Random Thoughts on Various Issues
Love it or hate it, the Colorado state constitution requires a vote of the people on all local and state tax increases. One consequence, however, is to tempt elected officials to play the ‘fee game.’ Call a tax a fee and the messiness of asking the public for permission to part with its money goes away. Some of these angles are being pondered by a couple of City Council members. Instead of asking for a transportation tax, for example, just impose a so-called transportation fee. Stay tuned.
Half of you reading this believe that raising the minimum wage is the right thing, the humane thing, to do. It just feels right. The problem of thinking with your feelings, of course, is that it ignores unforeseen consequences. Every time the state or federal minimum wage goes up, restaurateurs, retailers and others businesses have to assess what it means to them. Sometimes it forces them to cut back hours, cut staff positions or convert full-time positions to part-time. Most can’t absorb a government-imposed expense without offsetting it somewhere. The consequence can be that the very people the increase is supposed to help are actually harmed.
Last fall an out-of-town guest in a delegation studying Fort Collins asked me what keeps me awake at night. My answer was ‘community complacency.’ It is great to be Fort Collins. I wouldn’t trade our situation with any other community in the country, not one.
Success, however, breeds complacency, a sense that we have arrived. I’ve heard it from a few elected officials who say we’re doing too much for economic development. Really? Here are issues that indicate otherwise:
- Colorado State University is the area’s biggest employer and economic engine. Disruptive educational innovations have emerged that, combined with the growing costs to attend college, might impact the traditional university model. If that happens, over the long-run, what does this mean to CSU and the Fort Collins economy?
- And talk about disruption, retail is undergoing a dramatic transformation as e-commerce has grown 18 percent per year over the past decade. Presently about 15 percent of retail purchases are made online and the number is growing. What does that mean to local retailers and city government, which depends on sales tax revenue?
- The personal computer business continues to shrink as technology goes mobile. Sales of PCs declined another 10 percent in 2013. What does that mean to Fort Collins and its mature high tech sector with companies like Intel and Hewlett-Packard?
- Fort Collins is a smart place! About half of residents have a college degree, significantly higher than the national average. But we have the dubious honor of ranking 7th in the nation in under-employment. Basically, we are not creating enough good-paying jobs for our citizens.Shouldn’t we keep the creation of good-paying jobs a high community priority?
My point: Stay focused on proactively creating the future we want or we may not like it when we arrive there.