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Growth: Just Say No

Your Turn

Published August 8, 2002 in The Colorado Springs Independent

It’s time we talk frankly about development, baseball stadiums, convention centers, traffic and water. Someone has to be the first to stand up and say the emperor has no clothes!

Jeff Smith wants to build a baseball stadium downtown. Rocky Scott works to attract new businesses to town. Terry Sullivan tells us we need Confluence Park and a convention center in the south end. These efforts have one thing in common: Developers stand to make money if these projects are successful.

Does Smith want to move the Sky Sox in order to revitalize downtown? Or because he’ll make millions from development around the stadium? We already have a charming, vibrant and vital downtown. Jeff’s plans will ensure we have gridlock on Interstate 25 even if it’s widened even further.

Many in the business community believe we must grow aggressively or shrivel up and die. The rest of us shrug our shoulders and assume growth is inevitable. Let’s stop buying that folly and fight for our town and quality of life.

Few things get better as population increases. As you cram more people together they get meaner and more selfish. You get more crime, more road rage, more conflict. Check out Southern California, Atlanta or Dallas. The people in these places have paid a high price for the growth they courted.

We’re blessed with gorgeous views, fresh air and clean water. We live in a great place to hike, bike, golf, ski or just sit on the deck and enjoy the mountains and blue sky.

Why did most of us come to Colorado Springs or stay here? How many of us said, “This is going to be one cool place when the population hits a million! Just think of the cars, the lines, the pollution, the water-rationing!”

Yet we sit by while greed alone motivates construction of more houses and shopping centers, and while tax incentives and ad campaigns entice more businesses and people to move in. The old spin — “It’s necessary for our economic survival” — may have been true years ago when our economic base was limited to military bases and tourism.

But now our economy is diverse and our secret is out. We can stop begging people to come; they will still come. Instead we need to figure out if there is any way we can stop them!

Those espousing the “grow or die” myth talk about bringing in more, better-paying jobs. We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think more people will come to compete for those jobs. That’s good for people selling gas, homes, insurance or newspapers, but it doesn’t do a thing for the average citizen or our quality of life.

Like a lobster unknowingly dying in a pot of boiling water, we are slowly allowing our treasure to be destroyed. It’s gradual enough to keep us in ignorant bliss. But just because we go down the path to ruin slowly doesn’t mean we won’t get there.

Ask the “grow or die” camp what city is the model for their plans? Is it Austin or San Jose (both formerly beautiful, now overcrowded)? Can we go on adding subdivision after subdivision, when that means we’ll run out of water in 20 years?

Is there anything “smart” about allowing this kind of growth in the face of such limited resources? Do property rights really trump the need to sustain life? It’s time we all face the truth about growth. We really ought to be stopping it. If we can’t, then we should be seriously limiting it. And at the very least, we must stop encouraging it!

I’m betting Jeff Smith’s kids already have a great college fund. So come on, Jeff, can you relax and let us enjoy this beautiful city?

And what about the rest of us? The ill effects of unchecked growth are only inevitable if we do nothing. It’s time we tell our elected representatives and the business community that we don’t want or need more people in Colorado Springs.

Let’s not follow these pied pipers down the road to water shortages, choked roadways and a permanent haze in the air. Just say no to growth.

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