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Tourism: Oak Harbor needs it
I read your (Aug. 11) editorial very thoughtfully and would like to give you thanks for your views. I fully understand why you would think as you do about another economic development study. And, Mr. Starks (Letters, Aug. 14), your views are appreciated as well. However, I would like to use this opportunity to inform the community as to why their city council made the decision to hire Roger Brooks. But first there are some givens that need to be expressed.
First, Oak Harbor, as with most communities throughout this land, is struggling to meet the needs of its citizens. While all of us dislike having to pay more in taxes and fees for services we all need, and expect, cities are in desperate need of revenue sources. The federal government has cut back in much of its previous funding for infrastructure and social needs, while all the while requiring that cities and states carry the burden of financing unfunded mandates, like homeland security, education, transportation, etc.
Second, there is widespread unemployment. Regardless of what is being said about the improvements in our economy, jobs creation, etc., too many people are without employment.
Third, (and how to say this with an economy of words), it is environmentally and economically sound to try as hard as we may to prevent the flow of consumer dollars off of the island and, particularly, away from Oak Harbor.
Finally, as Oak Harbor will have to absorb the densities of island growth, in order that we may keep the rest of the island as rural as possible, it is important to provide citizens of Oak Harbor with a high quality of life. Housing for all socio-economic levels must be provided. A wide range of eateries an fine restaurants are an important piece of this. We should have a performing arts center -- and much more. We need a viable and prospering business community. We must create jobs. Even if many of the jobs created are in the service industry. I would argue that in these times a job is better than no job. Some of the really major improvements in the quality of life must originate at the national level and are beyond the scope of our local abilities.
But to bring all of the above to a focus, I will remind all that there are between 4 to 5 million cars that pass through Oak Harbor annually. Most of them do not bother to stop. You are right, Mr. Starks. There is no reason to stop in Oak Harbor for anything. Like it or not, this is why so many of us shop, recreate dine off of the island. I believe it is absolutely essential to capture the tourist dollars that are simply passing through Oak Harbor each year. And, more importantly, dramatically increase the reasons why our own people would like to shop, eat, recreate right here in our own city. I want to see Oak Harbor become a tourist destination. Ill say it plain: I want to see tourists visit us, leave their money behind and go back to their homes. They are already here, clogging our main arterial as they pass through.
Larry Wm. Eaton