Enjoy It While You Can
I have deep respect for Editions editor David Vickers because of his thorough news stories and thoughtful editorials. So I’m confident he’ll be happy to share with readers my perspective on his latest editorial. In Do both! (4/21/06) Vickers advises us to plan on piping in more water than the Southern Delivery System alone can provide, because “Growth is where it’s at.” Before we invest billions and billions of dollars in paving the way for Vickers’ rampant expansion plan (the price tag of SDS alone is over $2 billion), let’s examine the future David implies is not only inevitable but possibly even desirable.
Vickers, along with many others who drink the EDC Kool-Aid, makes a fundamental but erroneous assumption. It’s an easy conclusion to jump to, but based on fear instead of fact. And it will lead us down a path that destroys all the wonderful things he catalogued about our community. The assumption is unless our community continues to expand, it will shrink and our economic health will decline. I would not argue that losing and failing to replace large numbers of jobs can be pretty tough on a community’s economy. But in adopting this “grow or die” philosophy, David and his fellow Kool-Aid drinkers fail to consider a third, very attractive option. That course is “stability.”
A steady-state economy has much to offer. First, it offers none of the population loss and economic decline growth-boosting fear mongers threaten whenever someone questions unnecessary economic development incentives or suggests we end growth subsidies handed out to new subdivisions. Those with jobs can keep them. When jobs are lost they are replaced.
Second, we all benefit financially by avoiding the multi-billion-dollar investment we otherwise must make in a losing battle to keep traffic moving, find more water, and build utility infrastructure for growth that does not even begin to truly pay its way. Our taxes and utility bills can stabilize.
Third, it offers us the opportunity to continue enjoying things that today make it easy to replace lost jobs: a bearable commute, adequate supply of great-tasting water; clean, healthy air; and some assurance we can survive drought because we aren’t over-subscribed to a water resource rationed out by mother nature.
Vickers advises our leaders to plan for a city of 1 to 1.5 million by 2025. He’s correct in pointing out the challenges of a burgeoning population, but we need to be looking well beyond 2025 in evaluating the consequences of our present behavior. If we just continue growing at the same rate we’ve been for the last five years – a rate some consider “modest” – our metro population in 2121 will have surpassed today’s state population of 4.6 million. And our state population will hit 46 million.
If that’s our plan for economic vitality, David’s right – we’ll need more than the Southern Delivery System pipeline can deliver from the Arkansas River. But the Arkansas River itself won’t be enough. And all the snowmelt in Colorado won’t meet the needs of 46 million statewide. We should begin plans now for the Nova Scotia Delivery System.
If 4.6 million is where we want to go – because we don’t believe in population stability, we should also resign ourselves to the consequences we cannot avoid. Not one city that has grown before us has found a way to avoid these. Our commuting time will quadruple and quadruple again. Our beautiful mountain views will be a thing of the past – as we choke on our exhaust and the pollution from additional power plants. Taxes and utilities will rise steeply. Civility will not. Road rage will be encountered routinely.
In addition, we won’t be eating fresh, affordable produce grown in the state, because we’ll have taken every drop of agricultural water. Our city will be less charming and inviting to the creative class and entrepreneurs (our quality of life easily attracts them today, to replace lost jobs). We really will have to bribe companies to come or to stay, because we’ll finally be just like Atlanta or Houston – or any of the other miserable places these entrepreneurs flee so they can enjoy the splendor of the Pikes Peak region. Enjoy it now, while you can.
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