Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What's So Great About Growth?

Our local liberals are always asking, "Why do we need to grow? What's so important about it?"

The answer is simple. As Jeff Harkins from UI always says, towns either grow or die.

From U.S. News and World Report:
No one needs to tell that to Bernard Lupi, 59, who looked out on State Street, Schenectady's main drag, recalling a time when his hometown was booming, with General Electric and the American Locomotive Co. employing tens of thousands of hard-working Schenectadians.

But American Locomotive shuttered its factory in 1969, and GE has slowly moved its manufacturing elsewhere. Bechtel is following suit. And the city is about to lose one of its two remaining hospitals. Mirroring the losses in Buffalo, Rochester, and other upstate cities, Schenectady's population has sunk to less than 62,000, from 92,000 in 1950. "I've lived here 58 years, and I've seen it when it was good," says Lupi, stirring his coffee. "But Schenectady is gone, and they ain't never gonna bring it back."

Anemia. Pessimism is rampant across upstate New York, a recent Empire Center for New York State Policy survey showed, with 35 percent of those in the western part of upstate saying they expected things to get worse over the next five years. Poverty rates hover around 30 percent in some cities. Property tax rates are among the highest in the nation. Unemployment rates are not historically high-around 4 percent in many upstate areas-but job growth is anemic. And the jobs being created tend to be both lower skill and lower paying than the ones that were there before. Crime and teen pregnancies are on the rise.


New York is one of the few states actually losing population, thanks in good part to people fleeing from upstate. One recent study found that the young adult population of upstate New York declined at nearly four times the national rate between 1990 and 2005. "If you are smart, ambitious, creative, and can produce, and are under 25, you get out of upstate New York as fast as you can," says Moss.
From an environmentalist's standpoint, this must be incredibly "sustainable"; fewer people using fewer resources.

Pullman is currently growing, thanks mostly to SEL, but overall, Whitman County is DECLINING in population. According to information from the U.S. Census Bureau, Whitman County's population declined 1.2% during 2000-2005. The ONLY other of Washington's 39 counties that declined in population was our neighbor to the south, Garfield County. And people are worried about "sprawl" and "runaway growth?" Tell that to people in towns like Colfax, Tekoa, Oakesdale, Colton, and Uniontown, that are fighting to hold on to their schools and businesses because of a lack of people. This is the result of a declining agricultural economic base that has been frozen by restrictive zoning laws. And don't think it can't happen in Pullman. Pullman is still very much a "company" town, highly dependent on WSU and SEL. Downturns in either would mean a big bust to our booming economy overnight.

That is why it is imperative that we not let the Aquinuts stop our economic development. I'm sure Schenectady is using a lot less water than it used to, but would you want to live there? People have to come first.

1 comment:

Dale said...