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The Tentacle


Slow Growth Consequences

November 16, 2006

What an interesting election we saw on November 7. The people spoke and they said loud and clear they want growth slowed in Frederick County!

I have seen a bit of growth issues in my life. I grew up in a Midwestern college town in which the actual hometown population was tiny in comparison with the transient college population - yet that college population could vote on local issues.

I also lived in North Carolina for many, many years and saw the incredible rise in home building, the crushing effect of the market having gone sour, and the slow rebound of that market. Both places tried their hand at "slow growth" approaches, and both places felt the ill-effects of that approach.

Let me elaborate on some of the issues I see facing Frederick County with this change in our Board of County Commissioners.

First, slow-growth applies to everyone; not just those evil developers trying to get a buck for every square inch of land. It means that the existing residents cannot have children and their businesses cannot grow.

What?

Yup., that is what I said: everyone.

Let's think through this. Frederick County pretty much has only two main sources of revenue: property and income taxes. A change in elected officials does not change either the existing problems we have or the means to address these problems. Sooo.

Our schools are already overcrowded. We will either need to build new or expand the existing schools if we continue to produce more children. The only mechanism to pay for this expansion is through our existing tax base. Hence, each and every one of our taxes will increase for everyone - rich or poor.

Our roads are already overcrowded.

We will either need to build new or expand the existing roads. We have numerous carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc., and these folks will have to commute for work as we will have "slowed growth" and they will not have any new homes to generate income.

That means the roads will need to handle larger volumes of our own residents as they travel to other counties for work. Hence, each and every one of our taxes will increase for everyone - rich or poor.

Our commercial business sector will not grow.

"Slow growth" governmental practices generally do not bode well for increasing new business, especially with an infrastructure which needs help, (like roads). From reading many news articles and editorials, increased commercial business was also desired. This can only be accomplished if the necessary infrastructure, (roads, water, electric, etc.) is in place or available. To accommodate this, each and every one of our taxes will increase for everyone - rich or poor.

Our hospital and emergency services are already stretched. We will either need to build new or expand the existing medical services. If we have more children, that will mean more need for emergency care. If we do not increase our commercial business sector, we will not have the jobs and salaries to support our current population and we will have more people without health insurance. Hence, each and every one of our taxes will increase for everyone - rich or poor.

These are but a few examples of possible outcomes to our vote for "slow growth" on November 7.Having lived through these votes, these outcomes are not far from reality and describe only a few of the possible problems which arise from a "slow growth" solution injected by government.

This was an extremely contentious voting season with many sound-byte perceptions rather than real issues argued. "Slow growth" may seem like a reasonable alternative when pressed with this hyperbole; but a thoughtful approach to possible outcomes will quickly present more problems than solutions.

I hope those of us who voted will continue to stay involved and press our representatives to recognize these possible outcomes and vote accordingly.

Farrell Keough, Urbana


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