Editor’s Note: While we often try to remain neutral on political commentary, this argument hits a little too close to home to be ignored.

As I listen to the competing arguments for the preferred use of the Suzuki property, I am disappointed by the discussions.

In many respects, this is a bizarre story of a geographically exclusive city that prides itself on being environmentally conscious, whose city council can approve the construction of yet another 10,000-square-foot vacation home with a heated outdoor swimming pool, and simultaneously decry as an eyesore the “ugly” multifamily developments where working class people live. In other respects, this is a familiar story of America’s continuing clash between people of differing economic classes, who rely on each other, and yet cannot figure out how to live with each other.

Bainbridge Island’s service sector is teetering on the edge of unsustainability for one reason and one reason alone – lack of available workers. Historically, to maintain our two restaurants’ doors open we have required some 60 – 70 persons in our work force per year. That nets out to about 35 full time equivalents (FTE). We are just one employer on an island that continues to demand a vibrant and healthy downtown. Each year we watch as our available labor pool shrinks and the number of staff miles driven to get to work increases. In my many years on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors, I have heard a common refrain from the island’s employers. How is that good for the island and our island environment?

For those who are taking issue with the Housing Resource Board’s (HRB) proposal based on environmental concerns, please take pause. If Bainbridge Island is a defining place that embodies the best of environmentalism, then much of that movement becomes wed to the condition of the privileged. Privileged environmentalism is not progressive politics but a politics of the rich and comfortable that only claims progressive ideals. That brand of environmentalism becomes entirely consistent with – and is a close cousin of – class exclusionary politics.

Has Bainbridge Island, through its environmentalist claims, targeted for exclusion those workers who service the island-city?

I sincerely hope not.

I urge the City’s decision makers to actively engage and support the HRB’s proposals for the Suzuki property.

J.L. Waite

P.S. – If you’d like to read more about “environmental privilege” read The Slums of Aspen (Immigrants vs. the Environment in America’s Eden) by Lisa Sun-Hee Park and David Naguib Pellow, 2011, New Yoork University Press

3 Responses to “Greenwashing the Suzuki Property”

  1. Kent Bridwell Says:

    By referring broadly to “environmental claims” and “environmental privilege” as generic concepts you minimize the actual significance of what is truly at risk. You seem to imply that environmental concerns are limited to pure aesthetics, of value only to wealthy tree-huggers. Not so.

    Just the loss of yet more nitrogen processing, oxygen providing, water retaining trees is a big deal for very practical reasons. Then there is the matter of traffic, air pollution, loss of wildlife habitat, impact on aquifer recharging, added demands on sewer system and all that.

    I certainly agree that the Island needs affordable housing. No question. But why not look for land in more densely populated areas that has already been cleared for development and has available infrastructure in place? Doesn’t that make a whole lot more sense?

  2. Althea Paulson Says:

    Well written, well-reasoned. A very good piece. I’d like to reprint this on my blog, Bainbridge Notebook. Hoping that is okay with you.


  1. Greenwashing Suzuki | Bainbridge Notebook

Leave a Reply