Terry Lamphier: ‘Myth-ing’ data?
Ironic, isn’t it, that the internet put the world’s biggest repository of information at our fingertips, promising a new age of wisdom and understanding but instead has become dominated by false or misleading narratives that reinforce our biases and debase our collective selves — all protected by our Constitution.
Further, that our elected office holders at all levels of government, sworn to uphold the Constitution, are too often the biggest drivers of untruths, either through silence or complicity. No wonder so many voters “declined to state” party affiliation, if they vote at all.
It is clear from local electeds’ actions over the last two decades that the simplistic “all growth is good” is the defining paradigm. Population must grow, we must build more houses, we must have more shopping centers, etc. — with little or no thought to “externalities,” the hidden side effects that have indirect but real economic and health impacts on our community, manifested as increased fire danger, ever more congested roadways, higher taxes and insurance rates, more regulations, moribund wages, etc.
Yes, the world population is growing and yes, we all have some responsibility to accommodate that growth, but, going forward, we can’t continue using the same thinking that has served us through human history. In the past, high birth rates came with high death rates, resources seemed infinite, and one could always move somewhere else if the home “nest” no longer served; an adolescent zeitgeist phase of human existence, wherein self-serving personal desires trump community responsibility.
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It’s a different world now and a “grown-up” model is needed. The global scope of climate change, resource depletion, waste disposal, overpopulation, pandemics, nuclear/biological warfare and so on are unprecedented in human history — and all pose several orders of magnitude greater threats to humanity.
While attempting to change arguably genetically programmed parts of human nature such as reproduction, consumption, tribalism, etc., is unlikely in the short term, our leaders can do much more, starting with an honest assessment of who and where we are and recognizing constraints.
So, back to “myths.” The Economic Resource Council recently hosted a consultant who said we need more housing and essentially restated the standard Republican mantras of solving the problem with mass production, lower taxes and fewer regulations.
But who is the housing for? Unlikely it is for the homeless. Overcrowding? Maybe, but past analysis has shown a high percentage of us are living singly. Locals? Census data shows local households can barely afford rents and are a long way from home ownership. What’s left are immigrating commuters and retirees who apparently don’t find existing housing stock acceptable — and apparently are ignorant about increasing everyone’s fire danger and attendant economic costs.
We wring our hands about affordable housing, yet, as county supervisor, I learned that we have land in the county zoned for it, finance programs to make it profitable and willing landowners; but a project needs sewer and water services, so it needs to be in the City of Grass Valley’s development “sphere of influence” — to date, a non-starter with the city.
More shopping centers because of “tax dollars lost down the hill?” Has anyone asked how much of that lost money is spent by commuters shopping on the way to/from their out-of-town jobs? Aside from online shopping killing shopping centers, no electeds will acknowledge that a) only low-paying giant chain stores can give us lower prices (not necessarily more choices) and, b) it’s the absentee landowner and typically, out-of-area developers and contractors who make money.
We truck our household waste to another state and now we have, literally, waste to burn from fire clearing, but we can’t make recycling work nor, as the county biomass task force established, a (documented) clean, sustainable and financially viable biomass energy plant. We’d rather pay ever-increasing rates to PG&E rather than fight for community-generated, decentralized local energy, including community-aggregated energy, solar, etc. in any new housing development.
Going forward, we (the state) could encourage construction of a completely new live/work city on otherwise unsuitable soils in the central valley, utilizing best energy, transportation, recycling and safety design practices. Employment in living wage jobs would skyrocket. Square foot costs would drop the floor out of current construction costs; likewise energy and transportation costs. Best safety practices efficiently built in, not expensively added on. Incentive? No taxes for 10 years?
Ah, but who would pay? Sorry, but you already are, with costly last century ideas of so called “highest and best use.”
Terry Lamphier is a former Nevada County supervisor who lives in Grass Valley.
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