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Ask the right questions of political candidates

  • Wednesday, September 25, 2013

“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.”

Albert Einstein

The Town of Mount Pleasant has an election coming up in a matter of weeks, so that makes this a good time to ask the question: What is a town?

I haven’t seen any statistics, but I’d like to know what the percentage is of Americans today who grew up in what could be called a town at all, much less a small town. Now, before I go all Mayberry here, we all have to admit that for those of us who have hit middle age, we have seen in our lifetime the suburban lifestyle become the norm. Decades ago, if we lived in even a decent sized city, there were perhaps a few outlying shopping centers, but our towns still had definable downtown, a Main Street, and a sense of identity. Somewhere along the way in the last three or four decades, everything seemed to move out to “the strip,” away from the old neighborhoods and downtown. “The strip” in every town looked like the strip in every other town – kind of like the road leading off the Interstate, lined with national franchise after national franchise in the mass-produced version of Generica.

During the go-go days of the real estate boom, the town of Mount Pleasant was sometimes criticized for allowing the classic leapfrog suburban sprawl. Then the Great Recession came along in the third quarter of 2008 and the real estate bubble burst, and the great development debate disappeared for awhile. With the election in mind, have we gotten back to the notion of improving our existing town, rather than judging progress simply by growth? One of the best things to come of out of the real estate bust has to be the return to the notion that a town’s growth not just be measured in acres developed and housing units completed. How about improvement in job growth? How about revenue growth for the town’s existing businesses? How about increases in new start-up businesses? Quality of life issues are highly important, including arts and education, but the reality of American politics is, as they say, the economy, stupid.

American resiliency coupled with the unending desirability of Mount Pleasant as a locale mean that real estate development will never be completely off the table here. Somehow, we’ve got to balance the rights of all property owners – single family homeowners and large scale developers. Your right to develop your property doesn’t outweigh my right not to be burdened by higher taxes to support the expanded public infrastructure resulting from your development.

If your children are Millennials like mine, you see them caught in a situation where the job growth and pay in this area don’t jive well with the high cost of living for young people. Look at apartment rental rates and per-foot real estate purchase prices in Mount Pleasant compared to other places near and far. Which municipal leaders will understand that the future life of the community depends on its affordability for young working people, too?

This should be an interesting municipal election for Mount Pleasant. Maybe if we voters ask the right questions, we’ll get the right answers – and the right elected leaders.

Will Haynie has published more than 400 oped columns as a feature columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News when it was owned by the New York Times. His niche is as a humorous conservative. Find him on Twitter at @willhaynie or email him at Haynie.will@gmail.com.

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