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You Should be Doing This

Achieving a healthy, sustainable local economy.

This is a good example of local growth busting. I just sent this letter to my local county regarding its growth-centric draft strategic plan:

Tim Wolken
Director, Community Services Department
El Paso County
2002 Creek Crossing
Colorado Springs, CO 80905

Dear Mr. Wolken:

I wish to provide this input regarding the draft El Paso County Strategic Plan 2012 – 2016.

I would like to point out some inconsistencies between Goal #5 and some of the strategies and tactics under that goal.

Goal #5 – Consistently support regional economic strength.

For several years, according to data compiled by the Global Footprint Network (see page 72 of the atlas for N. America data), we are utilizing resources at a rate faster than the Earth can replenish them. This is due to increasing population and economic growth. The current economic crisis is a symptom of our hitting the limits to growth, as envisioned in the computer modeling of the Limits to Growth study performed by scientists at MIT 1970-1972.

If we acknowledge these facts, a “strong” economy in this century will be one that focuses not on continued “growth” (which will not be possible over the long term), but on “health.” A healthy economy in this age will be one that is resilient and increasingly self-sufficient. Economies excessively dependent on distant sources of resources and income will be weak due to increasing energy prices.

Likewise, we should recognize the reality of decreasing military spending in the U.S. out of the need to reduce the federal deficit. And we should hope for more peace and less need for military activity and spending (which is, after all, a sad waste of precious resources).

The following strategies and tactics listed in the draft plan under Goal #5 are focused on growth:

A: Encourage the growth of existing businesses and recruitment of new businesses.

3. Map areas eligible for inclusion in Enterprise Zone. In conjunction with eligible jurisdictions, determine appropriate boundaries under statutory restrictions and request boundary amendments.

4. Pursue legislation that will give counties the ability to offer performance-based credits or rebates of taxes paid by primary employers who demonstrate a positive net impact on county tax revenue.

5. Support, both financially and through County participation, activities and initiatives of regional economic development organizations. The level of support will be determined by an analysis of the return on investment.

A itself, and the above tactical items, promote subsidizing growth and indicate a commitment to archaic notions of community economic health. They ignore the likelihood we are at the end of growth, and they ignore the fact that the costs of growth in the community have outweighed the benefits over the past few decades. Only one item, A. 2 (buy local), has a place in a modern, sustainable plan for a resilient local economy.

Strategy B, item 3 continues the region’s dependence on growth in the military sector of our economy:

3. Pursue the continued expansion of military contractors by capitalizing on the significant military presence and the region’s low risk of natural disasters.

This, again, fails to recognize that the era of economic expansion is behind us.

I recommend reworking Goal #5 to focus on economic health rather than growth. Resources directed toward encouraging growth should be directed toward efficiency and resiliency. As currently worded, Goal #5 is hitching our wagon to a falling star.

Thank you for considering these changes. They will be critical to quality of life and economic health in our community.


Dave Gardner

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