Those Who Ignore History Are Condemned To Repeat It
There was a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal a little over a year ago about the economic situation in Venezuela. Decades of tremendous oil profits made Venezuela a very wealthy country and its people, happily enjoying the spoils of wealth doled out by the Venezuelan government, became complacent and oblivious to matters that would one day adversely affect their lives. As you may have guessed, when oil revenues plummeted, the government could no longer provide the standard of living to which the people had become accustomed. When the people finally pulled their collective head from the sand, one stunned citizen exclaimed, “How is it possible we’ve gotten to this extreme?”
That story’s relevance hits home for me when I see that we in the Triangle are treacherously treading down a similar path. Remember the go-go days in the mid-2000’s when the Triangle was enjoying exponential growth? We were building homes, shopping centers, improving roads, competing for new industry. We were the best of everything: best place to live, work, commute, raise a family, get an education, find a mate, go for a walk, and on and on. Scores of families moved into the Triangle every day. We were all so busy making things happen and just trying to keep up with demand that we didn’t have time to pay attention to the insidious rise of a silent minority, surreptitiously popping up here and there to oppose growth.
Like an infestation of fire ants, suddenly NIMBY-ism was in full swing. Low-turnout elections placed this minority in control of local boards and governments. These new officials began re-writing ordinances, often times in conflict with state statute, effectively placing moratoriums on growth and curtailing the rights of landowners. This was portrayed by that minority as a great success, achieving what they were elected to do…slow growth.
The great recession hit and we all found out what no-growth really feels like. Jobs were pared, homes were lost, businesses shuttered, families suffered, and the flow of new families slowed to a trickle. Once again, many of us were so busy trying to survive that we didn’t have time to pay attention to anything else. All the while, the no-growth minority, still in control, kept working on their agenda to prevent a recurrence of dreaded growth.
Fast-forward to 2015. We pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps. Families are once again interested in moving back to one of the best places to live in the country. We are responding to that demand by building homes, expanding businesses, creating jobs, generating income, and growing responsibly. We are, thankfully, so busy making things happen, heads down, just trying to keep up with demand. But, in doing so, we once again run the risk of letting this resurgent minority further encroach on our ability find success in this economy. Case in point: the town of Apex is considering a moratorium on development until such time that elected officials, most of whom have no experience with land use, figure out how to control the use of other people’s land. Proposals are on the table effectively devaluing generationally-owned land that many families see as their retirement, college funds for their grandchildren, and financial security for generations to come.
This is just one fire ant mound that has popped up. More are sure to come. Who will stand up and fight for land rights and responsible growth? Who will show up in support of good growth and its many benefits and rewards? It must be us; it must be you; it must be me.
It must be the Triangle Community Coalition.
I am proud to be the incoming chairman of this great coalition of like-minded professionals and concerned citizens. We have much work to do. It will require significant support from you, not only financially, but with your active participation. Your voice in support of our colleagues must be heard at public meetings. We are all busy once again. We can mind our own business and assume someone else is minding the store. But when we find ourselves no longer able to contend with onerous policies put in place by a minority rule, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves when we wake up and exclaim, “How is it possible we’ve gotten to this extreme?”
Support the TCC! I look forward to hearing from you in the coming year.