OP/ED: The Villages Near the Mountain – A Grim Fairy Tale (With apologies to the Brothers Grimm)


By Will Stone
Once upon a time there was a large mountain at the edge of the ocean. Two villages, Cannon and Manita, were on opposite sides of the mountain. The
villagers in Cannon and Manita enjoyed their beaches and forests, hiking paths, neighbors, pets and small shops. They were happy.
But the leaders of Cannon and Manita were different in how they led their villages.
In Cannon, the leaders listened to their villagers. They saw the chance to create a community center for the villagers to use for meetings, celebrations, and events.

To build a community center, the leaders found:
— A 1950s era vacant 4600 square foot school and a 8350 square foot Quonset hut gymnasium on an acre of ground.
— The school had broken windows and water damage from a leaking roof, but engineers studied the building and said it could be brought up to like new condition for less than the cost of a new building.
— Cannon leaders paid $400,000 for the land and structures and started building the community center.
Meanwhile, in Manita, the leaders had their own vision for Manita. They wanted to build a brand-new City Hall for their council meetings and city workers. They knew better, they thought, than the villagers regarding their City Hall.
To build a City Hall, leaders found:
— A property called Undermountain with an old school structure and Quonset hut.
— Like the Cannon structure, the building had weathered siding and damage, but engineers said it was structurally sound and could be brought up to like new condition for a lot less than building a new City Hall.
—Manita leaders paid more than $2,000,000 in purchase price and loan interest for the old school building. They wanted to tear down the school
and build their dream City Hall.
— Initial expensive building plans were tied to a new proposed bond levy which was rejected by 68% of the voters.
— Repeated requests to reconsider remodeling the existing buildings to like new condition at lower costs were repeatedly rejected by the leaders. The leaders had their own plan.
The leaders took funds planned for other City projects to pay loan payments on the purchase. Future generations and tourists would pay for the leaders’ grand vision of a new City Hall. Charging more and bringing in even more tourists to Manita to pay for the new City Hall was the new plan. Full steam ahead!
In Cannon, the citizens liked the plan to remodel the old school building and not spend more than needed. Savings in remodeling the community center might be available for even more community needs.
In Manita, citizens wondered how the leaders’ plan for more and more tourists would change Manita. Weren’t there too many tourists already? Some villagers avoided going to Manita in tourist season because of traffic, lack of parking, and too many strangers making too much noise in their neighborhoods. All this discomfort for a City Hall building most villagers would rarely, if ever, go into.
In Cannon, the citizens were proud of their Leaders’ plans and lived happily ever after.
Meanwhile, in Manita, the leaders plowed ahead, tore down the old school and built the new building they wanted. They changed rules to fit their plan. They charged higher fees for tourist rentals and encouraged more and more tourists to come to Manita. Villagers hated the crazy parties and large groups that came to Manita on weekends. The main street was clogged with out-of-town cars and the sidewalks were too crowded during the summer months.
So, villagers started meeting in small groups to organize and reclaim Manita. They started showing up at council meetings and complaining about the leaders’ misuse of funds and overspending. They filed initiative petitions to force the council to reduce the number of rental houses for tourists from 17.5% of all houses to 10% of eligible houses. They organized recall efforts to remove leaders who were ignoring villagers’ petitions. They demanded votes on increases in their city taxes, the number of occupied houses and tourist fees. They supported candidates who reflected their vision for Manita to run for council.
It took a while, but they finally got the Manita they wanted, reduced the number of tourists, and reduced the size of their village government.
Then they lived happily ever after.