A recent letter from Ron and Susie Chapman to the Sequim Gazette raised this argument:
“We moved from Juneau, Alaska, because the place we called home for over 30 years also ‘had a dream’ that envisioned cruise ships and the wealth they would bring to our town. . . . The last four years saw the number of tourists climb, some days there were over 10,000 tourists. The local people were run out of all our favorite places by helicopters, a never-ending line of smelly diesel buses and guided tour vans. . . . All the small grocery, clothing shops and restaurants that were once open year-round were bought up by big companies . . . It was really a sad sight; a once vital part of the community was gone because a few ‘had a dream.'”
Interesting letter from the Chapmans. I think we can appreciate their point, but I do think that one of our great challenges is thinking clearly about challenging issues of the day, like the future vision of Sequim or Port Angeles. I think if we sat down with the Chapmans, they would agree with what I am thinking, but their letter does seem a bit lopsided without considering a more balanced and articulate argument. Here’s what I’m talking about.
The rapid growth that they spoke of and that they did not like has many facets.
First, if I had a nice retirement pension (or a large state salary and benefits, which is largely what Juneau is as the capital) and moved into a quiet little peaceful community, and it grew as the Chapmans describe, I too would be disappointed. But I have learned there is much more to the world than my small universe. There are others to consider, and the world does not revolve around me. I learned that the hard way, the school of hard knocks as they say. But I sympathize with the Chapmans. Still they were able to pick up and move to Sequim, which is not exactly table scraps for most of us. Living in Sequim is not what I would consider punishment or banishment from Juneau, Alaska. (I lived in Tok, Alaska. Imagine that!)
Second, while the Chapmans have colored such growth in the most negative light, many hard working businessmen who support their families by catering to tourism and to all the related and effected service industries, have been abundantly blessed a 1,000 times over financially. And this blessing occurred while many in the world and in this great country are going bankrupt and their families are often torn apart in the ensuing chaos. Many are losing their homes to foreclosures. Would those of us who are caught up in such growth choose rather to curse the prosperity and end the blessings for those less fortunate?
Third, the Chapmans argument is part of a much older argument that is made in small beautiful towns across America. It has been repeated in Sequim 1,000’s of times. “Close the gate and lock it! We don’t want any more people here!” But we do not have that choice. I would say, “When you have your own planet, you can make the rules. Until then, we must let people come.”
Fourth, the Chapmans, in fact, had the freedom of choice to stay in Juneau, or to move to Sequim. Frankly, I’m glad they came to Sequim. This is a wonderful community, much better in a thousand ways than cold, land-locked Juneau. But most of all I’m glad such good people decided to join our community.
Fifth, the Chapmans argument that someone who “had a dream” was foundationally responsible for the incredible economic growth that Juneau has seen is probably not a very good argument. Economic growth did not happen because someone like Martin Luther King had a dream. Having dreams or visions come in all sizes and shapes, and alone such dreams do nothing. The kind of economic growth that occurred was the result of 100’s of residents and business owners vigorously working to accomplish something very big. It was no accident such growth occurred, and it took a lot of hard work by many people over a long period of time. It cannot be dismissed by a simple statement that it was caused by someone who “had a dream.”
Sixth, the Chapmans are assuming that such growth is bad. But are there others who would say, “We are so grateful for the growth that we have and the millions of dollars that are pumped into our little economy every summer, and thank God we all started talking years ago about how to attract more people to our beautiful city.”
I guess my point is that simple statements often are really much more of a very personal reflection on one person’s lifestyle preferences, and so we ought to be careful when we throw a blanket of powerful reasoning on top of grand concepts held by others. A microcosm does not give us all the relevant data to build a macro-economic model. Examples of what has happened in other cities, such as Juneau, is instructive, but by no means the end of the subject. It is nothing more than one example of how some are negatively impacted by economic growth, seasonal or not.
But, I think the Chapmans would agree with me. Their letter to the editor was limited by space. They did not have the opportunity to discourse at length as I have here.
Last Updated on April 3, 2010 by Chuck Marunde