Part II


(Part I is below)

Now imagine 1000 people all owning 40 acres built McMansions near Stampede reservoir. The taxes from those 1000 "estates" and houses would be significant; but so would their expenses. The roads would have to be paved, and probably cleared of snow, and there would have to be a fine fire department to watch the millions of dollars in assets. Further, many of the owners wouldn’t consider those their primary residences, which means they wouldn’t vote if we tried to raise fees on their parcels for this and that.

But, scattered development is very difficult to plan for and administer. Instead of a sewer system there are 1000 septic tanks. The likelihood that a wildfire will begin at one of the houses is high. The people who owned the houses wouldn’t be a part of our society, and they wouldn’t shop in our stores. Their children would not fill our schools, they would not join our boards, nor invest in our community because they would be so much closer to Truckee and big stores and a prestigious hospital.

For one thousand people to move to Loyalton or any other part of the county, there would have to be a reason, and the people who came would bring their old ways with them. The impact they would have on the community is qualitative, meaning there is no way to put a number on it, it is a difference of life. On the other hand, there is no strong evidence that 1000 people would dramatically improve Loyalton’s lot. There would still not be enough people to comfortably justify more businesses. It is money we want, not Somalis or executives.

Loyalton, and so Sierra County, would benefit the most if a large Federal Prison were built at Hallelujah Junction. There would be no impacts of growth for the county, and of the thousand or so jobs created a hundred could go to people in the county. The commute would be short, the pay would be good, and people would shop locally because Reno is close but still too far for an after work shopping trip.

We see from this very brief analysis that our dichotomies at the top do a good job of describing some of the features of a discussion on growth. We can discount the extreme views: those few progrowthers who want growth at any cost to the environment and social context of our county, and those few who have their place in heaven and don’t want any growth even if every kid graduates Downieville or Loyalton and gets on a bus for somewhere else. For most people, an honest discussion about growth and jobs and the old Sierra County is going to be a discussion of tradeoffs. Finding the balance between each of the extremes of the dichotomies (for example, between private property rights and the rights of the community) is difficult, and will need all the great ideas of all 3500 of us in the county.


A new paradigm of growth

The simple fantasies of growth, like all fantasies, have very different consequences in the real world.

We need an idea of growth that:

  1. is realistic
  2. is under the control of local people
  3. doesn’t encourage workers to come to the county
  4. doesn’t discourage employers of 5 or less people
  5. makes the best use of what we have

The West of the county is tourism, and any effort to discourage gold panning and fishing is just nuts. The possibilities for increased tourism are there, but day trippers tend not to buy much. The Pass and Lakes, the south of the county, and the River Canyon could all benefit from tourism, if there are any tourists any more. There are plenty of recreation spots closer to the population centers, so competition is tough. If the county made it easy for small clusters of manufactured cabins for seasonal rentals, it might help.

The East and in particular the Valley could become a nexus of small businesses. Again, every little town wants this, and the competition is stiff, and expertise is expensive. Still, we have trees, hard workers, and an industrial park, so it is possible that the right product at the right price could bring success to one or two small local businesses.

Across the county, we should be seeking economic self-sufficiency in our homes, and in our community centers. People in other parts of the world pool resources to market rural products, we could do it to.

We should fill the Loyalton hotel with small businesses, and we might if high speed internet were affordable. We should fill the industrial park with small forges and casting companies that sell specific parts to high tech and automobile companies.

Most of all, there should be a desk at the county that would help people with home businesses and cottage manufacturing. A county person who would help with code problems, taxation issues, permits and the like. A county person who could tell people "how to" instead of "why you can’t."

The kind of growth we want

The kind of growth we want sees new homes built not by strangers, but by our children who can afford to live here. The industries we rely on should be small and diverse. We should create jobs that only our cousins apply for (more than just County jobs).

In short, we should take control over our own growth now, instead of waiting for a thousand new people, or a big new employer, or better economic times.

