Press Talk: Get off the dime and move it!

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor


photoLou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor.

Did you know?

Here’s the origin of the phrase “getting off the dime.”

A dime, from the Latin decem, “10,” is the smallest, thinnest U.S. coin. In metaphor, it signifies tininess. In the 1920s and 1930s, when couples danced very closely together in one tiny spot, the floor manager would cry, “Get off dat dime!” Also, pro dancers, who would often work for a dime a dance, were encouraged by their bosses to keep the customers moving. More dance partners, more dimes coming in. So “getting off the dime” meant to keep it moving.

There are a whole bunch of politicians who will tell you it's important — really, really, important — to be deliberate, cautious, circumspect, calculated before making a decision.

And who could argue with that? Well, OK, I could.

Indeed there are some things that should take just about forever before pulling the trigger on a decision.

But my goodness, not everything. One of the many issues I have with politicians is their inability to get off the dime.

Let's move it … please!

Take the Vancouver City Council. They have this issue in front of them: a proposed oil terminal down at the port.

Even though council members don't have the final decision, their collective opinion would go a long way toward influencing it.

And my view is they should give the oil terminal the boot.

So what's the problem, you might ask? A few new jobs would be created and — who knows — we might get a nickname out of it: Oily Hub of the Great Northwest!

But if we're trying to make Vancouver a destination point for residents and visitors alike, "oily" would not be part of the marketing campaign.

There just aren't enough positives to outweigh the negatives on this project.

If the oil terminal goes in, those incessant trains that already rumble by the waterfront will rumble even more. Why? Transportation has to move this oil product back and forth, and trains will have to do it.

Then you have the safety issue. Oh, the train folks will tell you it's perfectly safe. Well, maybe not "perfectly" safe. Never mind all those oil trains that have been blowing up. An anomaly, I tell ya. An anomaly!

If Johnny Cash were alive, he could even write a song:

I hear the train a comin'

It's rolling 'round the bend

And I ain't seen so much oily stuff since I don't know when.

OK, so on its own it doesn't sound like a great idea. But then you have this little thing called our waterfront project. If we could pull it off, it literally could transform Vancouver. No question, it would showcase Vancouver in unimaginable ways.

How are they connected? Well, those oil trains would run a few hundred feet from the heart of the project.

In some ways, it's a clash of the old and the new. Needing to be near water was critical in the old days for transportation. But today waterfronts offer an opportunity to build showcase developments. And the two don't always mix.

The folks trying to build our new waterfront project are saying if the oil terminal goes in, the waterfront project goes out.

Look, I'm not 100 percent certain there isn't a little smoke-blowing in the "killing the project" line. But my view is, if that's even a possibility, it's enough to tell the oil boys to take a hike.

But back to the city council. They're being asked to take a stand. But guess what? They're mulling it. Sheese. If the council were a food, I'd say it were instant rice. Boring, bland, noncommittal.

I asked Mayor Tim Leavitt about all of this. Here was his response:

"We intend to be thoughtful in our response so that it has the most meaning/impact.

"The landscape continues to evolve, with new information coming seemingly every week.

"It doesn't serve anybody well to jump the gun, regardless of the position."

Oh my! I guess that's why I'd never be a good politician. Here's the deal: The council eventually will decide in favor of the waterfront project. Oh, they'll throw in a bunch of instant rice phrases to try to straddle this thing. But they'll come down on the side of the waterfront.

I'd simply argue the sooner the better. Yes, it's time to get off the dime, city council.