The Fallacy of Growth, Part two: Letters to the Editor

Below are feedback letters in the Sunday Oregonian responding to the excellent op-ed “The Fallacy of Growth in a Finite World” (printed in its entirety in a previous post).

The upshot is: citizens around the State are beginning to understand the dire consequences of the “stuff it in” housing bubble, the need to consolidate services and the need for balanced, quality of life planning.

Hey Molalla: How is that AFFORDABLE COUNTY CONTRACT PROFESSIONAL PLANNING looking these days? How about contracting out to the County Sheriff for AFFORDABLE POLICE SERVICES AS WELL? That’s called consolidation – and anyone looking for less government or better use of public funds should be pushing for those affordable solutions to small town service needs.

Limited funds in Oregon for at least the next decade mean that CONSOLIDATION OF SERVICES is going to be the necessary wave of the future in this NO GROWTH DEPRESSION. Molalla needs its own “planner” (calling “the bully guy” a “planner” is a JOKE!)  and its own police department (main function: shakedowns and speed traps) like it needs a hole in the head! Save tax funds: CONTRACT TO THE COUNTY!

Hey “Let’s build a Taj Mahal middle school” committee: Note the part in the letter below about the fallacy of “If we build it they will come”. The new wisdom is that the public can’t afford to build infrastructure on the obsolete notion that growth will always continue.

Getting a bond (good luck on that!) is only the tip of the public funding iceberg. Once ANYTHING gets built the struggle ensues to obtain funds to continue to maintain it. Think of the NEVER TO BE SELF SUPPORTING MOLALLA POOL fiasco. The middle school, given Molalla’s SHRINKING SCHOOL CENSUS, would be underused. CONSOLIDATE into buildings we already have.

We can’t afford to build speculative infrastructure based on growth wishes and dreams.

Hey taxpayers: Do you know that, as Molalla residents, you are funding a “guy” – a bully! with no credentials – to pretend to be a  “planning director”? Do you realize YOU are paying him at least $70,000 a year  to make a total hash our of your future? And do you realize that as “the bully guy” with NO CREDENTIALS IN PLANNING “works” he wracks up huge legal bills – thus costing you even more for TERRIBLE PLANNING?

That’s something to think about while you watch your “investment” in Molalla real estate sink like a stone!

Can you AFFORD to continue to fund any of the above SPECULATIVE DISASTERS?

Oregonian Letters to the Editor August 8, 2010 on the “Fallacy of Growth in a Finite World”:

Letter 1:

It’s refreshing to read something that presents the honest double bind we find ourselves in today — as citizens, a planet and an economy (“The fallacy of growth in a finite world,” Aug. 1).

We read of the challenges facing the planet and the good-sense logic of powering down while, in the same breath, the need for growth to stimulate the economy. What few folks can really tell us is how to reconcile the two. In fact, few people really want to talk about it at all, which is more than tunnel vision.

Frankly, we, all of us, are caught up in an economic system that worked for a very long time, and accepting that it is broken can be anathema to the American dream we have been raised with. The resistance is not always about greed or indifference but rather a deep ingrained faith that markets, technology or some new financial device will lift us out of our troubles.

This is part of the American mind-set that goes all the way back to our legacy of Manifest Destiny — always upward and onward. But whether we make changes to our lifestyles consciously and determinedly while we can or we wait till the planet makes those changes for us, those changes will come. It is high time we accept that it is not “them” but “us” that the new world will turn on.

Northeast Portland

Letter 2:

Will someone please explain to me how a 6,000-square-foot house on an 11-acre lot can be called “green”? This disconnect from reality at the Street of Dreams is particularly jarring if you also read Jack Hart’s article in Opinion with the sub-headline “Satisfying appetites for more, more, more won’t preserve the planet and promote happiness.”

We must stop our overconsumption of the planet’s resources. Street of Dreams? Nightmares, more like it.

Southwest Portland

Letter 3:

After watching the tragic, unsustainable real estate “boom” from a front-row seat on a rural property near the failed timber town of Molalla, it is easy to say “The fallacy of growth in a finite world” was exactly on target.

The “boom” produced cheap houses in Molalla without proper system-development charges to fund needed infrastructure, such as parks, roads and sidewalks. The local “planner” has no education in planning. Jobs never arrived to balance Molalla’s suburban-sprawl residential growth.

