This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, February 1, 1995

February 1, 1995 - concurrency management

Lately the issue of "growth" has become especially controversial, most particularly in the Parker area. By "especially controversial," I mean that people have stopped listening to each other. Growth is becoming an absolutist discussion: you're for it or you're against it.

This hardening of the attitudes isn't unusual. For instance: at the library, anti-abortion people come in and check out materials that are uncompromisingly opposed to abortion. Pro-choice people check out books that unstintingly support the right of a woman to control her own body.

The interesting thing, to me, is that they never read EACH OTHER'S books. They read only what they already agree with. It's a little like two tribes who once shared a common language, but bit by bit, through isolation and hostility, find that they no longer have any words in common. As a result, they can't talk to each other. All they can do is grunt, shout, and throw things.

Almost a year ago, Cindy Murphy (Development Coordinator for the library) and I talked about putting together a "quality of life index" to be published in the paper on a regular basis. This index would include a sampling of some "key indicators" gathered from around the county. Some of these things might seem self-serving: the number of items owned by the library, for instance, or the number of square feet of library space. (I do believe, however, that these two numbers have a lot to do with the quality of life of MY family, and I'm not that unusual.)

But the purpose really wasn't just to promote the library. There are all kinds of other key indicators that might clearly delineate our "quality of life":

* the student-teacher ratio in public schools

* the number of miles the average Douglas County resident has to travel to find a swingset or a soccer field

* the density of automobiles on a given mile of I-25

* the percentage of dust and other particulates in the air

* the percentage of regular church or synagogue attendance

* the dollar sales of fresh produce as a percentage of total grocery expenditures

* the number of television stations, video stores, or movie theaters in the county

and so on. In fact, it gets to be kind of fun thinking up all the things that do determine how good you think life is in Douglas County.

What I like about this exercise is that it strives to establish that COMMON VOCABULARY I talked about, without which none of us can understand each another.

In many respects, the county's proposed Concurrency Management program does exactly that. It gives all of us a way to identify the levels of services that matter to us, then put some numbers to them.

The "numbers" are specific standards of service. For instance, it is the GOAL of the library to own 4 items per capita. But we have only managed to ACHIEVE 2.5 items per capita and aren't likely to significantly change that in the near future. In other words, our STANDARD is 2.5 items per capita.

If increased development results in a precipitous decline in the level of service available to Douglas County residents (whether it be libraries or something else), then the Concurrency Management program gives service providers AND developers a way to talk about it.

Has the service provider made a responsible attempt to anticipate growth in planned areas? If so, and the problem still exists, can the developer either phase in a project, or seek to offset the measurable drop of services?

This approach does several things. Instead of just making a lot of cross-accusations, it holds both sides to some responsibilities that are clear, laid out in black and white, and pointed toward holding on to the things that matter to us. It also makes them partners toward a joint goal: a place where people want to live.

One thing is clear: if we CAN'T talk to each other, we're not going to be able to solve our problems. When it comes to growth, "Concurrency Management" is the right place to start.

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