Have you ever found yourself watching a City Council meeting and wondering what exactly it is the Proto-Development Element is going on about? The words seem to have great meaning, and they do sound important. But somehow after you have heard them you are left feeling unfulfilled and empty. Kind of like if you were to attempt life on a steady diet of Twinkies. Here is an example of the kind of statement we're talking about:
The process is bringing us ever forward to a more green and sustainable livability, one that encompasses the urbanist mixed use smart growth approach with an appreciation for the kinds of civic engagement that naturally flows from a synergistic embracement of an enhanced, and advanced, regionalism.
Simply fraught with deep thought and a meaning that only the most advanced minds are capable of comprehending, I'm sure. But what if I told you none of it really means anything at all? And even those who share the perspectives mangled within that verbal voodoo stew are becoming aware of it? Because apparently that is what is happening. The great sustainability boom in urbanist scam planning is starting to lose the ability to use its own language. And could very well be falling apart under the growing weight of its own absurdity.
The National League of Cities, about as "smart growth" a bunch as you'd ever want to meet, has now published a very interesting article on this growing phenomena. Entitled "Emerging Issues: We Don't Know What We're Talking About," they boldly face up to the fact that they just aren't making a whole lot of sense lately. I'm going to post a couple of key paragraphs from the article here.
Orwell's critique about meaningless words applies today. For example, what is "sustainability?" Well, then, how about "civic engagement?" "The free market?" "Closing the borders?" "Livability?" "Smart Growth?" Each of these terms encompasses such a wide and changing range of idiosyncratic meanings that use of it tells us little about the topic.
Then there's "green." Kermit The Frog warned that "it's not easy being green," but enthusiasts are not daunted by puppets. And let's not even get started on "economic development" or "regionalism."
I don't know, if you were to remove from the vocabulary of John Buchanan and Joe Mosca words such as sustainability, livability, smart growth, regionalism and green, I am not sure they would quite know how to talk. A kind of balloon deflation process might occur. And they might be actually reduced to having to come up with something, well, more "reality based." Or at least coherent.
A recent study by Eric Zeemering in the "Urban Affairs Review" investigated what "sustainability" means to local officials throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He found that the term has "multiple meanings" to them including, for example: mixed use near transit hubs, green building standards, pedestrian and bike routes, retaining current businesses, human capital development, neighborhood revitalization and resident participation.
Sounds like a language process sustainability crisis to me!
The Hystaria Vine
The new issue of that noted public policy journal "The Wistaria Vine" showed up at the Maundry Compound yesterday, and that is a good thing. We do love leafing through its information packed pages as we peruse the many fine and enriching activities available to all the lucky residents of Sierra Madre.
And much to our surprise and delight we discovered a two page spread peddling the water rate hike. Now we're not too sure that a rather costly taxpayer funded and widely mailed City publication should only be carrying one side of the story. There are other viewpoints here in town, and unless they've somehow become like our other taxpayer funded publication, The Mountain Views "News," perhaps they really ought to consider entertaining other opinions as well. After all, since everyone pays taxes, shouldn't all opinions be expressed?
But something that must be noted, they do discuss our water bond debt in conjunction with raising water rates. Something somehow forgotten last May when it was legally required. Here is how the appeal is phrased:
In addition, the operating margin for the Water Department is in jeopardy of not meeting the legal requirements attached to the Water Revenue Bonds issued by the City in 1998 and 2003. While the City continues to make its bond payments in a timely manner, the City must increase its revenues to meet future operating expenditures, as well as the bond commitments, without jeopardizing capital reserves.
Yes, I would think that $23 plus million dollars in looming water bond debt could have an effect on that department's finances. And when you consider that the 2003 water bonds are currently on an "interest only" payment schedule, you can see how that might be a problem in the future. There are quite a few people who lost their homes in the last few years that also had entertained the benefits of such creative financing. And haven't the taxpayers been called in to bail out improvident investors there as well?
Of course, that wasn't contained in the Wistaria Vine literature on the topic. I guess they just didn't want to bother our pretty little heads about it.