Sadly, with the real estate “bust,” shrinking Molalla is now nothing but a textbook case of how not to do it: When quality-of-life needs are set aside in favor of the “quick and dirty” agenda of greedy land speculators, ill-planned towns are left as instant ghettos with little hope for recovery.

Shortsighted towns like Molalla won’t ever be able to “grow” their way out of the low-quality, expensive-to-remedy holes they have dug for unfortunate citizen “investors.”


Letter 4:

Five direct answers to Jack Hart’s concerns in the Aug. 1 Opinion section:
Stop rewarding big families with a pro-breeding income tax policy.

Reverse the premise, “We must prepare for them because they’re coming.” If we don’t build it, they won’t come.

Repeal laws demanding a 20-year supply of developable land, which now guarantees more growth and more problems.

Redefine “sustainable” business as providing a decent living while not requiring growth to succeed.

Our overall policies must reflect the reality that very, very few of us benefit when more people come here.

Jack Hart deserves our gratitude for airing these issues so well.

West Linn

Letter 5:

The excellent article by Jack Hart on the dire consequences of unrestrained economic growth danced around the unmentionable solution: population control. No leader could get elected promoting such an idea, and there will never be a consensus that there are limits to growth. Unfortunately, it looks like a disastrous default will be the solution.

Southwest Portland

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2 Responses to The Fallacy of Growth, Part two: Letters to the Editor

  1. Certainly agree that promoting resource intense growth is non-sustainable. But it is clear that we will need more government not less as resource competition heats up. The goal must be to have the government that we need with the skills and resources to do the job we want done.

    Had we had sustainable forest management 30 years ago there would most likely still be forest jobs in Molalla.

    Picking on public employees usually is a waste of time since it is rare that they are the root cause of our problems, although they are frequently its symptoms.

    • oregonfirst says:

      Sadly, Molalla didn’t collect or properly account for years of system development charges, leaving 2.5 million dollars missing and never accounted for. A forensic audit on that issue was ordered by Ellen Barnes, the only decent city manager the city has had in recent history. She could not stand the “good old boy” right wing political mess that is the city’s shadow government so she left. Recently, a small environmental group and I sued for the years of violations under the Clean Water Act. Molalla wasted almost $600,000 trying to fight that lawsuit when it should have quickly settled. Currently, due to mandates in our settlement and DEQ’s much tighter administration of the city’s wastewater plant, the city is struggling to meet wastewater discharge rules – and will likely face costly upgrades in a couple of years due to growth pushing it into a higher regulatory realm. The city has never met its need for new parks, infrastructure is a mess and it is clear that it is a perfect example of the fact that growth costs existing taxpayers – growth never pays for itself even when basic SDC charges are applied and collected. Molalla has been listed as a “distress city” with higher than average unemployment, lower than average incomes and a woeful 11% of adults residents with college degrees. It’s a “drive till you qualify” nightmare where people are stuck with the longest commute times in Clackamas County to viable jobs. The schools are way below average. The three choices for the newest city manager were bottom of the barrel applicants. Yet the city “leaders” refuse to see where Molalla fails and why it usually gets passed over for things like transportation grants. Molalla fails to understand that cost/benefit ratio is a big factor – the “leaders” whine about ODOT grants going to PDX and bigger cities. It’s still a mess. It is hard to imagine how it can climb out of its financial and social holes.

      As to “picking on public employees”, in Molalla they have often been the root of the problem, via mismanagement of public money, foisting off unrealistic “ideas” about growth and leading the city council to spend that small fortune trying to fight a lawsuit they clearly could not win. Molalla can’t keep a trained planning commission – recently it had four members, three resigned and now with a struggle they found three or four bodies to fill the seats. The city manager bullied the last group of untrained citizens. In one case, city manager actually told the former commissioners they could be sued if they didn’t approve a developer’s plan, a plan the city manager lobbied for. It’s funny that the most recent stuff em in development got shot down by ODOT because of 211/Main Street access issues. The developer was too cheap to comply with the extensive ODOT mandates and when ODOT offered a jurisdictional transfer of 211 in Molalla the city chickened out for the second time because it knew it could not afford to keep the section of road up to standards, even though it could have then made its own rules on access and cross traffic. A person would have to be desperate to invest in Molalla real estate. The poor residents are still bitching about a very necessary increase in water and sewer bills. It’s all still a house of cards, waiting again for the current bubble to burst.

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