It is our opinion that the Board needs to strengthen the economic development committee, not to woo big employers, but to assist small businesses.

This would be the chance for pro-growthers and no-growthers to work together to help our community change by becoming more of what it already is.

Who will step forward and help? Contact the Prospect (530) 448 9092

Part I
The issue of "growth" is contentious in our little county, and in rural places everywhere. It is seen as problematic to some because it would change known places and ways, and problematic for others because it won’t happen. However we look at it, growth is a problem we have to come to grips with as a community.







The proper place for our determinations for our desire for growth in the county is the General Plan. The citizenry is often informed of opportunities to comment on the General Plan, but very often hardly anyone does. Before you decide your stance on GROWTH, you should educate yourself on the processes of the general plan. Go HERE.

Complexity of the issue
The discussion is a difficult one because so many dimensions are involved. We can roughly describe them as "dichotomies," like this:
Individual property rights                 Land use/ existing culture/ the environment
Stagnant local economy                 Loss of local identity/ecology
Population center development    Scattered "estate" development
Demographic east                           Demographic west

There are other ways we could look at the problem; this is one. To expand very briefly on these, by considering one hand, then the other hand:

On the one hand, this is the "land of Liberty" and a person’s property rights are sacred; they should be able to use it or not use it as they see fit. On the other hand, how we use our land impacts others, in terms of view shed, traffic, service demands, and impact on local culture. Further, the environment is always a "third party" in such discussions, with defenders and regulations.

On the one hand, our children can’t afford to live in our county because there is no economy; on the other hand new stores, new businesses, new people mean a new way of looking at life, and the passing of the old ways.

One the one hand, we don’t want any "megacities" in the county so growth should be spread out; on the other hand when people spread out it is harder on the environment, harder to plan and provide services, harder to enforce codes, and it puts more land into development.

On the one hand, most of the development is likely to happen in the East, shifting the power base of the county; on the other hand, the West is most likely to remain economically disadvantaged as it will only somewhat benefit from growth in the east and south.

We can generalize in other ways, and speculate a bit:

We can assume that:

Growth at Verdi will be like Verdi Nevada
Growth in the south will be like the Truckee highlands
Growth in the Valley will be like Greenhorn and Chilcoot
Growth, if it is possible, in Long Valley will be like Red Rock.

All of our assumptions might be wrong. Maybe Bill Gates will decide that Calpine is where the Microsoft headquarters will be. Maybe it will be green and Bill will provide a bus to pick up workers so the cultural and environmental impacts will be small, and he’ll train and hire only local folks so our economy will boom. That could happen. Sure it could.

Back here on earth, it is more likely that we in the county will have to make compromises from the one hand to the other hand on all of those, and likely some will appear that I have not included.

Some growth is life
Some growth has to happen. Why? Because our children need jobs and homes. The "brain drain" of rural areas is a dramatic problem. Children grow up and have to consider going to secondary education, college or trade schools, and then decide where to set up shop. An education is expensive; most people have loans to pay. Most people can’t afford to set up a business for relatives and friends. The county needs more people and more economic activity to survive.

If we want our children to live in Sierra County, and raise their children here, there have to be jobs and economic opportunities. Even owners of big spreads can’t divide it forever, eventually there are too many kids for the farm. It’s what brought of lot of our ancestors to this area from the old country.

Growth is never free
On the other hand, a lot of us like the county just like it is. If we wanted to live in "ruralburbia" we’d live in El Dorado or Nevada county. If we liked the grit and heartlessness of cities, there are Sacramento and Reno. We live here because we like it the way it is. If we have to have growth, it has to be the kind of growth we can absorb without having it run over us. Any big project is going to swamp the county. There are many individuals within a 100 mile radius, whose income is greater than the county budget. We are few and poor. Nearly any large development or large single source employer is going to significantly change what we like about our community.

