Our View: Optimism ebbs, flows in public, private sectorsNow that the food has been digested and most of the leftovers not hidden in the back of the refrigerator have been consumed, it seems fair to reflect on this year’s Thanksgiving.
Now that the food has been digested and most of the leftovers not hidden in the back of the refrigerator have been consumed, it seems fair to reflect on this year’s Thanksgiving.
There’s no need to rehash what many of us said before breaking bread last Thursday. Those of us fortunate enough to have jobs surely aren’t taking them for granted, nor are we of good health, loving families or roofs over our heads. Anyone not thankful for those gifts will not be convinced by any newspaper’s plea.
So instead, we turn to more specific issues as we ponder the reasons for giving thanks.
On the one hand, we see reason to give thanks that the retail rush of Black Friday might – might – signal a positive economic trend in household spending. Anyone who was in search of a pre-midnight place in line at Woodbury’s major retailers knows the local dollar was on the move, as long lines wrapping around big-box stores proved. But Woodbury is a relatively affluent community. Fortunately, the early national returns indicated similar numbers.
According to one national retail-tracking firm, sales this Black Friday rose nearly 7 percent over 2010, an additional $11.4 billion spent over last year. This growth, it seems, is good.
We’re thankful and optimistic for the hope this stirs as economic instability at home and, especially in Europe, has put so many on edge. We remain cautious, however, amid concerns that too many shoppers opted to put purchases on credit cards that won’t see the funds to cover them for years to come.
And then we turn to Washington County’s finances. The ongoing budget saga, peppered by continuous budget cuts in recent years, will once again hit the public in a very visible way.
As the story in this week’s Bulletin explains, all county libraries – including Woodbury’s R.H. Stafford branch – will be now be hanging “closed” signs in their windows two days a week. The move represents Washington County Board’s decsion to slash funding amid shrinking allocations from the state and the loss of revenue from Lake Elmo, which plans to secede from the county library system.
It’s hard to see a lot to be thankful for here. Libraries offer a unique public service we’re troubled to see being whittled down. It’s worth remembering that public libraries are often the sole point of online access for many users in an increasingly Internet-dependent society. Many of those include the less fortunate.
That goes double for our seniors. Don’t think so? Drop by the library some afternoon and see how many elderly are saddled up to computers there, emailing family, doing online shopping or spending lonely hours.
Unlike the Black Friday retail boom, we hope dwindling library services is a trend that does not continue. In some cases, preserving the status quo is often enough to generate thanks.