As voters once again decide whether to change their city’s name to Blaine Harbor, both supporters and opponents are citing heritage and tradition in their arguments over the proposal.
The measure is on the Tuesday, Nov. 4, ballot — marking the second time since 2000 that Blaine residents have been asked to vote on the issue. Voters defeated the proposal 57 percent to 43 percent in 2000.
It needs a simple majority to pass.
A divided City Council decided in June to put the measure on the ballot.
Current arguments over the proposal, which the City Council heard prior to its decision, echoed those made when the measure last went before voters.
Supporters said that adding the word “harbor” would attract visitors from Canada who now bypass the border town, highlight Blaine’s seaside beauty, and help boost much-needed economic development by attracting businesses, including to a downtown that has long struggled with empty storefronts.
“If one looks at it from an objective perspective, it seems to be a no-brainer,” Blaine resident Paul Schroeder said. “It creates a more positive image.”
Schroeder is part of Citizens for Blaine’s Future, the committee in favor of changing the name to Blaine Harbor.
He said adding “harbor” would take “advantage of the asset we have in having such a beautiful location and letting people know that we have potential.”
“We’re a harbor community on the waterfront,” he said.
Opponents said that changing Blaine’s name wouldn’t spur economic revitalization or draw visitors because the city needs to offer more things to do, citing as an example events like the annual Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration that attracts many people. They also feared that changing the city’s name would change their small town’s history and heritage.
“We have a lot of other things we need to work on so that when people do get here, there’s a reason for them to stay and a reason for them to come back,” said Blaine resident Angie Dixon, who is part of We Are Blaine WA., the committee opposed to the name change.
She questioned that Blaine would benefit from a name change.
“Where’s the proof this is going to do us any good?” Dixon asked. “It’s not a clearly thought-out plan.”
Opponents also said limited tax dollars shouldn’t be used for the proposed name change, which would create confusion anyway given that the city is located on Drayton Harbor and that the name Blaine Harbor already exists in the city — as a marina owned by the Port of Bellingham.
And changing the name to Blaine Harbor could hurt the close-knit community, including its tradition and history, because the school district and many businesses would have different names, they said.
Dixon said that those who have supported the name change come from the nearby communities of Birch Bay and Semiahmoo.
“They’re trying to force us to change this name that they won’t be using,” Dixon said. “We’re definitely proud to be from here. We want the best for Blaine.”
But Schroeder argued against the sense of “others that are proposing this,” adding that a name change would be in keeping with the city’s heritage.
“The word ‘harbor’ has more to do with our history than the name Blaine does. The city originated around the harbor with its canneries, its sawmills and, of course, its fishing,” he said.
The area was platted as Concord in the 1870s. Not long after, staunch Republicans changed its name to honor James G. Blaine, secretary of state under President James Garfield and failed 1884 presidential candidate. He lost to Grover Cleveland.