OK, but just who is my neighbor, exactly?

It is telling that the organizers of The Longest Table event sent invitations to their kumbaya-sandwich-on-the-bridge dinner. From the reporting in The News, they invited people at extant community organizations, people who likely already know each other (or know of each other), people who would agree that Alpena is slightly better than before and isn’t that something worth celebrating? (Perhaps that should be the new slogan: “Alpena — slightly better than before”). The organizers — including something called Who is My Neighbor? — purposely limited the attendees to those with history in Alpena, omitting those (like me) who moved here from someplace else.

That outsiders were not welcome is clear from the stated purpose of the event, as articulated by organizer Janice Boboltz in the Aug. 23 edition of the News: “(Boboltz) said it’s a great opportunity to talk about what Alpena can do to grow and attract more people to come back and live here, or stay here.”

Thinking of moving back to Alpena from someplace else? Our arms are open to you. Come tell us how much your time away made you appreciate Alpena. Thinking of remaining in the area? By all means, pull up a chair and watch things get incrementally better over a period of who knows how many years. (There’s a splash park! And two “Mexican” restaurants!)

On the other hand, thinking of moving here for the first time? Think again. Planning to relocate to Alpena from Chicago or New York or Los Angeles? We don’t want your big city ideas. Don’t come here with your exposure to the arts and successful retail and so forth, and, e.g., tell us that the abandoned strip mall that is the south end of U.S.-23 isn’t fine just the way it is.

Neighbors, indeed.