Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Theme Park Mentality

I have blogged often lately about the "drawbridger" mentality that infects the Palouse. That's when people move in from somewhere else, discover that the Palouse is a paradise, and then want to "pull up the drawbridge" so no one else can move in and ruin it for them.

I'm beginning to notice another pernicious attitude around here as well: the "Theme Park" mentality. It was on display in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Moscow must lead with vision

I am pleased to find, despite criticisms and political pressures, Mayor Nancy Chaney is thinking and defending the best interests of Moscow residents. The building of big-box stores just across the border will place many of the costs on Moscow residents rather than Whitman County.

Whose water source will be potentially decreased? Whose police and fire departments will respond to situations that may arise, especially shoplifting and theft? If Moscow residents bear the costs maybe our political representatives should consider annexing land across the state line. It has been done elsewhere and should be legal.

A more long-term issue is to consider how and where development should take place. I recall arriving for an interview more than 20 years ago, admiring the countryside on the ride into town from the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport until I saw the Palouse Empire Mall and the continual strip development thinking, "Oh, no, they have moved the ugly New Jersey strip landscape to rural Idaho."

Fortunately, later I saw downtown Moscow, the essence of what, only now, much of American development is now trying to "get-back-to" via trendy terms such as "New Urbanism." The use of strip malls, linear development and big-box stores has created by contrast the new term "junkscape."

A question remains, which trend do we want to promote? Is it a question of development or not? All of the stores and businesses in our current "junkscape" could have been accommodated in a much better thought out vision and development plan.

We need, as residents, to think of what those alternatives might be rather than merely extending our Moscow "junkscape" across the state line and into Pullman. Can we not lead with our own visions, rather than borrowing from New Jersey and elsewhere?

Gundars Rudzitis, Moscow
See, Rudzitis came to Moscow with a preconceived notion of what "rural Idaho" should look like. He was obviously devastated to see that there was actually 20th century commerce here in the form of a mall. Much as on a trip to Disney World, you expect to be "wowed." You want to be taken away to imaginary places and faraway lands. You don't shell out thousands to see something you could see on the next block over back home. The problem is, PULLMAN AND WHITMAN COUNTY IS NOT A THEME PARK!!!!!! We are trying to raise our families as best we can and maybe pass on to our kids a little more than we had. We are not animatronic puppets built for the amusement of outsiders. This is not "Frontierland" or "Main Street USA." If people in New Jersey have strip malls and big-box stores, why shouldn't we? Are our needs so different? The "junkscapes" Rudzitis describes have been built because that is how Americans prefer to shop. His "junkscape" is actually a "moneyscape." The lack of such a "junkscape" costs Pullman $100 million in retail sales every single year.

Rudzitis, of course, is free to prefer Godsey's General Store to the Palouse Mall. Where he and the other "smart growthers" go wrong is the desire to force their vision on everyone else through governmental means such as Nancy Chaney and her City Clowncil and Rudzitis' proposed annexaton that would result in the trampling of private propery rights.

There was a similar theme raised in last Thursday's issue of the Whitman County Gazette. The front page story covered the unfolding disaster that is the rural residential zoning ordinance. The County Commissioners have bought a real pig in a poke. The whole thing is going to have to be scrapped because it is fraught with legal peril for the county, and frankly, is unconstitutional.

One excerpt from the story is particularly illuminating:
[Whitman County Prosecutor Denis] Tracy said the viewshed section of the code fell short in the balancing test, as it aims to preserve the rolling hills and rural character of the county.

"While those are attractive, good for tourism and make this a desirable place to live and work," said Tracy. "It could be argued that you are creating a giant theme park called the Palouse at the expense of private landowners."
Thank goodness we have people like Denis Tracy to stop the madness.


April E. Coggins said...

The annexation idea makes me laugh. Hawkins first tried to locate within Moscow's city limits and were told no. When Hawkins located at their present site, they (and Whitman county) tried to negotiate a tax revenue sharing deal with Moscow, in exchange for water and sewer service. Mayor Chaney and Moscow said NO!
Now, let's imagine the wildly improbable scenario in which Moscow is successful in annexing the Hawkins property. If Moscow managed to keep Hawkins from developing, Moscow would be guilty of an aggressive, border-jumping, farm land grab. If Moscow annexed the property, but allowed the development to be built, Moscow would be required to extend water and sewer service to the Hawkins development.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

The Theme Park mentality... that's a good way to put it!

How long will it be before we locals are put into menageries?