Bubbles or Sustainability?

(#322) – Bubbles are beautiful in so many ways that delight and entrance us.  Bubbles also burst or fly away. Some beautiful bubbles also contain toxins that maim and kill. So let’s be careful that the apparent momentum of new, large-scale economic invest -ment in Sullivan County contains few bubbles.  Casinos and fracking are clear examples of noxious and poisonous economic bubbles.  Their harmful impacts assault our personal lives, the environment and our economic systems.

Some of the wealthiest regional economic players are finally drawing up plans for major investment in our communities.  They are joined by some of the richest people and organizations in the world. Grossinger’s, Kutsher’s, the Concord, Davos, Chinese theme parks and many other large enterprises, if developed, will in a brief period, double our county economy. Depending on the way they are developed, they can contribute to mitigating the scourge of poverty or actually worsen personal health and economic well being.

Discussions in our councils of local government and media need to present full accounting of impacts.  Economic growth can be enormously helpful or harmful.

Large projects, controlled by outside interests, can deflect resources from current positive economic initiatives such as a food hub, meat processing plant, valued-added dairy product, light manufacturing, affordable housing and further development of our energy efficiency and renewable energy sector.

There are exciting claims about job creation. However, most of the construction jobs will go to union contractor companies, which means the vast majority of these jobs will be filled from outside Sullivan County.  Most of the thousands of permanent jobs will be filled by people living outside Sullivan County simply because we do not have the trained work or educated work force.

Local homes for sale will increase in value but a far greater number of local people in need of better housing will not benefit.  Local homebuilders will find work upgrading existing residences and building new homes. This will increase the tax base.  But, we know that for every dollar of increased residential taxes, the cost to local government to serve the public safety and other mandated services is at least $1.60. This is clearly a negative, not a positive impact on everyone’s tax bill.

The hope is that new commercial enterprise taxes will greatly make up this difference and add substantial extra revenues for school, fire protection and government .

Will our town councils and economic development agencies succeed in deflecting the common practice of awarding huge tax avoidance benefits to new large-scale commercial enterprises that full accounting could show a negative impact on our communities and neighbors?  Will new building codes and ordinances be quickly written to protect the environment and preserve the natural beauty of our county?

Will a high fee for purchase of our great asset – proximity to major markets – be collected and managed in ways that assist existing local business and public enterprise?

In the immediate future, Sullivan County will respond to these questions with decisions that transform the character of our lives. The direction of that trans- formation can be very negative.  It can be enormously beneficial, if it embraces the central importance of our location and our natural beauty – two of the many priceless qualities of life we are privileged and tasked to preserve for everyone. Of course, these decisions must also meet the criteria of greater sustainability in a world that is entrenched in economic thinking and activity that is destroying the  natural systems that support life in our only home.

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