Oregonians are my brothers, my parents were born and raised in Oregon. I travel to Oregon often; I know plenty of people there, Oregon is a good place. But their beach towns are losing (or have lost) their fight with bulldozers and the wrecking ball. Seaside, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Florence, Newport: they're paved with concrete, armies of storefronts and condos reach out across the land like stone fingers. Traffic lights hover on street corners like Big Brother's cameras. Malls and discount houses and stores, stores, stores. (If I've learned anything from living here, it's that I don't need nearly as many things as I thought I did.)
How much do you favor a man who says that the Long Beach natives will some day have to find alternate routes for driving up and down the Peninsula ... That change is coming and we're helpless to stop it ... That tourists are the ones responsible for making our Peninsula an exciting place to live ... That bigger is better ... That growth is the same as prosperity ... That the only argument he can make for anything (at all) is money, money, money ... That this land the way it is isn't good enough?
I'd like to know if city managers are appointed or elected, that way I'll know if I'm to be angry with a small group of people or a whole town. This city manager in Long Beach is from Seaside. Seaside: basically (and in truth) a very beautiful piece of God's country, yet also a shopper's paradise, self-contained, with no real reason for anyone ever to leave (and yet they do). Certainly they must have a hundred kinds of toothpaste (where we might have two or three), a dozen movies at the multiplex, neighborhood review boards, dog sitters and bathroom boutiques by the score. And it must be so, that the footsteps of their pioneers will never again see the sun, buried alive beneath 10,000 acres of asphalt. Everything but sidewalks and sand seem to be indoors.
So why did you leave, Mr. City Manager? Why do you bring your Monopoly board visions to a people who don't want it? How can you be so arrogant as to think your philosophy will work in a land you don't even know? I've been here nearly a decade, and for the first half of that, I kept my mouth shut, (The locals do know better, Mr. City Manager.)
You say you don't believe there is any kind of vocal opposition to tourism, that we don't want tourists to "get lost." What are you talking about? How can you be so out of tune? Shame on us for allowing you to take charge, Mr. City Manager. Shame on us if we don't get angry at the things you say.
Would we welcome the tourists if they didn't have any money? Would we be excited to see them if they didn't buy donuts and T-shirts? I would welcome them, because (perhaps) they would be kinder to the land, they wouldn't yell at you when you're trying to push their cars out of the sand (because they don't want you touching the paint); they wouldn't get angry if the groceries are bagged too slowly, or the clerks won't cash a hundred dollar bill to buy a latte. They wouldn't degrade our sisters and girlfriends who wear uniforms to serve them pizza and ice cream cones. They wouldn't sneer at our brothers and sons who clean up their garbage. They wouldn't talk down to our fathers who check their oil, to our mothers who scrub their sheets.
There is a cancer that has come upon us, spreading itself like a blistering wind. A danger is in our midst, a tide is sweeping in from the land of tall towers and freeways, of magnificent homes built not from the trees they've replaced, but from mountains of dollars being waved beneath the noses of our decision makers, our developers, and the men who've ganged together to own the biggest parcels of land. The way we live our lives is being decided on by strangers.
Do you know what it means when a housing development is carved into the earth? When a gated community shuts one person out in favor of another? It means we don't trust each other anymore. It means our morality can become more selective, that abuse becomes more fashionable.
This land is partner to our lives. If we let the majority of the land remain in a wild state, it can stay that way for as long as it did before any human ever came here. But with every root pulled from the hillside, with every split level, every double garage, every security alarm system, it all goes to suburban hell. Forever and ever, and it can't ever be brought back for a thousand years after the last man has left.
We're mostly a quiet and gentle people. We don't speak up because we've come to live as the land itself lives, moving with time and the seasons. It's a hard task for us to deny freedom to anyone. Yet I urge you all to look to the sky. The net is about to fall.