Rhetoric is just throwing fuel on the fire of city’s growth debate

  What is “Growth”?
When I use the word “growth,” what comes to your mind?
   Urban Sprawl?
   Private Property Rights?
   Degradation of our environment?
   Living-wage Jobs?
   Each of these reactions carries politically charged rhetoric, concepts or ideas which are meant to incite strong feelings in people.
   Those strong feelings, however, generally aren’t directed toward positive ends, like solving the problems that stem from a growing community.
   They are, instead, the words used by those who prefer to play to our fears, words meant to set rational thought aside in favor of a mob mentality that will help achieve the specific ends of the individual.
   In an educated community such as Whatcom County, it still astounds me that we have a tremendous number of people bent on using negative emotions as a means of achieving an absolute goal. It’s the McCarthyism of our times, but from both sides at once.
   What both sides fail to realize is that growth is not bad or good, it simply is.
What I mean by that is that people are moving here because of our quality of life. That’s why we live here. That’s why the first peoples populated this area thousands of years ago. This beautiful and bountiful land draws people to it.
   These people need places to live, schools to attend, jobs to go to, and places to recreate. But they also need to have the natural beauty of this place preserved, lest we all lose the very thing that has brought us to this place.
   If we treat growth not as a noun, a concept upon which we can apply the adjectives of our choice to achieve our ends, but rather as a verb, an action that requires a response, I believe we can not only find common ground, but we can also help address the problems that if left unchecked, will harm our quality of life.
   It’s no different than the concept of time management. If we address everything in our work lives at the last minute, we will always be in crisis mode, concentrating on the issue that must be completed today and ignoring the rest of the things we must do.
   We become inefficient, we allow seemingly minor things to drop through the cracks, and we lose sight of the goal.
   When we plan ahead, trying to use our time efficiently and keeping our eye on the big picture, we achieve positive results.
   And boy, could we use some positive results here.
   Let’s respond to growth in a way that solves the challenges it brings, and stop using it as a way of attacking those that don’t agree with us.
   Let’s work together to plan for our future.

Ken Oplinger is President and CEO of the Bellingham Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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