Restless Native

Ron Judd's take on Northwest people, places and events.

November 14, 2011 at 9:32 AM

A novel take on the border wars

Posted by Ron Judd

One thing I stumbled upon while researching today's Restless Native piece about Washington's northern border was Olympia author Jim Lynch's novel, "Border Songs."

Lynch paints a vivid -- and quite accurate -- picture of the culture clash that occurs when a medium-sized, high-tech Army sets up camp in a place where nobody bats an eye when farmers wearing manure-stained boots are waiting in line in the local bank. It's fertile material, well-mined by the writer.

A mention of the book (which I'm still reading) in today's piece got trimmed out. So I wanted to pass along a recommendation here. A winner of the Washington State Book Award for fiction, it's a creative tale, well-told.

October 25, 2011 at 9:07 PM

B.C.'s "Olympic Bump:" More like a whap upside the head

Posted by Ron Judd

Every Olympic Games is sold, to some degree, by promises of increased tourism. Some studies in some host cities have born that out, but it's a tough thing to quantify. Games supporters always credit the Games-effect with any uptick in visitation. It might be true; it might be wishful thinking.

Winter Olympic host sights, in fact, often are more affected by snow levels in succeeding winters than any lingering glow from the Olympic Flame.

The economy also can douse the heat from Olympic fame, as British Columbia is learning now, with tourists visits trending significantly down, not up, since the 2010 Winter Games.

Numbers of overnight international visitors to the province for the first eight months of 2011 were down by more than 200,000 compared to the same period in 2009, the Globe & Mail reports today. That compares to a much less-severe drop across Canada over the same period.

This after former B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, an unabashed Games supporter, helped pitch the multi-billion dollar event by predicted a doubling of B.C. tourism revenue by 2015. Now, his replacement, Christy Clark, is hopeful for a meager 5-percent annual growth in the next five years, the paper reported.

All of this, incidentally, is in spite of an epic winter at Whistler last snow season, and the promise of another this year.

That leaves little doubt that economics are the drivers here. B.C. depends on the States for a huge chunk of its visitor dollars. And the States, as we know all too well, are broke.

That pesky monetary exchange rate -- which when it was 25 percent in favor of Americans used to make obscenely expensive destinations such as Whistler only slightly outrageously expensive -- is a moot point these days, with the loonie and the dollar trading near par.

That's been a boon to B.C. shoppers, who spend more time in Bellingham big-box stores these days than Bellinghamsters do. But it's a cold, wet blanket to Americans heading the other way across the border.

There's little doubt that a successful Olympics can be a tourist boost -- if conditions are right. But travel being a clear non-eseential, the bump isn't nearly enough to overcome tough economic times.

Then again, maybe the rest of the world is still afraid to set foot in Vancouver after that burning-police-car hissy fit the city threw after losing the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins.

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