Hello city council and Mayor Gere and thank you for the chance to speak.
My name is Phil Elverum and I live at…
My family, the Lowman family, has been in Anacortes since the 1800s. For future generations and for this present moment, I care deeply about this place and what we mean when we say “Anacortes”.
It seems to me that you, the city council, basically have 2 jobs:
One is managing a large complicated business, “the City of Anacortes”. Seemingly the entirety of these city council meetings is often taken up by these economic questions of budget and expense, surplus and deficit. It’s a big math problem and is certainly necessary and deserving of focus, but it is only half of the project.
Your other job is less tangible and less related to quantifiable results. You are responsible for representing the spirit of the population and steering the constantly changing identity of our town, in a cultural and poetic way, towards an ideal community. I imagine it’s difficult to hear yourself think when it’s time to consider these questions, considering how loud and unscrupulous the voice of money is. In a situation like this, you ask the community for guidance.
Judging from the response at the last meeting, not to mention the reactions from the community when similar proposals arise every few years, the answer seems extremely clear. We do not want this. A large box store is not who we are. We are someone else.
Having traveled around North America almost constantly as a touring musician for the past 15 years, I have become attuned to the varying sensations of first entering different towns. Most places don’t feel like anywhere. Just the usual cubes and logos, cars and anonymity. There are some rare exceptions still though; places that have managed to hold on to a sense of character through the challenging economic eras that every place endures.
Anacortes is one of those magical exceptions, for now. We are lucky to be remote enough from the freeway and perhaps stubborn enough to have evaded large scale corporate colonization so far. This means that Anacortes is a place that feels like a place. We have something that is rare and precious.
But now the proximity from I-5 is not enough of a deterrent. The developers are insisting and presenting sketchy studies showing how grateful we should be to be “offered” this box. If we say no, they’ll certainly be back with another offer momentarily, and another after that, and so on. Look at basically any other town and see this trend proven true. There is no end to the insistence of money.
There has been a lot of talk of putting the decision off until 2016, in effect saying “no, but ask again tomorrow”. Why don’t we say “No forever.”?
It’s not a crazy idea. It’s called “Formula Business Restriction" and there is a long list of American towns putting rules prohibiting chains and box stores on their books, declaring their identity, making a bold statement in the face of the powerful forces behind empty economic decisions. We should seriously do this.
The people that live here have spoken pretty clearly and repeatedly. Please represent us. Deny this rezone and start discussing making a permanent legal barrier against inevitable future threats to our precious sense of what Anacortes means. In 50 years you will be legendary for taking this stand and preserving our precarious cultural independence.