A Tale of Two Mayors: Does Growth Even "Pay" for Itself?
It was the best of times (unemployment rate 3%-State of TN data 2019) and the worst of times (84% see traffic and transportation as a threat to the continued success of their business-Williamson Inc, Survey).
It was the age of wisdom (Franklin gets LEED Certification ), it was the age of foolishness (Sprawl Index). If the main drive of climate change is economic growth, what do our Mayors think of it I wondered.
Two nervous phone calls later I wandered into the office of Mayor Rogers Anderson, twenty-year Mayor of Williamson County and asked him face-to-face does growth even “pay” for itself?
The Mayor, who grew up on a farm in East Tennessee raising tobacco, promptly twirled in his chair and handed me a slim report with two paragraphs highlighted in yellow. “Read them” he said. I read the first paragraph which recited the costs generated by a new suburban development as well as the taxes and revenue they generate. “Now, read the conclusion,” he said. “Growth pays for itself.” I then asked who paid for this study by MTSU consultants? His answer, the Real Estate Board. But what about hidden costs such as the time I spend in traffic that sometimes forces me or my clients attending my psychotherapy practice to cancel sessions I asked.. No definitive answer or study there, yet. When it comes to growth, what’s good for some, is not good for others.
I hurried next to visit the Mayor of Franklin, Ken Moore, a retired orthopedist. Running a little late, I called ahead to the number Siri gave me and the Mayor himself answered the phone. Minutes later, in his office, he reviewed all of the progress Franklin had made in “sustainability.” There is even a Sustainability Commission largely focused on recycling, building codes and, lately, regulating electric scooters. No mention of climate change. I asked Mayor Moore “do you believe economic growth pays for itself?” He first noted the forty thousand dollars in impact fees required of each developer to build a home here, but then added “No, I don’t believe it pays for itself…” As I started to write, he interrupted me. “in the short run, that is, in the long run, it will”.
So, what about growth? Can we have prosperity without it? A lot to ponder but my surprising takeaway to these visits was something I didn’t expect. If a novice blogger can meet with two mayors inside of a week simply by requesting a meeting, how much more could we do as a group with a concerted effort to influence both local laws and policies? For example, Mayor Anderson of the County was open to discussing an ordinance change to prevent Home Owner Associations from blocking residents who wished to put solar panels on their homes. Currently, each association has to vote on it. In California ,a law makes sure each resident is free to put solar panels on the south side of the house even if it faces the street. Not here. Mayor Moore of Franklin, on the other hand, wants to defer any such ordinance change to the State Legislature.
So, what should we Democrats push for when it comes to our local environment?
A permanent and attractive location for the Ride and Share Program, reforestation, recycling improvements, etc. What are your ideas? Below is the story of how our “peer city” Lone Tree, Colorado handled a similar growth situation and don’t be afraid to bring your tales to the two mayors!
John Fite, WCDP