“A stranger came to town” – it’s the oldest story in human history. Whether fugitive, prophet or huckster, we’ve al seen the movie or heard the tale.
The stranger comes to save us or sell us, to stir our highest hopes, our darkest fears and our deepest longings. He promises, cajoles and convinces. He has natural allies and immediate opposition.
He raises suspicions as much as he raises hopes. He promises prosperity and glory, salvation and freedom. Whether it’s “The Music Man” or the Pied Piper, we’ve all seen him at work.
These people are the carpetbaggers, the experts, the investors or the new team in town. And thanks to our history and geography, we’ve seen more than our share.
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So what’s the stranger trying to sell us this season?
Ah, yes, it’s the greatest, most spectacular opportunity of all, the one that will, for better or worse, finally put us on the map.
This project will be our step into the future, our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, our chance to show the world what we are made of, who we are and what we are becoming.
So in tribute to this long tradition, I have a contest in mind, one that should appeal to fortune-seekers, naysayers, critics and cheerleaders.
See if you can come up with the worst reason ever why Tacoma should welcome the proposed methanol plant.
Here’s my list, in no particular order;
▪ Tacoma’s citizens have forgotten how wonderful it felt to be known as the toxic, polluted, industrial wasteland, “the armpit of the Northwest.”
▪ The glitter of Point Ruston almost makes some of us forget that it is built on a toxic Superfund site.
▪ The lead and arsenic (and other heavy metal) contamination of the soil in the North End of Tacoma will only be a hazard for another millennia or two.
▪ We wouldn’t want investors and other industries to forget how desperate we are for dangerous and low-paying jobs.
▪ It must be a great opportunity because Bellevue and Seattle are certainly fighting us over this one. Oh, wait, they aren’t.
▪ Tacoma has a long reputation for taking what no one else wants, whether it be sex offenders, the mentally ill or the Northwest Detention Center. We wouldn’t want anyone else to have this one.
▪ Chinese industries have, ahem, a memorable number of industrial accidents, a horrible environmental record and a long history of mistreating workers. Why not see what they can do in Tacoma?
▪ This plant will produce olefins for China – to help them make plastic products, and everyone knows we need more plastic in our lives and in our oceans. Especially more plastic crap from China.
▪ Tacoma Public Utilities says the plant’s water usage would only be about what 77,500 households use. Good thing we never have water shortages around here.
One supporter of the project told me that if we just got one job out of the deal, it would be worth it. I had forgotten how desperate and groveling Tacoma could be. I had also forgotten how good it felt to have corporations treat Tacoma’s citizens, environment, politicians and laws with total contempt. Thank you, Clear Channel and Walmart.
Tacoma’s pollution is nowhere near the industrial cities or China. Yet. Overloaded oil trains on a crumbling rail system through our residential and urban areas are not quite exciting enough. With flammable, volatile and explosive materials, what could go wrong?
Processing, loading and unloading natural gas is perfectly safe, most of the time. Atlas Foundry-type accidents hardly ever happen.
Sign me up for the welcoming committee. I can hardly wait to see how this story ends.
M. (Morf) Morford, a former reader columnist, is chairman of the North End Neighborhood Council. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.