Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Editorial: Prescott is not Detroit. Duh.

I'm sure many Courier readers are relieved to read that Prescott isn't like Detroit, so we shouldn't worry about falling into bankruptcy. Similarly, Prescott isn't like Neptune, so we shouldn't worry about how to calculate tides with 14 moons or how to breathe methane.
     It's truly comical to see how the editor's thinking is led and framed by teevee headlines. The idea that the experience of Detroit is in any way parallel to that of Prescott is beyond ridiculous. Detroit at its peak was well over forty times larger than Prescott. It is an international trade port, built for the export of timber, mineral and agricultural resources and expanding on broad-based industrial infrastructure and large-scale manufacturing. It anchors an industrial region spreading into four states and southern Ontario. No, it's not like Prescott.

This ...

      Where Detroit drives Michigan's economy, Prescott is subject to Arizona's whims. The industry that built Prescott is long gone, and today it depends on money earned elsewhere, spent by retirees, tourists and entrepreneurs. To operate the City depends heavily on state-controlled revenue sharing and sales taxes. Our prosperity (for yes, our town is a prosperous one) relies on the desires of people elsewhere to live here, or at least wander through and gawk.
     The editor fails to note the one instructive commonality that might have made his point — that Prescott, like Detroit did, has become complacent and backward-looking, failing to understand the implications of change or undertake a coherent vision for adapting to it.
... is not this.
      The editor's assertion that Prescott is doing well because "Arizona governments understand the balancing act of budgets" would be funny enough without his example of pawning our state buildings, as stupid a budgeting move as I have ever seen. His headline hints at proactivity, but he delivers nothing to support the idea, and anyone watching the legislative process over the past decade has to admit quite the opposite, that we have allowed reactivity and magical thinking to dominate.
     We can expect our retired population to grow in the short term, but we can also expect it to begin shrinking again within a couple of decades. Our population growth is in conflict with the quality of life that supports it. Our water input is gradually diminishing against that growth. Our industrial base is very thin, and our infrastructure for 21st-century industry is entirely lacking. These are soluble problems, but solving them will take higher-caliber thinking and longer-term goals.
     Vision is what voters should be looking for in its Council candidates as the election approaches. It's time for us to stop reacting, usually badly, to change and start embracing and leading it.

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