It’s welcome news that the Oak Harbor and Coupeville chambers of commerce are coming together to present a united front on behalf of island businesses.
Threatening to boycott any business is not to be taken lightly.
At the root of the boycott rumblings is a Central Whidbey group’s federal lawsuit seeking to compel the Navy to complete a new environmental impact statement on the impacts of noise at Outlying Field Coupeville.
The lawsuit has infuriated Navy supporters on North Whidbey and resulted in rallies in support of continuing flight exercises at OLF Coupeville.
The safety of flyers is the greatest concern for ralliers — OLF Coupeville is used for practicing landings on aircraft carriers.
Fear of what will happen to the economies of North Whidbey and rest of the island if the Navy were to cut operations here is another concern. Many OLF supporters believe the lawsuit places in jeopardy their livelihoods.
Because the group that filed the lawsuit is comprised of Central Whidbey residents, the impulse for some pro-OLF supporters has been to hurt businesses in Coupeville whether or not they support the anti-OLF lawsuit.
Among those potentially hurt by a boycott is Marcia Johnson, herself the wife of a Navy pilot. She owns the Knead and Feed Restaurant, located along Coupeville’s historic Front Street.
“We can’t afford to alienate anyone,” said Johnson.
Kathy Reed, director of the Oak Harbor chamber, and Lynda Eccles, director of the Coupeville chamber, are planning to meet soon to develop a plan for addressing the divisiveness that’s threatening to hurt local 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 making posters with a pro-Navy, pro-business message for businesses to display in their windows.
“We’re very supportive of our armed services,” Eccles said.”
While this newspaper respects the rights of those arguing on both sides of the OLF issue, we have maintained that it is neither right nor fair to punish businesses simply because of their geographic location.
We applaud the Oak Harbor and Coupeville chambers for having the courage to stand together in helping to keep businesses from being hurt in this very heated public debate.