I would like to go on record and publicly proclaim, "There is such a thing as stupid growth."
I am a native of these river cities. I lived in the Oakland/San Francisco bay area for more than 30 years. I currently live in southern Oregon, and travel all over the country in my profession. For the past 20 years, my work and family have brought me back to the Quad Cities on a regular basis. I see the growth in this area from a different perspective than the residents. It might seem to be creeping along to those who live here. To a frequent visitor, the growth seems to happen in big chunks. I am struck by the lack of public concern for this uncontrolled monster that is "development." Development will someday devour all of the lovely open space that caught the eye of Great Spirit when creating the Mississippi, turning to admire the landscape while paddling downstream, and thus creating the bend in the river and its lush valleys.
The Oakland/San Francisco bay area always prided itself on not being the megapolis that is Los Angeles. Not anymore. Over the years, I watched the lovely open space become consumed by the monster called "development." It seemed like every eight blocks it cloned itself and kept on growing and growing. Eventually the area started to lose the charm that attracted me there. I needed to escape to a place that knew about the real-estate monster but had not yet been attacked, and was prepared to fight it when it arrived.
I have lived in southern Oregon for the past three years. Many of the residents relocated to the area over the past 15 years from out-of-state. They have "escaped" from San Francisco, L.A., Seattle, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, New York, Philly, Portland, Cleveland, Boston, and everywhere that has already lost the battle against development. Voters in my community are very proactive when it comes to issues such as the environment, growth, and development. The area is quite pastoral, even termed "bucolic" in tour-book descriptions, with a mere 20,000 residents, but there is already an entire "green-belt system" in place: designated open space, bike and walking paths, trails, parks, lakes, and creeks, as well as forested mountains and valleys surrounding the town, that can never be threatened by real-estate developers serving their own best interests when elected to public office. Yes, we do pay a bit more in taxes than the nearby communities that have embraced the policy that "there is no stupid growth." However, our children, and their children, are guaranteed the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and pastoral nature that makes it, like this bend in the river that is the Quad Cities, a "special place to live."
Black Hawk struggled against unbeatable odds to stay here in his beautiful homeland. He and his people were robbed of the land by developers via government. Modern-day government, via elected real-estate developers, robs the land of its intrinsic beauty without regard or consideration for how it impacts the environment and those that dwell within.
It's not too late to save the this lovely corner of the planet from the crap-shooting wheeler-dealer real-estate politicians who pretend to represent the voters who elected them and end up putting the needs of the community on a secondary agenda, at best. I encourage voters on both sides of the river to get involved in these issues and to reject the concept of uncontrolled and encouraged growth. Either that, or just go on telling your children how there used to be acres and acres of open space and cornfields all along I-74 in Bettendorf, and how you remember Eldridge and Coal Valley as being "out in the country." The future is all around us. Save the future for those who must live in it.
Again, thanks to you, Kathleen, and the River Cities' Reader, for demonstrating the "high road" to the voters and concerned citizens of this "paradise" that might never be again.
- Michael "Hawkeye" Herman