EDITORIAL: Some Thoughts on Community Development, Part Two

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Read the first part

The American West is currently grappling with a number of serious problems… some of which are common to the whole of the United States. A viral pandemic and its direct economic consequences seem to be currently at the top of the list.

But some of the problems are regional. Here in the West, we could easily put decade-long drought and water scarcity at the top of the list, if we wanted to. Here is the introduction to an article from October 24 in Governing magazine, titled, “Drought-stricken western towns say no to developers”:

In the small town of Oakley, Utah, drought conditions that are drying out much of the West have depleted the natural springs that supply the community with water. In each of the past summers, local leaders feared that the extinguishing of a major fire could drain the city’s water tanks.

The city issued water use restrictions last April and residents cut back, but officials have heard a consistent message from their constituents, Mayor Wade Woolstenhulme said.

“If you are so short on water, why do you keep giving building permits? “

In May, Oakley City Council voted to suspend new development and ban all new landscaping that requires irrigation, including private lawns. The 180-day ban was a drastic step that city leaders were reluctant to take. Woolstenhulme said they had no choice.

“We cannot allow [development] that we can provide water, ”he said. “We need to protect the people who live here before we let more people in. “

Pagosa Springs does not currently suffer from drought, like other cities in the American West. But we have our own issues, and some of them have to do with letting more people in …

… while other problems may seem related to a lack of the population, or a lack of “economic development”.

In 2010, the Archuleta Economic Development Association was collapsing. He had struggled for many years to attract new businesses that paid decent wages, with little success. The lack of success was understandable, as Pagosa Springs had become a tourist town, and tourist towns are known to have low-paying jobs and high housing costs.

But a general belief remained, among business and government leaders in 2010, that we were just doing wrong in economic development, and what we needed was a new organization and a new executive director. The new organization would be an “independent” nonprofit called the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation (PSCDC), initially funded by local taxes, but eventually becoming a jointly funded organization supported and managed primarily by the Pagosa business community, who would join the organization in large numbers as dues-paying members.

The long-term goal was to wean the organization from the government’s pacifier.

Eleven years later, the PSCDC seems to have around 20 paying members. The majority of the members of the board are government representatives.

The general idea behind “economic development” – which, as we saw yesterday in Part One, is not the same as “community development” – is to attract new businesses to the community, or expand existing businesses, using taxpayer funding. Because “jobs” are a good thing.

Jobs are a good thing if they pay a living wage. Jobs that leave people unable to pay rent or buy nutritious food are not that good.

Lately, most of the PSCDC’s revenue has been used to fund the Broadband Services Office, run by local business owners Eric Hittle (Echo IT) and Jason Cox (Riff Raff Brewing). As far as I know, most of the funding for the Broadband Bureau has been donated by taxpayers.

In the 1990s – before the existence of “broadband” – Internet users generally connected via ordinary telephone wires, using DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology. At that time, we usually didn’t watch videos over the internet because a copper phone line could only deliver very poor quality videos.

As of 2021, a variety of broadband choices are available to Pagosa Springs surfers. You can still access the Internet through telephone wires, but other choices include wireless (via microwave), cable TV, fiber optic cable, and satellite. Many people use their cell phones as their primary connection to the Internet.

Here is a table of DataReportal.com showing the main forms of entertainment that we access online. TV. Social media. New. Music streaming. Streaming radio. Online games.

The average Internet user spends about 48 hours a week, or two 24-hour days a week, on the Internet.

Thanks to the broadband, we watch a lot of videos. Cisco Systems estimated in 2019 that this year 82% of all web traffic would be video content … and if you consider that about 15% of that video traffic is porn, we might come to the conclusion that the main function of broadband is to provide entertainment.

And not always healthy entertainment.

We, the taxpayers, are now called upon to continually subsidize an industry that primarily provides videos, social media, and pornography. Except nobody asked us.

In order to “compete” in a changing world with a huge appetite for entertainment, communities across the country have dedicated taxpayer funding to the development of broadband, much to the delight of ISPs (Internet Service Providers). private.

Meanwhile, multi-billion dollar companies like StarLink, OneWeb and Amazon are sending thousands of communications satellites into low Earth orbit, to send and receive high-speed internet to and from any inhabited place on the planet. .

Artistic rendering of a second generation Starlink satellite.

Soon we will be able to enjoy even more Facebook posts, videos and pornography… in even more places where workers cannot afford to live.

Expanding local broadband has been a primary focus of the Archuleta County Council of Commissioners and Pagosa Springs City Council for at least four years. Meanwhile, we have heard rumors that “tech workers” with well-paying jobs, and who can work “remotely”, have moved to Archuleta County. Although rumors did not provide the number of such workers – a dozen? two dozen? – it can be a mixed blessing to have well-paid tech workers moving to town and helping to push up the price of real estate, in a community where so many workers struggle for low-paying jobs.

What was that, said Mayor Woolstenhulme? “We have to protect the people who live here, before we let more people in…”

Read the third part …

Bill hudson

Bill hudson

Bill Hudson began to share his opinions in the Pagosa’s daily message in 2004 and can’t seem to break the habit. He claims that in Pagosa Springs opinions are like vans: everyone has one.


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