In the 34 years ending in 1980, the post-World War 2 years, inflation-adjusted, after tax
incomes rose across our nation and in all segments. The poorest Americans did best, with 3.5%
annual increases, which cumulatively produced a much higher living standard. The middle class
grew at 2%. The rich at 1.5%.
In the 34 years ending in 2014, beneficiaries of the rising incomes were reversed in terms of
growth. The poorest among us grew not at all, the middle class 1%, and the rich 6% annually.
In those same 34 years, our local school district became great. Internet came to town. Satellite
TV was invented. Our grocers offered better, fresher foods. Many locales across our nation
became less desirable to live in. And so people who never in a thousand years could have
conceived of living here in 1980 now gratefully do so. (Needing a news-fix, my first Christmas
here I asked for a short-wave radio so I could stay current on the world. I think of the World
News in this paper as a quaint remnant from the time when what we read really was new news
and Crested Butte was truly a remote mountain outpost).
In those same years housing stock moved to second homeowners and full time homeowners
with incomes outside the valley, and, more recently, short term rentals began soaking up stock
that was formerly rented locally.
All these forces left us with valley housing that is 28% more expensive than the state average,
while local incomes are 37% less than the state average. Rentals have increased in price three
and four times. Rental vacancies are less than 1%.
I was a reluctant participant in our One Valley project, fearing that it, like many other projects
begun with energy and goodwill, would result in work being put on a shelf and soon forgotten.
This is no criticism of the well-meaning group. I am no stranger to broken pledges for self-
improvement myself with failures too numerous to recite.
The good news about the One Valley project, at least for me and other reasonably well-
meaning people, is that elected officials are proposing to act against the problems and
opportunities presented in the report. First and foremost may be what we call the local housing
crisis. We will soon be 960 housing units short of what we need in the valley.
We all have been riveted by the abundant images of natural disasters in Houston and the Virgin
Islands. And most of us have been inspired by the basic goodness of so many people willing to
help others in the face of flooding.
The problem we have here is less visible to most of us but no less real. The economic forces at
work are no less powerful than the hurricanes. 25% of our kids on free or reduced price lunch at
school in the valley? That’s a statistic, not a gripping visual image.
As people mount the charge to criticize, marginalize, and stop the preliminary housing proposal
at Brush Creek, please let’s all go one step further. If Brush Creek is not part of the answer,
what is? And how can we get it done?
We all have valley neighbors who are waist-deep in water. And the water is rising.
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