Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Riding the Dead Horse to the Cemetery

I had hoped that the brouhaha over Wal-Mart and the Pullman Cemetery had “died down” so to speak. Then, there it was again, in a banner headline on the front page of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News yesterday. Michelle Dupler is apparently trying to do single-handedly what PARD seems to be unable to do: stop Wal-Mart in its tracks. And why not? The Daily News is a Moscow-based paper, and a Pullman Wal-Mart is the Moscow Chamber of Commerce’s worst nightmare.

She interviewed a WWII veteran and Pullman resident, Mr. David Flaherty, who stated his desire not to have the cemetery encroached upon by a Wal-Mart Supercenter. It was a tremendously bad piece of sensationalist fluff. No opinions were sought from those who have loved ones buried at the cemetery that might support Wal-Mart and there was just a rehashing of old news about the city’s preliminary SEPA ruling.

At least Mr. Flaherty knows people buried at the cemetery. I would be willing to bet that the vast, vast majority of people raising objections to Wal-Mart’s nearness to the cemetery have no friends or loved ones buried there. It’s just the only issue they have left that has any traction. I think that is just reprehensible.

With all due respect to Mr. Flaherty’s war service, just because some veterans are buried there does not give it the same significance as Arlington Cemetery or Normandy.

Speaking of Arlington Cemetery, I used to live and work near there. It is smack dab in the middle of a major urban area, with an interstate highway and an aboveground subway line running right next to it. Extraordinary measures have been taken to keep the cemetery quiet, but then there are the airliners flying overhead every two minutes.

The Oddfellows Cemetery off of Main Street on Sunnyside Hill is bounded by the Hawthorn Inn, the Hilltop Restaurant, the Pullman School District bus garage, and a Whitman County Fire Department station. And just, a week or so ago several thousand revelers got off buses and tramped through that cemetery and across the street to Sunnyside Park, as they do every 4th of July, to listen to loud music and even louder fireworks. I don’t recall any similar front-page stories or protests about respecting the reverence of the Oddfellows Cemetery.

Ideally, cemeteries would have parklands and open spaces around them, not for the dead, but for the living to enjoy peace and quiet while visiting a grave of a loved one. But Pullman has simply run out of room to grow. As Don Pelton so eloquently pointed out in his letter to the editor on Tuesday, the zoning issue was debated and decided 23 years ago. The cemetery has been around for some 100 years. Why do we need to re-fight those old battles again?

Look, the Pullman City Cemetery is not going to be bulldozed over to construct the Wal-Mart. No bodies are going to be disinterred. The trees are going to be left in place. Any unmarked graves will be found and respectfully re-interred. And of course funeral processions will have the right-of-way over shoppers. I don’t think those that once called Pullman home now resting at the cemetery would mind seeing it grow and develop for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

1 comment:

Ray Lindquist said...

Great piece Tom, I see that the Trees have been talked about for some time now.... LOL