Guest column: Making war on the quality of life

The Gilroy Dispatch and Gilroy Business Focus recently featured opinion pieces arguing that the laws that protect workers and the environment, along with the proposed urban growth boundary (UGB) initiative, are seriously damaging to small business and the local economy. I strongly disagree with their conclusions and I believe it’s the policies they prefer that are the threat to not only our prosperity, but to our quality of life.

The Business Focus article by Tammy Brownlow, president and CEO of the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation (GEDC), is called “Urban Growth Boundary Would Stifle Gilroy’s Emerging Economy.” Having studied and taught Economics and Urban Geography, I feel qualified to challenge the “extensive research and discussion” of the GEDC.

I do agree with Ms. Brownlow’s point that “urban growth boundaries are not substitutes for thoughtful, comprehensive planning.” In fact, they are an integral part of good planning.

Consider Santa Clara Valley towns that have a distinct and attractive character, where people like to visit, where shops and restaurants prosper; towns like Los Altos, Saratoga and Los Gatos. Do these towns allow sprawl? Can you imagine high-density housing springing up in the beautiful open spaces surrounding these towns?

Ms. Brownlow foresees a litany of disasters an urban growth boundary would bring to Gilroy, though she doesn’t explain the connections, that range from pushing businesses elsewhere, to traffic problems around Christopher High, and classroom overcrowding. I’m not sure she read the Gilroy Growing Smarter initiative because she fusses about a lack of land though there are about 450 acres of undeveloped land within the proposed urban growth boundary, and the initiative allows up to 50 acres of land per year outside the UGB for job-producing projects as well as building up to 350 homes per year until 2040.

And if Ms. Brownlow likes planning, how about the testimony by Doug Svensson of Applied Development Economics? He projected compact development like that encouraged by the UGB initiative would likely result in the highest quality jobs compared to sprawling residential development.

Mark Turner’s guest column in the Dispatch focuses on California laws, starting with the minimum wage increase to $15 per hour. I’ve been very impressed with his friendly enthusiasm and the beneficial projects he promotes. Still, I hope he will see, as Henry Ford did when he raised wages to $5 a day, few businesses would survive if consumers couldn’t afford products.

America is a consumer economy where prosperity and innovation rely on consumer demand, and consumer wealth is the fuel that drives the process. Mark says lawmakers should learn what it’s like to run a business (which I believe is very good advice), but perhaps he should learn what it’s like to be stuck in a minimum wage job; often they are not temporary “learning wages” as he states.

Mark also complains about “burdensome environmental regulations” and “California oil production barriers.” Without specifics about what environmental regulations, I’m not sure he realizes the danger to the planet, let alone to business, if we don’t take strong measures to be sure our children and grandchildren have a safe world to live in.

Mark states that we need laws that are “more reasonable to the consumer and entrepreneur.” I agree, if he means the consumer deserves a wage that allows him to consume and if he would add, “to the environment.” With those inclusions, we can keep the economy going.

Phill Laursen is a retired educator who’s passionate about Gilroy and its history.

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