Guest Editorial: Why the name change makes sense

Published on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 by Paul Schroeder

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If you have already made up your mind about the name change for Blaine, stop reading.

However, if you are still thinking about it, here’s something to consider: This is a proposal to promote our town. It is meant to create a positive image of the place we call home. Does it do more harm or good to add a single clarifying word to the name of the town? Harbor: “A port where ships can anchor safely. A place of refuge that is safe and sheltered.” What is it about that word that is so offensive to some?

The harbor is the heart of Blaine – it always has been. Our geography, our history and the culture of this town have revolved around the harbor, with its fishing industry, cannery and lumber mills. In truth, from a very practical perspective, the word “Harbor” is more a part of this town than James Blaine ever was (the man was never here and played no part in our history). What is so sacred about the name Blaine that it should not be associated with a harbor? 

For some who have been here for many years, this proposal may be perceived as an assault on their heritage; their memory or concept of “home,” and the reaction against it seems to be emotionally charged. This is not about where you were born, or where you went to school (the name of the school is a separate issue and does not need to change). To you the town will always be simply “Blaine,” and that’s OK. 

This is a logical and practical attempt to address the present and the future of the town, and the poor image that Blaine has suffered under as “just another border town” of gas stations, bars and porn – an unfortunate perception still held by many in the county. 

It is also about the severe economic challenges the town faces today and the constant search for funds to maintain infrastructure. No one believes that adding the word “Harbor” will magically fix all our economic needs, but it is one positive step to improve our image to the outside world, to be a place that sounds more inviting for business and curious travelers. Displaying an inviting name can be very important (see article: “Why $10,000 For a Domain Name is Still Cheap,” Business Insider). I know that for some, the word “tourist” is not far removed from the word “terrorist” on their abhorrence scale, but we all want improvements to our town, and those improvements cost money. Anything we can do to create a strong economic base without detracting from our quality of life will benefit us all. 

Creating a positive image of our town by adding a single word to our name is probably the most economical step we can take to get people interested in visiting this little corner of our country. A business that considers coming here – other than mail order, which does not offer much for the citizens who live here – will need to see the potential of a profitable existence, and that requires people on the sidewalks. Without those people, the empty storefronts will continue.

This process has already begun with the new street lamps, brick crosswalks, tree-lined streets and nearly 200 flower baskets. The cost of adding the word “Harbor” will be inflated by those against this idea, but in reality, the cost is insignificant compared to the potential rewards. The estimated cost is less than the flower baskets we now have to beautify our town. And we don’t have to build anything – the harbor is already here. 

Some say, “It’s always been Blaine and adding Harbor won’t do anything.” To me, that’s like saying, “We have always had pollution and an idea to fix it is not worth trying.” Maybe it won’t work; there are no guarantees, but bringing up a litany of past failures in the town, as many have, is certainly counterproductive. For those who know about marketing, enhancing one’s assets is a smart move. 

Some say, “There’s nothing here, people will be disappointed when they get here.” Perhaps those of us who have been here for many years need to look at the town with fresh eyes. We have a jewel called Peace Arch Park and a diamond in the rough in Marine Park; we have peaceful neighborhoods, friendly people and a few nice little shops and restaurants that are hanging on. Best of all, we can provide travelers an opportunity to get off the highway and enjoy the views we never tire of here – in one direction the islands across the bay and in the other direction, snow-covered mountains. What’s wrong with that?

I have been to over 45 countries; I love this town and I never tire of strolling its streets and alleyways. There are people who will be attracted to the image we make of our town, come here and see the potential. That is our hope. That is why we favor the idea of making our mark, not as Blaine, the border town, not as Blaine, the truck stop, not as Blaine, the mail order center, but as Blaine Harbor, a cozy town by the water.