Stuck in the 80s

Recently there were ‘opposing’ soapboxes on the Coloradoan’s editorial page about the impact of the positive rankings Fort Collins regularly receives. One soapbox was a positive, aspirational piece by City Manager Darin Atteberry. He basically was saying that the external recognition is validation of a community doing things right. Atteberry cited Time Magazine naming Fort Collins as America’s Most Satisfied City after a Gallup poll showed that 94.9% of residents are satisfied with the community.

Countering this perspective was a community no-growth activist that I’ll simply call “G”. He moved his family here decades ago from Iowa. G and his wife made a great living working for corporations before being able to retire young. Before, but especially since, they retired, they frequently rail against people moving here and against evil corporations. Pretty rich, huh!?

This is a philosophy stuck solidly in 1980s Fort Collins. While some of the no-growth activists are from here, most are transplants from pig-dappled lands like Iowa. Their verbiage has barely changed: growth machine, growth promoters, and profiteers are threadbare phrases. At least they’ve added the slur ‘corporate welfare’ in recent years!

Another relatively new term G uses is ‘steady-state economy.’ This state of nirvana exists nowhere on earth. It basically describes a closed economic system with no population growth and the same amount of money flowing through the local economy. While a convenient tool for arguing against economic and population growth, it has no basis in reality. It does not and cannot exist outside of text books on economic theory.

The reason I’m commenting on this is because G contends that the “local growth promoters and profiteers” are hell-bent “to sacrifice our community’s character.”

I have a different perspective. G and his acolytes have spent years railing against business while focusing in on making Fort Collins a nice place with good parks, open space, bike lanes, trails, etc. By doing so, they have added quality of life amenities that – wait for it – attract people.

Now he is calling for “an open, honest community discussion to determine what the ‘right size’ is for Fort Collins.”

Okay. Here’s a start: G, you and your friends have encouraged this population growth over the years, though unintentionally. What are you doing to help make sure that streets are properly sized to accommodate the growth? What are you doing to make sure there is adequate police and fire protection for a larger community? What are you doing to ensure good public schools with adequate facilities? What are you doing to make sure the business community and economy are strong to generate the tax base necessary to pay for the quality of life amenities you want?

Empty platitudes do not a plan make. Put specific proposals and solutions on the table, G. No amount of railing will stop people from moving here. We need leaders who put effort into seeing that growth is accommodated correctly instead to wasting time trying to stop it.