For decades people have sensed (and feared) that developers and land speculators have sold small towns bills of goods that inflate the cities expectations of returns on infrastructure investment. Groups like Strong Towns have finally quantified this sense by doing the numbers on the economic growth models we have employed since WWII. What they find is alarming. For example, I have suggested in the past that before towns (both Northfield and Dundas) commit to new housing development they should have a good inventory of
- how many houses have been on the market for more than 3 and 6 months
- how many houses have be de-listed without selling in the last 6 and 12 months
- how many houses are in foreclosure
- how many houses are underwater by more than 10% of the amount owed on the house
Some of these questions are harder to get answers to than others, but to make bets with the taxpayers money requires that we do our best to answer them. Enlisting the help of the experts (staff, realtors, bankers) would require a large grain of salt, since they are sometimes damaged by even the simple public knowledge of these data. And we elected officials too often abrogate our responsibility in favor of reports from those self-same developers, who love to ply us with eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures of the scene of the future crime.
So, the question I pose is this:
What changes in local governmental behavior (bonding, taxation, saving for future expenses, if any) do you think we should embrace in light of national and international issues like the end of the era of economic growth economies, global warming (for its local impact on agriculture) , and the debt crisis?
During his 1949 inaugural speech President Harry Truman identified the development of undeveloped areas as a priority for the west:
"More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate, they are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas. For the first time in history humanity possesses the knowledge and the skill to relieve the suffering of these people … I believe that we should make available to peace-loving peoples the benefits of our store of technical knowledge in order to help them realize their aspirations for a better life… What we envisage is a program of development based on the concepts of democratic fair dealing … Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace. And the key to greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modem scientific and technical knowledge." http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres53.html
We are like a poor person who scraped enough together to buy an expensive sailboat, only to find that they could not afford to maintain and keep it.
"The American Society of Civil Engineers released a report in 2009 giving the nation’s infrastructure a ‘D’ grade and identifying $2.2 trillion in repairs and upgrades that are needed over the next five years. For context, this is over $29,000 in the next five years for a family of four just to catch up. In the meantime, our infrastructure continues to deteriorate." http://www.strongtowns.org/facts/
The economic growth model (a variant of a Ponzi scheme) is over
"The “party” [growth without worrying about limits to growth] was humanity’s one-time-only opportunity to fuel economic growth and technological innovation with a bounty of cheap, abundant energy from fossil fuels. The harvesting of oil, coal, and natural gas has inevitably proceeded on a best-first or low-hanging fruit basis. While the Earth still possesses a wealth of unexploited energy resources, the cheapest and easiest-accessed of those resources have by now already been used. All of these fuels are in the process of becoming more expensive, and the various energy alternatives are limited in one way or another in their ability to replace hydrocarbons. That means we are currently seeing the end of economic growth as we have known it. The impacts for transportation, globalization, and world food supplies will be serious indeed." http://www.ecobuddhism.org/science/coal_oil_nuclear/party_over/
Economic growth models are essentially Ponzi schemes
"And here’s the ugly economic reality. All growth schemes that assume indefinite future growth are Ponzi schemes. Because nothing can grow forever in a finite world, and when growth stops, people who were hoping to make future gains are stuck." http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/Ponzi.HTM