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Monday, May 2, 2016

Boldly Going Nowhere

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

An idiot's point of view

One of my newspaper colleagues wrote a column recently criticizing people who don't fall in line with local officials who are attempting to stimulate business growth, thereby ensuring that her kids don't have to move out of the area to find jobs. Apparently, anyone who opposes her concept of progress is an idiot. Since I clearly fall into that category, I'll proudly step forward to explain reality from an idiot's point of view.

I lived a few miles outside a small town in Arizona in 1986-1992. It had a population of about 3,000 and seemed like an ideal place to live, especially after having spent nearly 12 years in Los Angeles. However, it didn't take long to sour on the place.

The city council was made up of bankers and real estate brokers. They had this simple-minded notion that bigger was better and that if they didn't do something drastic the world would pass them by. Their idea of progress was to attract industry so they could grow at a much faster rate than would normally take place.

Their first course of action was to spend huge sums of taxpayer funds building an industrial park near the airport. Naturally, as bankers and land brokers, they all got a piece of the action. When no one would build a business in their overpriced industrial park, they spent huge sums of taxpayer funds promoting the fiasco, including expensive advertisements in business publications in such places as Taiwan and Hong Kong. To date, the industrial park still remains empty.

During another brainstorming session, the city council determined the town would be more attractive if it had "funky" pink sidewalks, just like the ones in a popular ski resort town in Colorado. Tons of taxpayer dollars went into the project. All the concrete sidewalks in town were ripped up and replaced with pink, inlaid bricks. When the dust finally settled, it looked like cowboy town with pink sidewalks.Some of us idiots consider certain examples of progress to be a giant step backward. One person's idea of progress is another person's nightmare, and some of us idiots have experienced too many nightmares.

In fact, some of us idiots feel that promoting business and encouraging population growth should not be a function of local government, which has enough problems simply keeping up with the natural flow of change.

When I first moved here in 1992, we had one stoplight in the entire tri-county area, in Salem. Now there are stoplights in Hardy, Ash Flat and Melbourne. The highway from Hardy to Ash Flat has gone from two lanes to four lanes. In another 10 years, that stretch of roadway will be wall-to-wall businesses. It may not seem like much but it's a sign that this area is growing and will continue to prosper.

Those who would accelerate the rate of growth will never be satisfied with the results. Just how big is big enough? Take a drive through Batesville, Mountain Home or Jonesboro. You can't even make a left turn in those places yet there are people in those communities clamoring for faster growth and more jobs.

If you aren't satisfied with the size of the area, move somewhere else. Don't spoil it for those of us who like it the way it is. It will eventually grow whether we like it or not. It seems downright arrogant to attempt to change the surrounding world to suit yourself. It would be more prudent to find a spot in the world that is the right size to fit your taste. Houston, Phoenix and Los Angeles are out there waiting for you.

If you're worried about jobs for your kids, teach your kids to be independent and encourage them to start their own business. This area is loaded with self-employed individuals and small businesses that have made it on their own. If you're always relying on someone else to provide you with employment, you belong in a big city.

A rapidly expanding job market leads to more people, more traffic, more taxes, more crime, more pollution and more headaches. It also leads to stifling competition by large corporations, which tends to destroy local mom-and-pop operations while most of the profits go to fat cat outsiders.The quality of life we enjoy is much more valuable than so-called progress.From one idiot to another, bigger isn't always better.