Can your quality of life be measured on a spreadsheet?

Should a city council be picking favorites based on projected revenue?

I live in a west Denver suburb, and every time an election comes up, we’re asked to vote on doing something or other to lure more business into our peaceful burg. Usually the question sounds like: “Should we give Massive National Corporation public dollars to move here?”

I once asked a council member why we needed more retail, and she told me it was to improve our quality of life. More retail will bring more jobs, she said, so our residents will have a place to work. Our tax base will increase, she said, and we can provide more roads and services—and have a better quality of life.

I was happy at first; because if there’s one thing I want, it’s a better quality of life.  But then I got sad, very sad.

I started thinking about the unfortunate masses over in Cherry Hills Village. Other than the golf course and a couple of private schools, they have neither retail to work at nor facilities to recreate in. These poor hicks don’t even have a Chuck-E-Cheese they can take their (probably) malnourished children to on Sundays after a dreary work week in the potato fields or whatever. How can anyone even survive without a retail tax base?

Good thing they live smack dab in the middle of a metropolis. I mean, if they were in Dodge City, Kan., for sure they would want to attract some more retail and manufacturing. But as it stands, they may just be daring and not work in the town they have the burden to live in.  But here I go sounding like a lunatic. Most people work a few paces from where they live, and we need retail on every block so we can all earn a living. Or so someone thinks.

When we farmers (Wheat Ridge people) open that new discount box store to revitalize an intersection, will the employees come from the adjoining neighborhood of $500,000 homes? No, they’ll probably come from other parts of the metro which means more cars—and more taxes needed to control that extra traffic. As Cherry Hills Village demonstrates, if you don’t have big retail, you don’t really need the extra revenue that big retail generates.

Well, at least a large anchor store and other national chains won’t interfere with small locally owned businesses. Wait, what? (Pressing finger to ear and looking up) I’m sorry, I’m just being told that the small locally owned businesses WILL be impacted, and that I should just relax because they don’t collect much sales tax anyway.

Here’s what I don’t understand: Why are cities judged by the same metric as a for-profit corporation? Can quality of life be measured on a spreadsheet?  I’m all for business, I own one, but should a city council be picking favorites based on projected revenue? So what if a Schwinn store would sell more bikes than Vicki’s Velocipede Emporium does? She lives here, and Mr. Schwinn doesn’t. Vicki stays in business doing what she does, so I’d say stop putting her out just because we see a corporate check dangling on a string.

One thing I do envy about CHV is their lack of frenzy. I admire their big picture philosophy that says: You know what, there are other business districts nearby—do we really need another one? Do we need one here? Maybe quality of life will be better if we just have a few birds and trees and chipmunks instead.

Looking at revenue growth though, their politicians seem really lazy…

Categories: Economy/Politics, Web Exclusives