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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Greeley Barrio

Today I broadened my horizons a bit.

My local "Tour Guide" took me into what he calls Greeley's Barrio districts. I found the small business developments I mentioned in my earlier posts. To be fair there are also a few around the University as well. I thought the bookstore and the music shop were interesting. But I was saddened by the overall plight for some of these Mom and Pops.

It looks like, again thus far, that Greeley's local government has methodically isolated these Mom and Pops as they shifted the growth emphasis into the southern end of town with the new development and planning. This pulls the Stepford families into the chain malls and markets and isolates the Mom and Pop's into niche populations which ultimately will limit their growth potential and capital that they would need to expand into other areas. Particularly the Stepford zones. This is an indirect method of supporting mega-chains with minimum wage and non-living wage jobs.

Personally I have always liked the idea that each individual can be responsible for their own sustainability by creating their own business rather than being dependent on a single employer for life. But it hinges on the idea of equality before the eyes of government. Well at least the illusion of equality. The idea that corporations will take good long term care of their human assets went out more than just a couple of decades ago. Yet some city planners seem resolute on hanging onto this notion. That doesn't make me anti-corporate. I have served my time in the CEO chair. In modern society, the population growth alone of course requires a diversity of job options, but closing out the home grown businesses is a bad proposition in any city's long term quality of life equation. It limits not only the options of the poor climbing the ladder to the promised land but also the options of the middle class dependent on their middle management positions. Often these middle managers carry the bulk of the important and servicable knowledge in a company. The last thing corporations want is to see this knowledge walk into their own personal dreams of opportunity. It is politically viable, I'll argue, that by closing off these options the corporate back is limiting its competitive risk. Besides who is going to look out for the home front better than those roots are planted in it and whose children are product of its schools and other social interactions.

In my view, if my quick assumption proves to be true, bad planning can be a subtle (or not so subtle) form of racism. Granted there may be concern that the "barrio" areas need lower tax rates so that chain low-wage labor is available for the industry mills in town. Yet good long term planning development management has modern methods of integrating these areas so that all sectors are equally represented fairly by government and taxpayer dollars. When an area is in obvious decline it should be targeted for help. Wouldn't it be nice to see the trees replanted, the sidewalks groomed, plaza and park areas integrated in these declining areas. Maybe a nice plaza where community festivals and events can be held to draw people from across the city to take notice of the variety of small business options in the area. In truth it was sad to see this divide in a town of such friendly people regardless of the driving factors for the conditions. My Tour Guide said his wife doesn't even feel safe driving there by herself.

I will roam around next and see if I can find any economic development initiatives aimed at bringing the small business sectors back so they can have more equity of representation and easier access to all market segments regardless of income, social status, or cultural background. I think I'll take a look at the Greeley City Council representatives too and their background and political track records. I need to see the whole tale before I can come to any reasonable opinion or workable suggestions to improve things.

It is always a double edge sword to coming into a new town. There is this amazing objective outside view of things because you are free of the cultural and political local history which drives the making of systems and often results in dogmatic methods employed in development. And at the same time there is a lack of the subjective understanding of what has occurred in the past and what has been tried in the past. It takes time and a lot of exploration to become knowledgeable on the topics.

I am reading a couple books on Greeley history and going through the news archives to try to learn more. That is between time spent watching for swirling clouds of course. In that regard I imagine I am similar to other Greeleyites.

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