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Looking for indicators

Letter by Pamela Hathaway

Grassroots organizing – July 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Looking for Indicators

Dear Ed:

Thanks for your thoughtful essays on global capitalism and its dubious benefits. I currently work with High Country Citizens’ Alliance (HCCA) in Crested Butte, and come from several years of working on international economic issues in Latin America. We are trying to apply some of the lessons learned in Central America to the local situation here and the issues that you address are familiar! Scale and the related “locus of control” are issues that I think are particularly challenging, so I read with interest your recent piece.

I’m not sure that “real estate” follows the same rules as commodities or services (especially since it is not mobile — one of the defining features of many of globalism’s “new investments”), but certain geographic areas in Colorado definitely suffer from lack of local control of land prices, due to the ability of out-of-towners to pay more than locals can possibly afford. This resonates personally with my husband and me and many others who might dream of settling in Colorado, I’m sure. We moved to Crested Butte 19 months ago when he took a job as Director of Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory — a lucrative position by local standards. We can’t touch land around here, much less a house.

Many other locals, who bought when prices were good, are profiting, especially in the near term, but the effects are devastating from a social perspective — our community is becoming dominated by gigantic homes that are rarely occupied, that are so out of scale and place to be disgusting (not to mention environmentally challenged!). And the majority of “good” jobs are short-term in nature — construction oriented — while the service jobs that a “resort community” should be favoring are filled mostly by short-term residents who want to come and ski for a season or two before moving on to more affordable pastures.

These and other observations will become part of a county-wide dialogue that HCCA has initiated under the auspices of our “Community Indicators Project.” We hope to analyze existing county-wide information on economic, social and environmental trends (much like my group did in Central America at the national level) and to promote an integrated understanding of the local situation. Goals: To inform decision making, to bring a new perspective, and to empower with information. Underlying goal (for me personally at least): To shed light on the costs of placing economic gains at the pinnacle of human existence by turning economic health into the end rather than the means by which to serve social and environmental goals.

I look forward to future articles of yours — let me know if you’d like more information on our local efforts!

Pamela Hathaway Development Director, High Country Citizens’ Alliance Crested Butte