New Year, average place!
Great commentary, Karl. I could not have said it better. Many accessible visionaries living in “Pagosa Country” have stepped back from the fray that plagues our community.
Thoughtful broad-brush planning processes seem to have escaped our leaders’ agendas. Focused volunteer advisory committees are mostly ignored and frequently disbanded. We hear a lot these days about the “Big Box,” but nothing about the Big Picture. First impressions of anyone entering Pagosa, by land or air, are pathetic — not exceptional. Intelligent building contractors are understandably running the other way. Oh, and who can we entrust with our precious tax dollars? Our leaders are mostly focused on buying land with no plan in sight.
“Keep Pagosa, Pagosa?” It’s time for an “Arab Spring” in Pagosa Springs.
I appreciate Jim McQuiggin’s insightful articles on the big box — likely Wal-Mart — that is moving into town. As I write this on Dec 30, I don’t know whether or not Town Council will agree to provide the 50-percent fee abatement for new development over 25,000 square feet. It is to be announced in a Town Council meeting on Jan. 3.
Last year, town voters approved scrapping Land Use and Development Codes that placed additional requirements on proposed developments exceeding 40,000 square feet — including economic impact studies. Voters did not decide, however, if scrapping the code also included providing cash incentives to big box developers.
The exact impact the big box will have on Archuleta County will not fully be known for years, but one thing is certain; a big box such as Wal-Mart has a “commodity” business strategy — their success depends upon low costs. Their business model requires cheap land, tax abatements and other subsidies, cheap construction costs and cheap labor. They will have their hands out not just to come here, but to stay here. Companies that can be lured here in such a manner are not invested in the local community and their decisions are made from far away corporate headquarters, but not necessarily with our community health in mind.
Fifteen percent of local Archuleta County jobs and 17 percent of wages are in the Retail Sector (second only to Services), much of which overlaps with the kinds of items the big box sells. Very likely, many of these businesses will go under or be adversely impacted.
Even in ideal circumstances, the recovery time for the local business community — that is for those that are able to adapt quickly enough to survive — is two to five years. What will tourists think of our town during that period when even more businesses will be boarded up on “Main Street?” What is the Town Council’s plan for recovery of the downtown? It does not exist.
Ironically, existing local businesses cannot get the fee abatement or other incentives that will likely be provided to the big box. Why should local businesses have to compete on such an uneven playing field? If the big box gets financial incentives to invest here, why not give local small businesses incentives for expansion? Why not give an incentive for each additional $250K-plus in revenue and/or the creation of a new job?
It is doubtful that the community can influence this situation so late in the process; however we can demand that some impact mitigation plans be required, such as a low-interest loan program for local retailers to help them capitalize the changes needed to survive. Local retail business owners/employees and concerned citizens can make our voices heard with phone calls, letters and with our votes.
How is it that I went away at Christmas and came back a week later, only to learn that Wal-Mart is coming to Pagosa? Earlier we were assured the Wal-Mart issue was dead. A citizen task force studied the big box issue and resolved Wal-Mart was not appropriate for the healthy growth of Pagosa. What sort of negotiations have gone on in secret without citizen oversight that caused this to happen so quickly?
After reading about the debate concerning the possibility of a big box store coming to Pagosa, I felt compelled to share my feelings on the matter.
I have been thinking about relocating to Pagosa Springs, investing in real estate there, and starting a small business. From an outsider’s perspective, a big box store would be a huge deterrent. A corporation like Wal-Mart would start to erode the unique character of Pagosa, wipe out diversity in businesses, and in the long run create more hardship then good. For a tourism based economy, think about it; who goes on vacation to shop at a Wal-Mart? You need the unique mom and pop stores for so much more than just jobs. When someone moves to town to start a new small business, not only do they create long term jobs where employees are respected and treated like family, they buy real estate, put down roots, become part of the community, pay taxes for generations and spread the word for friends and family to come and enjoy all the beauty the town has to offer.
I would love to see if any of Wal-Mart’s corporate executives, or the Waltons for that matter, come to Pagosa Springs and personally invest in the community.
Pagosa Springs, with or without common sense? Pagosa SUN Dec. 22, 2011, articles referring to issues of past discussions, meetings, solutions, and yet no final actions taken.
Subjects such as:
1. Big box — Pagosa residents, i.e. mostly year round, really have shown no to big box. Keep Pagosa not like so many towns, i.e. Wal-Mart being the entrance symbol. Keep downtown alive, bring it back, stop the sprawl to west. Common sense needed.
2. Chamber has the best of what Pagosa is about, location, near the river, hot springs. Extension to the far west of town — not needed, what a mistake. Common sense needed.
3. Reservoir Hill, a quiet natural area. To develop it is a plan. Common sense needed.
4. Clould seeding — Mother Nature for many years has been in control. Mankind has been tampering with nature and wants to increase its power. Common sense needed.
