Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bellevue leaders need Planning 101


    Bellevue “leaders” need a history lesson.
    If the city “planners” of Bellevue actually cared about planning a future for the town of Bellevue, they might be wise to read up on some Planning 101, not from 1955 but perhaps 2005 might do. They also might be wise to listen-up to what the residents of Bellevue and beyond are telling them—yes, they want economic growth, but not at the cost of the existing infrastructure and businesses that are already contributing. I thought that’s what being a public servant was all about, serving the public and not some special interest.  
    These public servants in favor of this annexation will tell you it’s about the economy. They mean well, I am sure, but they are misled.
    Things aren’t always what they seem, especially when it comes to economics. Take bikes for example. Huffy bikes. Remember them? If you were like me growing up in America, you might have wanted a Huffy. They were the cool brand, at least in 1980, and they had a cool “Made in USA” sticker right on the front. Now, for our economic example, I draw from a 2006 newspaper article about the very issue Bellevue is facing today. Huffy bikes used to employ a lot of people in a small town in Ohio. These people made $15 an hour building bikes. Not bad. Wal-Mart wanted to sell Huffy bikes for cheap, and being the big-box retailer that they are, they pressured Huffy down on their prices—so much so that the only way Huffy could fulfill the wishes was to move the factory: eventually overseas. No more jobs.  So now those people here in the USA were out of work. But here’s the kicker … now that they were out of work, they were glad when a new Wal-Mart opened on the edge or their town, on the very site of the old Huffy plant. I think the quote was, “Thank goodness for Wal-Mart!”—now we can at least afford to buy cheap bikes for our kids. Wal-Mart was also hiring at the prevailing minimum wage of around five bucks an hour
    Similar economic principles are at play right here, right now. Bellevue’s civic “leaders” are ignorant of what they have, and they are also ignorant to what they will lose if they proceed with this annexation as planned. I don’t think they get the connection that when they open up a vast area to development, the only businesses that will locate there are the ones with out-of-state addresses. Why?  Who can afford to pay for the big new parking lot? The landscaping? The lights that will light up the night sky? Large corporations, that’s who. It’s Wal-Marts for everyone. There are enough empty lots and storefronts already.
    Furthermore, economics aside, this plan allows for no public open space: think sports field or even a park. It places houses impossibly on a hillside, and would destroy the unique and valuable character of our valley towns. The economic realities might be hidden, but the physical deficits of this plan to all residents, is plain to see.
    As of this writing, the town “leadership” is somehow eagerly a vote or two away from allowing this to unfold. Maybe they mean well, but I fear the long-term outcome will be very different than the promised prosperity. At least the bikes will be cheap.
Ben Young lives in Ketchum.

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