Talk of the Town: City must curb growth to make it to 2050
Mayor Jack Wilson has formed a task force to plan what kind of Prescott we should have by 2050.
He wants public comments at meetings. I commend him for all of this, but since I work full time, I will give my thoughts here.
I will be 86 if I live to 2050, but I hope when I gaze on Prescott from here or the Great Beyond that I see the following.
I want to see some sanity restored to our growth policies. For 25 years, the city council has pursued a "massive-growth-at-any-cost" plan, believing that big box stores and multi-million dollar gated communities were key to financial success. Now, the economy is in a slump, many of those million-dollar homes have "for sale" signs on them, and office buildings that developers built before they even had tenants are unoccupied. The Gateway Mall has not been the economic boon to Prescott that its defenders claimed it would be.
The next time the city council decides to give seven- and eight-digit payouts to get corporations to build here, I want to see them give it to "light industry" organizations that will provide real jobs. If the city had pursued this from the beginning, we may not be in the economic shambles we are now. Contrary to what the growth cheerleaders claim, minimum-wage shelf-stocking jobs do nothing for our economy and don't reduce the unemployment rate.
Back when the runaway growth started, many of us pleaded for this course, but they called us "anti-growth obstructionists." All because we realized then that cities with the most successful growth rates had good jobs backing them up.
By 2050, I want to see Prescott start to value its historical heritage. This area is rich in history, but we don't value it.
In an era when towns and cities are cleaning up financially by playing up their history, we stubbornly denounce historic preservationists as "special interest groups."
Tourists love history, and they flock to historic places every summer. But what do our tourism brochures play up? Our lovely gated communities, our outstanding golf courses and athletic clubs, our exciting night life, and all the amenities you have at home. Sheesh! And then the council wonders why tourism has been declining in recent years.
Will we have any water left by 2050? It has been embarrassing watching the quad-city governments trying to find any solution to the water problem except the obvious one - slow down the building!
Nearly everyone agrees that water is running out. Wouldn't you think that a temporary (and yes, councilmen, I mean temporary) moratorium on new construction would buy us a little more time to come up with an adequate water solution?
Stopping building for a short time wouldn't kill us off or even hurt us that much, but no one has broached this idea. They stand to make too much money. But has that saved us from the economic slump we are in?
I fear it's too late. Prescott's downward economy is not temporary but is the first sign of our past ill-advised growth policy coming home to roost. No city survives without good jobs, and we don't have them. Most of the councilmen are wealthy businessmen and instinctively support proposals that would bring in the most money immediately instead of looking down the road.
To Mayor Wilson and the council, I say "look around you." Prescott needs a new direction if we are going to survive and not end up in the permanent depression many cities are in.
By 2050, I want to see Prescott genuinely prosperous instead of the phony prosperity our "runaway growth" has brought. We have less than 50 years to meet the Mayor's target date. Let us show some leadership for once, and begin.
Parker Anderson is a longtime resident of Prescott and observer of the local political scene.