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EDITORIAL: Colorado exodus sets new record

By: The Gazette editorial board
December 6, 2017 Updated: December 6, 2017 at 11:14 am
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photo - Gazette file photo.
Gazette file photo. 

If Colorado were a business, the board of directors would meet this week to discuss a disturbing trend. They would talk about a reduction in growth of sales, as customers abandon the product for alternatives.

Colorado's business is people, and they are leaving in favor of other states.

"A record number of people are moving out of Colorado, according to new data from the U.S. Census bureau," explained an article Monday in ColoradoPolitics.com.

"About 193,000 Colorado residents moved to other states last year, 10,000 more than in 2015."

That's a substantial increase in dissatisfied customers.

The record-high numbers leaving caused the lowest net-migration in seven years, with 30,000 new residents in 2016.

This means Colorado's desirability may be on the decline.

The Denver Post reported fleeing residents are choosing Washington state, Arkansas, Nebraska, Idaho and Montana.

"They were driven away by rising housing prices, jobs that don't pay enough and traffic jams," the Post reported, after interviewing a spectrum of residents who recently left.

Throw in big commercial pot as one of the turnoffs.

"Older adults and natives complained about rising stress levels and a cultural coarsening, which some linked to the legalization of recreational marijuana five years ago," the Post reported.

Out-migration sounds like good news to established Coloradans, and understandably so. Growth means more competition for favorite fishing holes and campsites, in addition to more crowded streets and roads.

Population growth, however, indicates a state is desirable. It is a major indicator of a state's success. It is a key element of Colorado's famously stable economy. Like excessive demand for Fidget Spinners, demand in the form of population growth is mostly a good problem to have. States suffering the economic effects of population stagnation would gladly trade for our challenges.

Growth comes with need for constant adjustment. Our state's notoriously sustained traffic gridlock results from refusal by the political class to expand roads and highways. We have seen progress toward better roads of late, but it comes years too late.

Our lack of affordable housing relates directly to state and local policies that make homes difficult to build. The state's construction defects law has obstructed entry-level housing for years, though improvements were made in this year's legislative session.

If fleeing natives and baby boomers are complaining about pot, it is because our regulatory system is a joke. Law enforcement has no good means of addressing the rising number of traffic deaths involving drivers under the influence of marijuana, and illegal grow operations are competing with traditional businesses and residents for limited supplies of warehouses and rental homes.

State politicians have a responsibility to serve the needs of natives and newcomers alike. While they can do little about wage stagnation, they can and should address the concerns of residents fleeing traffic jams, a housing shortage and problems they associate with pot.

Nature made Colorado a top destination state, and that will never change. Growth can be a detriment, and it can be an asset.

Politicians, like shareholders in a business, should take note of the record number of residents leaving Colorado, and work quickly to address the concerns that drove them away. We need to manage growth, and not by neglecting problems that reduce Colorado's quality of life.

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