Bremerton is the Next…

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Add it in the comments below if I’ve missed one, but we’ve been told Bremerton could be: Bellevue, Bellingham, Green Lake, Fremont and, repeatedly, Sausalito* (Google that one yourself for links, they’re aplenty).

Finding a city to benchmark one’s future against is nothing new in politics or urban planning, so I’m not picking on anyone who’s suggested Bremerton’s  match. You could find worse comparisons. But if revitalization is focused on attracting folks who want the glitzy comparison city, there’s also some town along that way that no one wants to be like, and who isn’t going to get a Whole Foods.

At least right now, those cities are Youngstown, Ohio, or Detroit, or any Rust Belt burg dying along with the stumble of post-war industry. That’s at least what this post from the Economix blog on the New York Times discusses, along with the suggestion that government should spend time and money on something other than building population. Kind of reminds me of an argument in a certain city on Sinclair Inlet with a new tunnel and subarea plan. Here’s the excerpt that got me thinking:

“After all, the job of government is to enrich and empower the lives of its citizens, not to chase the chimera of population growth targets. Just once, I want to hear a Rust Belt mayor say with pride ‘my city lost 200,000 people during my term, but we’ve given them the education they need to find a better life elsewhere.'”

I’m not saying Bremerton is dying (or that any of it should be bulldozed as a solution), I think that already happened to an extent when downtown up and left (and there already have been bulldozers in Westpark recently). Nor do I mean to say our city shouldn’t attract folks who sustain the economy and add to the local quality of life — after all, new degrees at Olympic College or continued hiring at the shipyard should make that inevitable. I’m not even saying I agree with the statement. But it’s an interesting way to look at what’s going on.

The blog post hints that the mantra “growth is always good” may not fit quite so nicely into our country’s mainframe anymore. Cities may have an optimum size that’s smaller than what a mayor promised upon election, or a vision that’s appropriate to a city’s demographic makeup. Maybe those questions should play a part in this city’s planning.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this, or something along these lines, comes up during the mayoral campaign. A few weeks ago Mike Shepherd said something to me about putting the city’s youth at the top of his platform. That’s nothing new from a politician either, but maybe a more important consideration given the circumstances this time around. You need good families to come into a neighborhood to support schools, for example, but maybe there already are good families that need a little encouragement. I know I’ve always been taught that ya dance with who brought ya.

The next Bremerton? Maybe it’s Bremerton.

*Gardner is on vacation right now. Driving through Northern California. With a day to spare and some time to take a ferry ride to a seaport that could compare… ah, I’ve said too much already.

— David Nelson

3 thoughts on “Bremerton is the Next…

  1. I’m in some agreement with Mr. Nelson regarding Bremerton. 20 years ago, Bremerton was a ghost-town, a comparison no town wanted to duplicate. The Eastside was doing better than Downtown. It’s reverse now, the Eastside has slowed down or completely stopped where Downtown still is the ‘poster-child’ of renovation. Good for Mike Sheperd for focusing on the city’s youth. I have watched drug-areas of downtown decline and young families restoring homes and moving in. Where do the ciy’s youth go and who will restore and rehabilitate them? Good for Mike Sheperd and thanks to the former Mayor Bozeman leaving a nearly a clean slate to work from. I’m proud to be a Bremertonian.

  2. How many millions of tax dollars must be spent before the politicians admit that Bremerton is dead. Even the expensive tax funded “improvements” can’t attaract any significant business. Bremerton is the next Tiajuana.

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