Random Thoughts April 14

  • The whole “community vision thing”:  Is there a fundamental conflict between where we want to go and where we will be able to go? What if there are unbreachable limits socially, financially, energy, environmental.  How will we resolve this conflict?  Struggle thru denial? Bewilderment?  Anger? Acceptance?
  • I think most everyone here in the LEX agrees that we have a pretty high quality of life.  We’ve got safety, decent schools, a fairly cohesive society, beautiful countryside, solid history, and a uniting sports team.  According to current economic theory, we should be enjoying the fruits of economic success – high employment, increasing wages, declining poverty. 

Yet in each of those measures, we are falling woefully short.  Our regional unemployment is higher than in Cleveland and certainly higher than many other first tier college town regions, our median wages are not keep pace with inflation meaning most of us are actually falling behind, and our poverty rate spiked by 56% the during the last 10 years.  We also have a $27million city budget shortfall.

If the current economic development theory equates quality of life with economic success, how can all this be? Perhaps it’s one of two things.  Either our quality of life aint so great, or that having a high quality of life is no guarantee of economic success.  A third possibility is that we just haven’t tried hard enough to leverage our quality of life.  That’s the one that the powers that be will tout.  But if it hadn’t happened yet, what can we expect as we enter the winter of economic contraction?

  • What will the LEX be like in 10 years?   I think most folks assume that it will be pretty much like today, which in reality proves to be some skewed understanding of what is really going on today.  I think most people view these times with rose colored glasses, seeing what they only imagine to be happening- which is just a continuation of the wonderful past.  But what is really happening here today probably couldn’t have been imagined 10 years ago: 
    • Unemployment is at highs only rivaled by the great depression
    • The percentage of people living in poverty has skyrocketed
    • The city has a $27million budget shortfall
    • City levels of service per capita are falling to unseen levels
    • The economy shifted under our feet  – and changed employment in our city from high value, high employment manufacturing to mchamburg jobs
    • The climate is changing before our eyes – when it rains any more, it rains a lot – since the beginning of the year we’ve had nearly 10 2+” rain storms – and over the last decade we’ve had 2 100 year ice storms
    • The horse industry is struggling like never before
    • Food security issues – both in terms of availability and safety – are rising each year
    • Costs of utilities are rising very rapidly, including the water company’s recent push to raise rates by 50%
    • We’ve seen $4 a gallon gas twice in the last 3 years (its coming this time soon)
    • We have coal companies sponsoring the UK basketball team
    • China didn’t even join the World Trade Organization until December of 2011 and now all we hear about is that we are competing with the rest of the world

Who could have imagined all that?  So, what will Lexington be like in 10 years as we get deeper into the low energy, environmentally damaged future, one where economic contraction is the rule? 

  • Speaking of that, here’s a short sketch of my vision for a low energy Lex: 
    • Pop up stores for micro enterprise/ food carts and trucks everywhere
    • Neighborhood food coops
    • Streets given over to bikes
    • Neighborhood markets in the parking lots of retail sprawl
    • Much less centralized city government – much more neighborhood level activity – we will become a collection of villages – city will be very limited in what infrastructure it can maintain thus much will be allowed to deteriorate – policing will be done from bikes around neighborhood level HQs.
    • I see several types of economies:
      • The 2nd hand economy – we have more shit in our collective possession than will be needed in two generations – rather than buy new,  we will sell, swap, and barter this stuff at a volume never before seen – think permanent yard sale city.
      • The restoration and retrofitting economy – we wont be able to throw anything away, tear anything down – this will spur an increase in jobs in each of these areas
      • The local food economy – there will be an explosion of local farmers growing, processing, packaging, and cooking all things local.
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