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Whidbey chamber directors say ‘boycott’ talk is divisive
Whidbey Island business leaders are taking a stand as pro-Navy and pro-business in the wake of the ongoing debate over jet noise at Outlying Field Coupeville.
Coupeville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lynda Eccles said she was inspired to speak out when she heard some Whidbey residents were calling for a boycott of Coupeville businesses in the wake of a federal lawsuit filed by a Central Whidbey Group against the Navy over the jet noise.
Eccles and some business owners fear that Coupeville might unfairly be perceived as anti-Navy as a result of the lawsuit, and that the businesses will suffer as a result.
“We’re very supportive of our armed services,” Eccles said. “It’s getting ugly and it’s unfortunate. We just want to let the Navy know we are not just sitting quietly.”
Residents on both sides of the debate should continue to support all local businesses and put politics aside, she said.
The Navy suspended touch-and-go operations at OLF in June, but didn’t cite the reason.
The outcome of the federal lawsuit is pending. The group is asking a judge to compel the Navy to initiate a new environmental impact study in relation to the jet noise.
Chuck Poust, owner of Windjammer Gallery on Front Street and president of the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, or CHWA, said any calls for boycotts in Coupeville should be ignored.
“We’re here, as we’ve always been here,” Poust said. “Lots of Navy families visit us and we welcome them.”
“We can’t afford to alienate anyone,” said Marcia Johnson, owner of Kneed and Feed Restaurant in Coupeville, CHWA member and wife of Cmdr. Vincent Johnson, a Navy pilot who is currently deployed.
Eccles said she and Oak Harbor Chamber Executive Director Kathy Reed are in the process of joining forces to ensure that the OLF debate does not impact the business community.
The two are planning to meet in the coming weeks to develop a strategy that addresses divisiveness that may damage local businesses.
Reed spearheaded the “Jets equals Jobs” campaign which aims to remind residents of the economic impact the base has on North Whidbey Island.
Reed said she observed boycott discussions online and believes that some may misunderstand the “Jets equals Jobs” message.
“The chamber is not calling for a boycott at all,” Reed said.
“That’s not what we’re about. I think some people are confused.”
Reed said she fears that animosity between the two sides of the issue may hurt the island community and its businesses.
“I don’t want to see the whole issue divide us any further,” Reed said.
“We’re all Whidbey Island.”
Meanwhile, Eccles said the Coupeville chamber is designing posters with a pro-Navy, pro-business message that will be made available for owners to display in storefront windows.
Eccles said she hopes the campaign will remind people to think in terms of their community.
Meanwhile, Reed said the “Jets = Jobs” signs are “flying out the door.”
To recoup the manufacturing cost, the Oak Harbor Chamber is accepting donations and will continue to sell “Jets equals Jobs” items including hats and T-shirts.