In Our Opinion: CARES money should be spent on pandemic recovery

Apparently we have different Facebook friends than Zencity.

In its first report, the company the Oak Harbor City Council is paying $15,000 in CARES Act funding chose to focus on the island-wide power outage in November for an analysis of public opinion via social media.

Friday the 13th was a dark day on Whidbey. School was canceled. Traffic was confused as traffic lights blinked out. Cell phones and laptops ran out of power. Homes were cold. Crucial testimony in an important trial was interrupted. A man was murdered.

The Zencity report, however, concludes — and needlessly illustrates with blocky diagrams — that the response on social media was overwhelmingly favorable and no negative sentiment at all was expressed. A healthy number of posts thanked public works staff for their efforts restoring power, which of course they had nothing to do with.

Thank God the council now has their collective finger on the pulse of the community. Apparently people like outages, there are no other concerns and the city doesn’t need to do anything better.

Patting on backs should commence.

Oak Harbor also funded a business-promoting website — Oak Harbor CARES — that remains unfinished. The county, which needs help spreading COVID-related safety information, is using CARES money to pay $610 a week for 10 hours of work from the city’s public information officer, who is the one that came up with the idea of hiring Zencity and took public credit for the website.

These may not be wise uses of CARES Act funding, but Whidbey is not alone in this. Stories from across the nation illustrate how so much of the money — which was meant to help regular people and businesses during the pandemic — has been misdirected to large corporations or projects that have nothing to do with the pandemic.

When vast sums of money are flowing around, it may seem trifling to quibble about comparatively trivial amounts.

But quite the opposite should be the case.

Now more than ever, it’s important to make every dollar count. That $15,000 could have meant the difference between staying open or closing for a small Oak Harbor business. Or it could have been used to hire a local person with knowledge of the Whidbey social media landscape to provide real insight.

“Spending your money wisely” and “buying local” shouldn’t just be catchphrases for government, but guiding principles.

More in Opinion

In Our Opinion: With candidate filing week at hand, it’s time to run for office

The outcome of this year’s election could have a significant impact on… Continue reading

Sound Off: Rethinking proposed bans on natural gas

By Don Brunell Sometimes being first isn’t good. Such is the case… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Disputes unmask extent of misinformation, confusion about face coverings

Together with social distancing, donning a face covering is proven to be… Continue reading

Sound Off: State’s military, economy rely on Super Hornet funding

Washington state is an important state for our country’s Armed Services and… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: History of Whidbey Island law enforcement is one of reform

Whidbey Island residents are lucky to have the professionally run law enforcement… Continue reading

Sound Off: Climate on the agenda this year; carbon tax should be too

A few weeks into the new administration, the federal government is off… Continue reading

Smaller, safer nuclear reactors in works for Hanford reservation

It isn’t often we hear good news from the Hanford, but the… Continue reading

Sound Off: Workshop a chance to learn about racist societal structures

As our nation struggles with current and past racial injustices, it is… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Deer Lagoon Grange’s membership should be open to all

The Deer Lagoon Grange has become an unlikely focal point in the… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Seek public input, avoid consultants in spending stimulus money

It appears that government officials on Whidbey will have a lot of… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Central Whidbey location is right for homeless shelter

Since 2017, the Haven has offered a warm, safe place to sleep… Continue reading

Sound Off: Working to strengthen WhidbeyHealth’s financial position

The declaration of a global pandemic was made just over a year… Continue reading