No growth is not an option

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Leave it to Tom Cronin to ease the growing pains just a bit.

Cronin, a career cop and wielder of quick smiles and snappy jokes, cracked up readers Friday with this custom-built Ghastly Groaner:

Q: Do you know what the official bird of the city of Coeur d’Alene is?

A: The construction crane.

OK, so some of you out there are not laughing. The two large cranes looming over downtown Coeur d’Alene look to you like a double-barreled bird flipped at your wish for the way things used to be. And you think you can’t retreat from city centers to placid pastures because, guess what? New homes and businesses are going up out there, too.

If you don’t believe that growth is good, you probably haven’t lived in a community that was dying. Coeur d’Alene was on life support in the early ’80s, with vacant storefronts rather than industrious cranes the sign of those times. Local history will show that a deluxe high-rise on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene played a major role in reversing the community’s downward spiral by jump-starting an entire layer of economic diversification. And if you sneer at tourism, pause a moment to think where we might be without it, particularly after the collapse of the resource industries that had long provided most of the good jobs in our region.

Here’s today’s reality: You live in an extraordinary place, with natural beauty galore and four sweet seasons. Many of your neighbors are from someplace else and, thank goodness, most of them have not tried to recreate the mess they left. They’re happy to be part of this place.

But for the same reasons many of you moved here, others have every right to do the same. Our housing inventory is low and our rents are high, so homes are being built where space is available. That might look like a nightmare to you; it looks like home sweet home to them.

Before you claim that many of these places are for rich folk, keep in mind that when higher-end housing inventory is added, many people who already live here move up. That process makes available less-expensive houses for first-time homebuyers who now can begin to share the American Dream and move their way up, too.

What options do you have, you whose commutes have doubled and your views halved? Be an active citizen. Attend planning and zoning committee meetings. Write letters to the editor. Talk to those who represent you. By the time you reach the complaining stage, it’s too late.

In another time and place, a community much like this one held a forum on growth. Here’s how a university professor defined “good growth”: You put barricades up on the interstate entrances into town; nobody can move in unless someone moves out; and you don’t cut down another tree no matter what.

Told that story, a 60ish Coeur d’Alene native responded, “That doesn’t sound like a community. That sounds like a cemetery.”

This is no time to rest in peace. In the immortal words of Warren Zevon, we can sleep when we’re dead.

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