Our View: Ebbs and flows of being a port city

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Tacoma wasn’t always a port city. But it is one now and that fact isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

The Port of Tacoma as a government agency is 100 years old and has grown to make Tacoma the port of choice for Alaska-bound goods and materials as well as a main West Coast hub for retail goods flowing into the United States from Asian manufacturing sites in return for our grains, wood, apples and engineered products.

That flow of commerce, in an increasingly global marketplace, is not only good for Tacoma, since it brings well-paying jobs and commercial activity, but it also puts the region in the sights for the increased business activity and innovation borne from the merging and melding of cultures, products and ideas.

But there is a down side, and Tacoma is at a crossroads in determining how big of a downside that will be. The city, in partnership with the port and with input from everyone willing to voice their thoughts, is embarking on a multi-year review of what activities should occur on the Tideflats. Some people want loose, if any, restrictions on those future activities since any restrictions could hamper economic development. Others want strict rules so the industrial hub of the region can be environmentally protected for future generations, particularly against the troubles of what they see as investments in outdated technology such as fossil fuels. Both sides have valid points, but this is where history helps drive the argument.

Unchecked economic growth on the Tideflats during the 20th century didn’t help Tacoma, which will continue to battle the environmental clean-up that “prosperity” brought to the city during decades of pollution and greed.

The discussions over the city’s subarea plan over the months and years to come will most certainly bring shouts and screams of conspiracy and “green washing.” That’s how democracy works.

But it would certainly be nice if all sides would listen more and speak less since we all have roles to play in crafting the port city of the future that we will leave to our children.

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