Monday, February 1, 2016

It takes just one person to spur big change

It all began with one email sent by one person.

I receive several news tips every week. Some tips include news items Land Line has already looked into. Other story ideas we have to pass on for a variety of reasons. Few tips are exclusive, and even fewer of those pan out to reveal anything of substance.

North Bend resident and OOIDA Member
Joyce Hibma.
Advocacy journalism is chock-full of hits and misses … mostly misses. But one hit is worth more than the dozens of misses that came before it, and it takes only one citizen to get that ball rolling.

Two weeks ago, OOIDA President Jim Johnston forwarded Land Line an email from OOIDA Member Joyce Hibma of North Bend, Wash. The city of North Bend was going to hold a public hearing that would essentially put an end to any future truck parking spaces, including stifling expansion of the lone truck stop in town. It became my assignment to see what was up.

Similar amendments to municipal code pop up in towns across the country periodically, to the dismay of many. However, this ban on truck parking spaces was more significant. North Bend is the last stop on Interstate 90 before Snoqualmie Pass, a mountainous region that is shut down frequently due to weather-related events (and sometimes crashes). When Snoqualmie Pass is closed, truckers have no choice but to stop in North Bend. The nearest truck stop from North Bend is approximately 45 minutes away.

Trucks can be seen lined up, bumper-to-bumper, on the side of I-90 for hours during a Snoqualmie Pass shutdown. Based on the geography and infrastructure, North Bend is a crucial point for truckers driving along I-90 in Washington. If any city in the area should not be restricting truck parking, it’s North Bend.

Using the information OOIDA President Jim Johnston received from Hibma (which was passed to me) and research I conducted as part of the assignment, I wrote about the upcoming public hearing in North Bend. That situation prompted the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to send a letter of opposition to Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. A day later I received an email from a truck stop consultant who has been fighting North Bend’s municipal code for at least two years. The following day a councilmember weighed in on Facebook and told Land Line to run with it. Twenty-four hours later, a co-owner of the property the truck stop sits on blasted the city in an open letter.

The snowball had spiraled out of control into a wrecking ball. What was supposed to be a standard public hearing for the planning commission turned into a full house composed mostly of those opposed to the amendment.

North Bend may not be a large city – population of approximately 6,500 people – but it is not just a blip on the radar. The city is home to Nintendo North Bend, the main North American production facility and distribution center for the video game manufacturer.

North Bend also received some pop culture cred with David Lynch’s television series “Twin Peaks.” If you don’t know David Lynch’s work, it’s … umm … bizarre. Great show though. With that said, this truck parking situation in North Bend is much like David Lynch’s body of work – i.e., strange.

Potential for change is being felt by many. And it all began with one email sent by one person. The fight for more parking spaces near that section of I-90 is far from over, but with the vigilance of people like Joyce Hibma, a shift in momentum is a great start. Keep your eyes and ears open. We all have a lot of work to do, but don’t think your voice alone won’t spark change.

To quote a line from “Twin Peaks,” “I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”