Change is qualitative, more easily described with words than numbers
Sierra Brooks is a very small example. This is not to say anything bad about the Brooks, but that side of the valley would be different if the Brooks weren’t there, and if instead everyone lived in the houses of Loyalton, plus a few more. The Brooks is not Loyalton, even though together they compose a community. And the Brooks is small. Imagine a housing development ten times as large (still a small subdivision), which would support its own store and businesses. How would that impact Loyalton? Would there be more old empty houses, or fewer? More vacant storefronts, or fewer?


When we say growth
When we say "growth" we’re talking about several kinds of growth. Mostly we are talking about houses and factories. The mill was a factory.

Factories, generally, make money for the county. Houses, most often, cost the county money. The bottom line, even for the most pro-growth advocate, is money, a thriving economy. It isn’t houses, there are vacant houses in the county; it isn’t factories, we have mute factories, we have abandoned industrial parks. By "growth" we mean money changing hands.

Imagine U.S. Honda
It’s fun to imagine enterprise in the county. People tend to think of one big employer: Disney, fiberboard, a new prison. But, we’ve had one big employer in the past, and it frankly didn’t work out that well in the end. Blame who you like, logging moved on from Sierra County. Even if it came back it wouldn’t look the same.

If U.S. Honda came to the industrial park, it would fill virtually all its highest paid positions with people it would bring in. Many would choose to live in Truckee or Reno. They would have almost no impact on our economy. Of the people brought in to work who would live here, they would bring suburban or even urban ways with them. Our little community would have new chain stores, or the new people would shop in Reno. Our schools would benefit, though our local students might not.

The jobs created that local people could fill would be the real meat of the deal for us. We would compete for them with people willing to commute from Red Rock and Stead.

And, if U.S. Honda decided to again move its plant, we would inherit more un-maintainable industrial buildings and more vacant homes and shrinking businesses.

The truth is, one big employer does create a certain kind of economy, but it also tends to make a community dependent, and it brings its own culture with it.

Imagine 1000 new people
It’s fun to imagine that a thousand people moved to Loyalton, and they built 250 new homes, and they sent their kids to our school and brought their wallets to our stores. The old hotel could host businesses, the pool would thrive. The hospital could open up again (yes, we all know it’s still open, we mean as our hospital again.)

And, no doubt a thousand new people in Loyalton would change things. But would it change what we want changed and leave alone what we love?

Some cities take refugees, as many cities have welcomed Hmong. If our new people were 1000 victims of war in Somalia, that would have one kind of change. We would learn to say Assalam Alaikum, and Leonard’s would carry goat meat and many kinds of rice, or the Somalis would shop somewhere else. (The Red and White store in Portola would likely meet their needs). Their children probably would not go to our schools because we are infidels and don’t have respect between the sexes. They could not marry our children because they have strong clan affiliation and our children don’t have clans. They would need a mosque.

Somali girls: stolen from Wiki (support Wiki here)

If they were 1000 victims of the next southern Katrina that would be another kind of change. Leonard’s would carry catfish and ochre. The music at our shindigs would change.

If a small town in Northern California had to be paved over for a freeway and they sent the refugees here, that would be another kind of change. There would be intense competition for the things we value most. The 1000 new residents would seek to fill the roles we have for ourselves. Leonards would benefit, the feed store would benefit, but some of our kids that might want to stay here would have to leave when they graduate because local slots would be highly contested. For a few years we would have the hottest Future Farmers chapter in the state.

If they were 1000 refugees from suburban Southern California they would bring familiarity with long commutes and the desire for malls with them, and there would be the least increased economy for Loyalton at all, because they would buy almost everything either in Reno, or on the internet. The schools would benefit, though our students would struggle against children weaned on the world wide web.

What we are most likely to get is 1000 retirees. Retirees are fine people, but they tend not to improve schools, tend to use services and generally don’t improve the economy much. There are other advantages to 1000 retirees: they have skills, they tend to volunteer, they are often connected outside the community. They aren’t going to generate too much new business.

We can ask ourselves, what 1000 people would we want to come? What cultural changes would we welcome?






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