- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 19, 2001

At the annual National Governors Association meeting, goals were set to counter urban sprawl. Too many of us have voted with our feet and left the city for God's green acres. These same legislators are the ones who let the cities fall into the decay we have today. Anyone who could afford to remove their family from the inner city has already left. They traded high crime, high taxes and failing schools for clean air, good schools and ownership of the land they live on.
While small urban communities compete against each other to attract business, the governors wish to give tax breaks to businesses that will locate in the inner city. This is to prevent unsightly developments out in the countryside. Government knows best when it comes to where you should live and how many shopping malls should be built to serve you. Using words like "unsightly" to describe sprawl makes me wonder what adjective they would use to describe a 15-story building with all the windows knocked out.
In California, sprawl is so serious the state could lose almost half of its 286 endangered species. Better to keep us in the slums than to endanger the continued existence of some rare fruit fly. If the governors are successful in attracting people back to the inner city, will we then be faced with urban slums and ghettos? The poor have to live someplace, and it's unlikely they would want to move out of the city, where social services are in place to take care of their needs.
At the same time the governors were lamenting about the exodus of the people to the country, a report was released in Washington pointing out that under the Rural Development Act, federal agencies are not moving to rural areas fast enough. The general accounting office found most federal agencies were ignoring the law. Do you suppose the governors are lobbying federal agencies? Believe it or not, some agencies want the word "rural" defined.
It seems the federal government recognizes that you can run your business more cheaply in a rural area, so the Rural Development Act was put in place to help the government and to boost rural economies. As usual, the government is far behind in recognizing the benefits of existing in a rural environment. Any move they make now will just contribute more to the sprawl problem, if it is a problem. People in this country are entitled to live where they want to live. Every town, village and city wants growth.
The problem with small towns growing is that as they expand, they need more people involved in running them. This means we are creating more and more politicians to manage the sprawl at a local level. We do not need an increase in politicians. Perhaps we could have a traveling mayor who could handle a dozen small sprawl areas. Maybe the governors see these additional politicians as a threat to their livelihood. In this day of high-tech electronic communications, do we really need cities at all?

Dick Boland is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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