2019 General Excellence - 1st Place
Washington Newspaper Association
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Come on leader...this is the best you can do? It's a joke
I am thinking that the subject of this week's toon included me, since I wrote an opinion piece regarding THING that was recently published in the Leader. Apparently you did not bother to confirm that I have not addressed Wooden Boat, and numerous other tourist events, with respect to climate change and carbon footprint.
If you would have done your research, you would have discovered that I have been speaking out against tourism promotion for 25 years. In the Leader, to City Council, and to Transit. I also have helped create 3 Climate Change Town Halls earlier this year - all before we had any knowledge of THING - and discussed the role of tourism and carbon in Jefferson County in each. My primary objection to tourism the past 15 years has been related to traffic and carbon. I have also addressed, in person, the City Council, and more recently, the PDA, on numerous occasions, with respect to tourism and climate change, prior to THING. That is all public record. But it would have required effort on your part. Being a journalist is not a simple venture.
This is the letter I sent out around September 3rd. It is one of many, many letters that I have written on this subject:
Dear Port Townsend City Councilors, Jefferson County Commissioners, Jefferson Transit Authority, Fort Worden Public Development Authority and WA State Transportation Commission,
The Port Townsend - Jefferson County political and economic leadership continues to promote tourism as an economic driver for our region. Sadly, the only reasonable way to get to Port Townsend is by driving here in a personal vehicle, usually fueled by gasoline. Here is a partial list of (almost two per month) festivals that draw people in their cars to Port Townsend. What did I miss?
Festival of American Fiddle Tunes
Centrum Jazz Port Townsend Festival
Acoustic Blues Festival
Wooden Boat Festival
Fourth of July at the Fort
Port Townsend Ukulele Festival
Port Townsend Film Festival
Brass Screw Confederacy and Steampunk Festival
Olympic Music Festival
Kinetic Sculpture Race
Victorian Heritage Festival
Raker’s Car Show
Wearable Art Show
VIctorian Homes Tour
Secret Garden Tour
In the meantime, the planet is burning. Jefferson Transit has not stepped up to address that fact that our highways, from HWY 104 at the Hood Canal Bridge, to Water Street, are dense with cars that are producing 19.7 pounds of carbon dioxide for each gallon of gasoline burned, particularly on the weekends. Instead, they have focused on a small handful of riders who need, or prefer to ride the bus rather than take a car. They could be using traffic data to design a system to reduce automobile use throughout the region. But this does not appear to be the case.
It is a painfully long process to get to the Kingston Ferry from Port Townsend on transit. And, while it is easier to get to the Bainbridge Ferry from Port Townsend, it is still a longish process with infrequent buses. And if the ferry runs late, and we miss the bus, we will likely end up sleeping at the ferry terminal, or the Poulsbo transit center. The scheduled buses rarely coincide with my trips to Seattle (evenings and weekends, usually) and Sea Tac flights. Recently (late July), I did ride the Jefferson Transit early morning bus (6 AM) to Poulsbo as I had a flight out of SEA TAC in early afternoon. On that weekday, sad to say, there were very few riders. Is this the best we can do? Offer a transportation route that takes nearly two hours in total (driven in one hour) that is only used by a handful of riders?
Since weekend tourism is a huge contribution to traffic (and carbon), shouldn’t we at least attempt to run buses from Bainbridge early and late on both weekend days? Shouldn’t the Transit Authority be asking “How can we identify the high use traffic routes and times, and putting in transit alternatives that result in a significant incentive for motorists to get out of their cars and onto public transit?” Shouldn’t we be able to get to both ferries easily, carrying a bike for use when we get to the other side if necessary?
The FWPDA is determined to bring more and more tourists here by producing mega events like THING. For this last event, there was a continuous stream of tour buses (shuttles?) that circulated around town in an attempt to reduce local traffic. Shouldn’t we be asking that Seattle Theatre Group to run the tour buses from Bainbridge to Port Townsend, so that we lower the carbon footprint of these events, as well as make less impact on residents? Shouldn’t the FWPDA be asking themselves “What is our role in carbon reduction in this county, and how can we implement events that are as close to carbon neutral as possible?” If they are not asking themselves this question, my kids and future grandchildren want to know why?
The mentality of the ferry system planners is no better. They continue to focus on “bridging” the gap between two ends of a highway designed for automobiles. And, then, as an afterthought, making lots of space for pedestrians and cyclists who may wish to take advantage of the link. Shouldn’t we be thinking the other way around and asking “How can we design a system to get as many people from Seattle to Port Townsend (or wherever) without bringing a car along with them?” That is, shouldn’t we be making non motorized transportation and transit use the primary design feature, and adding cars as an afterthought?
And our state parks are moving away from low impact camping, instead expanding accommodations for RV’s and glamper’s. At Fort Worden over the past 10 years, we have lost the hostel, and Fort Worden has dropped the number of hiker/biker sites from five down to three. All that is remaining are full hook up sites, mostly occupied by gas guzzling RV's and diesel pickup trucks pulling fifth wheels. The summer rates for these sites are $45/$50, with winter rates at $35/$40 - a lot for a tent camper on a limited budget. I host cyclists from all over the world at my home in Port Townsend, because Port Townsend is on the American Cycling Association’s Pacific Tour route. I know that there are lots of cyclists who need an economical place to stay when the pass through Port Townsend. Shouldn’t the Washington State Parks Commission be asking themselves “How can we encourage more cyclists and hikers, and tent campers to use our facilities?”
In Jefferson County, on a per capita basis, our highways experience 1.3 times the state average in terms of numbers of miles driven. There is no routine way to get to Port Townsend except by car, and we continue to promote more tourism. In the meantime, the Port Townsend and Jefferson County leadership, the FWPDA, Jefferson Transit Authority, and WA State Ferries seem to remain perfectly still, caught like deer in the headlights, not knowing what to do, while the world burns around us. If it is not your responsibility to lead change now, whose is it?
There is no time to wait. City and county planners, city councilors, county commissioners, transit authority members and staff, Fort Worden PDA members, ferry system planners, and Washington Parks Commission members need to shake themselves free of the paralysis of business as usual. I am calling on you to begin demonstrating climate leadership today.
How could you forget the Rhody Festival, the Chili-cook-off, two of our longest running festivals. Maybe the Chili Cook-off is more local people but still a lot of fun. As to the cartoon I agree it's a little simplistic for my taste. Climate change is a topic that brings the debate to all of us, so it is appropriate to use it in a political cartoon (which I am not sure this particular cartoon is).
It is always great to hear from you David we have probably agreed on more things than disagreed over the last thirty or so years.
Tourism is what this town is built on. Take that and local businesses would fail. FAIL then the workers in those businesses would need to leave to find employment and the down town would be empty.
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