By Dave Lieben
August 14, 2005
My family has lived in the area for six years now, and it's sad to see it continue to decay. I don't think it's coincidence that no City Council members or management live in the area, it's clear the area has been forgotten by the city. Harding Street has a chronic ice problem in the winter, but it's rare to see a salt truck come by, and they don't drop enough salt to help when they do. Cars have skidded down icy G Street and hit the rail on Warren Street, almost going over the cliff. (I'm not suggesting that passing the bond will help our streets get salted, of course, I'm just making the point that we've been forgotten.) Parking is scarce, and not only has the city not done anything to help, but they took away spaces near Sockeye Sam's and the Arctic Bar and put tour bus parking there. What's posted as a 24-hour parking lot behind First City Electric has cars that haven't moved for months. Upstairs apartments have many visitors that don't stay very long.
Not all of the area's problems are the city's fault, of course. While there are many thriving, attractive businesses here, many property owners have let their properties continue to decay. I don't know if they're just unable to fix them up, or are just waiting for a big buyout if the cruise ship docks are expanded. Some call the buildings "funky," they're entitled to their opinion, I would call them "decrepit." If the bond issue doesn't pass, how will anything change?
Yes, our water view will be totally blocked by a cruise ship, but I'm more concerned with what's best for our neighborhood, and what's best for our community. The benefits of tourism reach much farther than the considerable sales tax that is collected, helping to keep your taxes lower. I work in the summer as a bus driver for one of the tour companies, and our ranks include teachers, college students home for the summer, professors, school bus drivers and others looking for a fun and decent-paying summer job. Our wages and tips stay in the community. Even the outsiders who come to work here buy groceries, go to the bars, rent houses, buy rain gear, etc.
Some say the "new" Newtown will be all tacky jewelry stores, I don't think we can or should say "no, you can't rent that building and start a jewelry store," but to a large extent it's up to the community what the area will look like. The present downtown isn't all jewelry stores, there's Soho Coho, and Parnassus Books, and Salmon Etc., and Cedar Chest, and Gallery 305, and Golden Eagle, and KetchiCandies, and many, many other locally-owned businesses that continue to thrive, due in large part to tourism. We can have standards on what the area can look like, we can restore many of the historic buildings, we can turn Waterfront Storage into a little mall of locally-owned shops.
Yes, it's annoying when you're trying to get somewhere and there's a tourist in the middle of the street taking a picture, but remember, tourists are people just like you or me who are on vacation. Let's welcome them, and then take all their money!
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