Community should move government


Epiphanies come in the strangest places, like the other day in the downtown grocery store when I heard someone engaged in a rigorous debate in the next aisle. When I came around the corner I saw the fellow and recognized him as a downtown camping enthusiast who has been sleeping under a tree near the grocery store off and on for the last year.

There did not appear to be another person or cell phone involved in the conversation but I could tell an important issue was being hammered out.

It occurred to me, as I’m sure it has to you — this is how decisions like wanting a new events center are made; in a less transparent way, perhaps, but similar in process. The folks making decisions are also unlikely to be pushing their belongings around in a purloined shopping cart. I assume city officials probably have someone else push the cart.

The similar part of the process is making decisions by talking to yourself or people with similar opinions and assuming everyone thinks the same way. This problem isn’t confined to our area, we just had an election for president, where a few thousand people who work in front of keyboards or behind microphones, spent most of their time asking for each other’s opinion, since they share the same ones it was gratifying and easier to accept.

As a result, they had absolutely no idea what a huge portion of the rest of the country was thinking. So, they’ve decided that all those people were some kind of crypto national socialists who had kept it reasonably well hidden from their nosey polls until it sprang full flowered in the confines of the voting booth.

Similar thing here, on a smaller scale without the crypto national socialist reference. The folks who feel that the key to municipal success is spending money on whopping big things speak mainly to one another.

This leads to a conclusion that people who aren’t crazy about these ideas are isolated cranks, some with newspaper columns.

This is not as deliberate as I make it sound because it’s human nature to talk to people who have similar outlooks. Birds of a feather and all that. So, if there is a bunch of different birds sitting on the next telephone wire, they need to make some noise to let the first group know they exist

Here the assumption is that folks who oppose or question projects like this don’t have the foresight to grasp the idea. As a matter of fact, Operation Foresight, the 1962 project that turned Main Street from a straight line to a squiggly one, seems be getting quoted as an example of forward-thinking by community gurus.

Not really as good a comparison as people seem to think, as that project was specifically motivated by competition within the city itself. As Daily Sentinel publisher Preston Walker put it, “At this moment there is a disease called ‘decentralization’ spreading though the United States. The Main streets of American towns and cities are watching their business as it drains into super shopping centers on fringe areas.”

The super shopping center downtown businesses were alarmed with was Teller Arms at 28th and North, so a group of downtown enthusiasts, including Walker (the newspaper was located on Main Street at that time) put together the concept, worked through government and paid for it as the project went through phases with existing tax revenue.

An intriguing idea since it now seems government can’t buy a box of paperclips without asking for a TABOR override.

This was the sort of idea most people could get behind because it was citizens using government to create an environment for business — not government getting into a business.

The same thing today is necessary — more grassroots thinking about creating a business friendly and accessible environment, not borrowing money to fund government buildings and hope someone shows up to help pay it back.

People pushing these projects want to help the communit — -they just learned the Foresight lesson backward.

Create the infrastructure to attract the business; don’t start a business to pay for the infrastructure.

Operation Foresight showed that community should move government and if you want something done, listen outside the council chambers and encourage the citizens to put forth a plan — not outside consultants and staff who are paid to agree with you.

Rick Wagner is a Grand Junction attorney who maintains a political blog, The War on Wrong. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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