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Smiles Screwed On 

Thanksgiving week: According to time-tested newspaper tradition, this is the week to mope about the economy. Unlike our colleagues at every daily newspaper in the country, the Journal will not brave the 4 a.m. Black Friday rush at Target and the like to gather evidence that the world is still headed straight into the dumper. Instead, as your gastrointestinal tract develops strategies to cope with that fourth ladleful of gravy, we invite you to peruse Journal contributor Terrence McNally's artful eulogy to the decaying Samoa Pulp Mill, and to the lost world it represents.

When you think about it, the pulp mill is as neat a blank template as you're likely to find. Depending on your point of view, you can blame its fall on environmentalist meddlers, overbearing government regulation, outsourcing, transnational capitalism, the general fall of America's industrial infrastructure. You can even blame it on President Obama, if you are so inclined -- though for reasons opposite to the usual ones. In this case, the administration failed to kick in $400 million in stimulus funds to bring the thing sputtering back to life.

Maybe you can even blame it on us, somehow. I talked to an old source for the first time in months on Tuesday, and this person was gleeful about the results of the last local election. "Finally, maybe we'll get some jobs in here!" he said of the conservative sweep of county government and the city of Eureka.

(Hold on to your hats, though -- a final vote tally is due to be released later this week, according to Clerk-Recorder Carolyn Crnich. Fifth District Supervisorial candidate Patrick Cleary has at least some chance to snatch victory from Election Night winner Ryan Sundberg, in which case the board would still tilt leftish.)

Anyway. My old source was pretty well convinced that all that recovery required was the right people in positions of local authority. It is a view widely shared, at least among newly elected representatives. When questioned, my source pretty much said what the candidates did. Simply put: The problem is all in our attitude. We are not business-friendly. We just need to be business-friendly!

When you ask for examples of the business-unfriendliness that has allegedly plagued the halls of local government, things inevitably get a bit squishy. At best, someone will cite the time, six years ago, when a town hall meeting in Eureka over the proposed Calpine liquefied natural gas plant got a bit contentious. Such things send an impression, it is sometimes said. (Calpine went bankrupt shortly after pulling out of Eureka -- so deeply traumatized was it by the town hall experience, no doubt.)

But that's about as specific as it gets -- one incident, six years ago. My source, being interested in matters pertaining to port and rail development, has one additional bugaboo. It is his contention that the negativity surrounding the Harbor District's all-but-dead proposal to develop the bay for the international container shipping trade is what has killed the project. In other words, he believes that a few thousand whiners, and they alone, have stopped one of the roughest and most hardcore sectors of international capitalism from throwing billions of dollars at our mudpuddle of a bay, just by being such downers. But this view is not widely shared, even among the agonistes of business-friendliness.

The latter seem to have a clear understanding of the problem as they see it, at least in their own heads. They are quite certain of the diagnosis, in any case. Perhaps they just have a hard time communicating it. Sometimes, when you ask what they mean by "business-unfriendliness," they look at you as if you are slow. It is self-evident! Apparently the solution is self-evident as well, because it is articulated only in the vaguest terms. A little of the old Chamber of Commerce elbow grease, it seems, and the bucks will just start rolling on in.

Maybe they have it all figured out; the rest of us will have to wait and see. You read every day about people who cure their cancers through the power of positive thinking. Perhaps, when intently focused on one small corner of the Pacific Northwest, the same power can repeal the end of the American century.


Finally, tonight, some bright news on the home front. For the first time since 2003, the Eureka Inn will host its once-traditional Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 28, at 4 p.m. There'll be free refreshment, as well as holiday music from various local holiday music providers.

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About The Author

Hank Sims

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