Yesterday Gov. Chris Gregoire was in Clark County to visit with the bidness guys and gals, and the whaaaaambulance was screeching away full throttle. I’m sure someone in the room voted for her. Well, actually, I’m not sure about that, but it’s a theoretical possibility at least.
Like we’ve never heard this one before, but the first thing to do is blame the workers. From The Columbian:
Elie Kassab, president of Prestige Development, said he advertised in The Reflector last year to fill eight entry-level jobs and had 221 young applicants. “The biggest problem we have is the 50-cent minimum wage increase,” he said. The minimum wage, tied to the Consumer Price Index, jumped 48 cents to $8.55, the nation’s highest, on Jan. 1.
Yeah, I’m sure that extra $3.84 per hour to hire eight workers is killing him. You really can’t make this stuff up.
If blaming minimum wage workers isn’t your cup of tea, you could always blame environmental regulations:
Contractor Roy Frederick drew applause when he urged Gregoire to take another look at strict new state stormwater runoff rules that require builders to set aside more land for retention ponds.
“Tell your Department of Ecology to do a cost-benefit analysis on these stormwater regulations,” he said. “It’s a giant train wreck. It has stopped development in Clark County.”
I guess it had nothing to do with the housing bubble, securitization of mortgages or fraud in the house building, financing and selling sector, nor the continued credit crunch caused by zombie banks pocketing taxpayer money instead of lending. Nope, nothing at all.
The whining is not limited to our state, however. The house building industry is peeved over in Oregon as well. From The Oregonian:
Portland-area homebuilders say things are bad enough with the recession. Now they suspect members of the Metro council – elected officials who have much to say about how and where the area grows – are philosophically bent against them.
Tom Skaar, president of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, says council members think growth means “sprawl” – so he wrote in a letter to Metro Council President David Bragdon
Well, growth has historically meant sprawl, at least since the construction of the interstate highway system.
To be fair, construction and associated businesses are a valuable and needed part of any economy. There are, of course, good and decent builders, real estate agents, sellers of furniture and such who are being wiped out. This is bad, and it’s every bit as tragic as a factory worker or high-tech worker getting wiped out.
It seems not to have really sunk in among the developers, however, that things are unlikely to return to normal any time soon, and may not ever be quite the same. Clark County functioned for years as a safety valve for Oregon, absorbing huge population gains while providing sub-standard urban services in many respects. Many children attend school in portable classrooms, sidewalks go nowhere, parks go undeveloped and public safety services struggle for money.
The citizenry of Clark County has already paid for the bubble, through taxes and hidden costs such as traffic congestion and environmental challenges. We simply cannot afford to keep growing in the fashion we did the last 15 years or so. There’s no money left, anywhere. It’s vaporized, along with the fish.
So while it is in everyone’s interest to have economic recovery happen, and the construction sector should share in that, it’s going to take enormous sums of public money (and it already is, through the TARP and FDIC.) That means the interests of the community as a whole need to be taken into account, not just the pet peeves of bidness guys grinding the same far right axes they’ve been grinding for the last thirty years.
Times are tough for many people. Everyone deserves a seat at the table, but nobody should own the table.
Elections have consequences, you know.