5. Airport priority — taking road funds for a new snowblower. Do we all have airplanes? Common sense needed.
6. Geothermal — without town’s natural hot water. To be connected at a later date, but deadline for dome to be finished without geothermal. Common sense needed.
There can be no doubt. The “community organizer” will have ‘em back in full force thru the presidential election in 2012. The Occupy Wall Street army of hippies, thieves, rapists, muggers and assorted miscreants is directly traceable to the White House, and to Obama personally. Not only has the regime orchestrated this specific outbreak, but also I’d bet that the groundwork for it was laid by Obama himself. He’s the one who ginned up the mindset of class envy — for three years instigating hatred for the achievers, the successful. The shootings, the drugs, the squalor, the filth, everything associated with OWS you can track right back to the regime. Obama was the inspiration for the Occupy movement — with the exact outcome he wanted.
As far as a re-election strategy, it’s all he’s got. Obama employed his dog whistle: rhetoric about millionaires and billionaires not paying their fair share and “income inequality,” his relentless assault on prosperity in this country. And then, bingo! The appearance of a spontaneous eruption of angry white college students fed up with all the supposed injustices America is supposedly famous for. That’s his base. Occupy Wall Street, Oakland, Boston, Denver, etc., are his foot soldiers.
Personally, I was sorry to see all the Democrat mayors cleansing the Occupy squatters from Democrat cities across the land. Every photo from their nightmarish tent cities — Obamavilles — was a campaign ad for conservatism. That’s why they had to be cleared out.
Yes, the media gave it their best shot, attempting moral equivalence with Tea Partiers, but the murders, gunfire, sexual assaults, sexually transmitted diseases, lice, scabies, the abject filth in these third-world-type shantytowns got in the way. The truth is, these people at Occupy are perfect representatives of the Democrat Party philosophy. That guy defecating on the cop car is the emblem of Occupy Wall Street.
This is community organizing. The media wants you to believe that there was some sort of groundswell of affection for these people. There never was. It wasn’t the backbone of America who was gathered in these tent cities. Every Occupy encampment was an endless parade of human debris.
Democrats and the regime held out hope that this movement would be publicly adopted and embraced, aimed at hating Bush and Wall Street. But here’s the fatal flaw: the country isn’t liberal. Liberalism is a small, minority view. In order to have power, liberalism must govern against the will of the people, which is what this regime and the Democrat Party in Congress have done. And folks, it ain’t flyin.
For decades, Democrat policies have nurtured a growing “dependency nation” as their means to power. Unfortunately, it has worked all too well. We now have a nation of crippled, parasitic dependents who depend on the government teat, and who are totally convinced it’s their only means of survival.
In the America I grew up in, it was assumed that dependency on government was immoral. Even the “KP zillionaire” in Arboles, Bob Dungan, would possibly agree; but it’s probably too far right.
Ideally, in addition to thoughtfully spending our tax dollars for basic services, government leaders can combine and amplify volunteer groups, projects, and sometimes little bits of money, and help direct them toward common needs or opportunities. Seeds of Learning, the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) and the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation (CDC) are good examples. This requires elected officials to practice a special personal vigilance to always require accountability with tax money, and to seek out the maximum number of voices to continually learn what our common goals need to be.
But even originally well-intentioned government heads, or any leader for that matter, can naturally drift out of touch with, and become less accountable to their community over time. As incumbent races get easier and their power increases and consolidates, their circle of voices shrinks. The longer the term, the more pronounced this “drift” can become. It happens so slowly that it goes almost unnoticed. That is why reasonable term limits are so critical at all levels of government. Archuleta County, for example, has a two-term limit totaling eight years.
Over long terms of office, public participation, new ideas, or especially disagreement can begin to feel inconvenient, or even threatening to those in power, and their shrinking circle of voices. Good people and ideas are sidelined, and bad ideas seem to have an unnatural momentum when leaders filter, avoid, or squash input or criticism of government or community projects in an attempt to retain power. This is the death of leadership. This is the end of accountability. This is the beginning of tyranny, and the beginning of the end for prosperity. Prosperity is the exclusive product of freedom and diversity of ideas.
Be vigilant. Look for, and be as courageous as you can, in challenging the signs and promoters of these small tyrannies here in our community. Think of the good projects that have come and gone. Look at the boarded windows. Look for the “gatekeepers.” Is public input being ducked or limited? Are deals happening behind closed doors? Do we whisper our opinions? Are boards being man-handled or “stacked?” Do those being taxed have a voice? These things directly undermine our opportunity for prosperity, and our votes.
Cowboy up. Thomas Jefferson said roughly, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Here in Archuleta County, it is also our path to real prosperity. When Jefferson used the word “price,” he was saying that you get what you pay for, with your actions. Only if we expect, and demand, open accountability from our leaders can we expect to thrive.
Never give up. Gandhi affirmed Jefferson’s vigilance, saying, “When I despair, I remember that all through history … [T]here have been tyrants … and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it, always.”