appeared and more voices were raised as citizens considered the consequences of a three story, 21-unit condominium on the corner of Center and Fourth streets, behind The Slider Café. Participation grew as the developer’s permit was challenged and appealed.

A residents’ group dived into the intricacies of the municipal code and the comprehensive plan. They did not hesitate to share their new-found knowledge, concerns, hopes and criticism with the mayor, town council, planning commission or staff. Their insistence on being heard is a welcome addition of democratic involvement from which every community prospers.

A number that everyone wishes did not exist is the 20 or so homes and businesses damaged by Swinomish Channel flood waters Dec.27. Besides financial damage, mental anguish and emotional stress are a part of the clean-up. A December 1982 Channel Town Press issue chronicled saltwater flooding. The cycle might be less than 40 years for a recurrence. The next one does not have to be the big one to wreak damage. There is no prevention, but what will the necessary protection entail?

The best number of all, for everybody, is the $100,000 the board of the Skagit Valley Food Co-op gave to Viva Farms. It is not a gift, actually, but a sound investment in the future of small scale, locally grown foods. The Food Co-op’s board is doing what good leaders do: planning and putting resources into organizations that meet the needs of its constituents. The greatest part of that gift is its example of committing to a sustainable future through cooperation and relationship building.


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