By VICKI ROBIN
Fighting words are flying triggered by the Navy’s need to expand it’s footprint on our island. We seem like a hotspot about to explode. Maybe we are.
We are one island with many peoples, interests and needs. Every side has righteous claims. Every side has a history here to bolster their claims. Some use money, some use might, some use morality to push for their goals. Some remain voiceless, pawns in the process.
Two centuries ago the islands were home to indigenous peoples. They foraged shellfish, game, berries and camas on the prairie. Then came the settlers, wiping away the tribes. They planted, growing top tonnage of wheat on our fertile plains. They harvested our timber to build Everett, Seattle and island towns — and prosperity. Then came the vacationers and nature lovers, here for peace and quiet, enjoying our parks, fishing. Then environmentalists to study and protect the diversity of life . World War II brought Ault Field to the island in 1942. Artists. Manufacturing. Professionals – commuting by car and the Internet highway. Layer upon layer.
Every one of us claims this place. Every one of us has needs. We had at best an uneasy truce until the money and the might of the military wanted to claim more.
Whose island is it? How do we go forward?
Some solutions can come from getting smarter. Use technology to solve it. Use simulators for training. Deploy the new Magic Carpet computer landing guidance. Redesign jets to be quieter. Wait five years and drone swarms will be doing the work of Growlers. Buy OSHA required ear protection for all outdoor workers.
Some solutions can come from compensation. It would help if the federal government compensated Island County for the full cost of their use. A new study by internationally recognized economist, Michael Shuman, found $122 million dollars of the Navy’s unpaid bills. Such “payments in lieu of taxes” would fund police, fire departments, parks, services, county staff, transit, roads, and true economic development.
Some solutions come from winners and losers. One party can relinquish its claim, willingly or unwillingly. Move the training squadrons. Sacrifice the farmers. Let tourists learn to love the sound of freedom. Drink bottled water. Leave. This realm of winners and losers is where hearts break and tempers flare.
I’m begging my community.
1. Understand that all sides have legitimate needs, even if how they express their needs offends you to the core.
2. Negotiate “a lasting peace” on a level playing field. Commit to finding equitable solutions.
3. Tone down the rhetoric. No more hate speech.
We all love this place, our homes, the sunsets and beaches and quirky culture. I believe we have it in us to take the high road. I also believe that bruising conflicts like these are God’s way to make us better people, not winners and losers. Our higher angels can be the ultimate winners — if we undertake the hard work of facing ourselves and what we’ve wrought. Are we ready?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Vicki Robin is a New York Times best selling author and public speaker. She lives in Langley.