Originally Published: May 29, 2005 5 a.m.
Sharing my thoughts occasionally is like fishing. Bait attracts fish Š some big, some small. It elicits questions and ideas that teach me things.
Prescott voters are facing another city election, and rhetoric is flying in all directions.
I agree that Prescott doesn't have an endless pool of water in the Big Chino Aquifer or any other water source. This isn't to imply we may not have lots of physical water. Opinions differ about how big the aquifer is, whether it has a clay plug, and whether pumping will affect the Verde River. The physical existence of water and legal access to it are two different things, though.
Prescott has legislative authority to import a specific amount of water from the Big Chino Aquifer. Managing how we get it and how we use it is a focal point in today's political arena. Conservation is a primary consideration. One aspect of our current consumption habit I have trouble understanding is, why do we use about one-third to half of the potable water we pump out of the ground to artificially green a high desert environment?
Fear mongering about growth or annexation does not serve the local economy or Prescott's quality of life. Among the mix, Prescott faces an unfinanced federal mandate to mitigate arsenic in the water supply by certain dates. Some of our production wells may not comply, and we will have to blend water to dilute it or filter it.
Regardless, it will be expensive. Current consumption and federal standards magnify both the purpose and probability of importing water. Twenty-three million dollars is a lot of money.
Some degree of growth and annexation will happen eventually. Prescott maintains the ability to grow some without annexation. However, annexation offers an opportunity that Prescott's existing zoning and public attitude does not accommodate. Exploring annexation for residential, commercial, industrial and recreational growth is a good idea.
People are debating what's in the best interest of private, county and state property owners and to what extent growth and annexation will affect Prescott.
Let's hope that the marketplace, free enterprise, private property rights and community interest all will play a part in the outcome.
Special interests with no economic stake in the community or heavy-handed bureaucratic influence do not serve the community well.
Municipal leaders are worried about water, public attitudes, environmental limitations and problems with existing infrastructure.
Many roads and water and sewer lines have been in service for years and need maintenance or replacement. Police, fire, trash and other basic services have to evolve with the community to be effective.
The city's central garage operation and regional dispatch center, etc., will advance municipal service capability.
Housing within economic reach of the workforce, fixed-income retirees and low-income residents is another goal. If market-driven income is the area standard, I question whether it's legitimate to consider it low.
We are analyzing land cost, prevailing wage, median income and zealous governmental regulation. Service-related jobs do not generate income levels equal to a real estate market skewed by governmental regulation. Excessive regulation excludes lower-income people, denies equal opportunity and possibly results in economic discrimination.
Prescott has a huge market for ownership and rental living conditions that meet local prevailing wage and median income levels. Costly zoning and regulation that goes beyond health and safety codes aggravates the lack of availability.
Increasing taxes to elevate income for public service employees to afford local housing appears objectionable. Reducing service to equal income potential also is "taboo." Prices matching costs of providing quality services or products generates a public outcry for governmental intervention. Prime examples include UniSource, gasoline prices, and telecommunications.
The same people complaining about high taxes and costs of service would deny service providers' equal opportunity to exist locally.
The voters' challenge is to choose leaders with a rational approach to resolving problems in the best interest of a community.
Prescott is in a high desert environment with limited space, finite natural resources and the inability to be all things to all people.
Prescott has a diverse population weighted on the financially successful side. Resistance to change that advances basic service and public safety isn't justifiable.
Let's hope this election campaign will offer rational suggestions without fear mongering, personal attacks or doom and gloom projections.
Jim Lamerson is a downtown business owner and a member of the Prescott City Council.