Perhaps more than has been the case in the past couple of decades, this election is arguably a watershed event for the Denver metro area.
It will occur against a backdrop of, among other things, significant population growth and density, gentrification of neighborhoods, rising crime rates, and the larger questions of climate change, and sustainable resource use.
Perhaps there is complacency by some who believe that the “train has left the station,” but the optimist in me believes that many voters want to see our leaders pay closer attention to the quality of life issues that are so apparent today.
Denver and most other portions of the metro area are failing when it comes to addressing these topics. Although numbers, say, crime statistics, can speak volumes, this is about much more than numbers. It is about the feeling that the area is on a course where the quality of life has diminished in perceptible ways. There is a clear drop off in civility, a declining trend in neighborhood togetherness, and unchecked antisocial behavior — to name a few items on a pretty long list.
Something is fundamentally wrong when governments push growth in the context of not even being able to take care of what we already have for such things as street maintenance, garbage pick-up, and lack of enforcement of quality of life regulations that have been on the books for years. All of this raises the question — what have we become?
Yes, we have more. More entertainment choices, more places to eat, more stores, more things. But we have less of the elements that truly make a city livable — the things that matter! If some readers think this is a misguided attempt to live in the past, they would be sorely mistaken. How many readers who might have that view have taken the time to talk to people who did not move here in, say, the past five years? How many understand what has been lost? The social fabric of the Denver metro area is frayed.
That brings me to the upcoming election.
In my view, any candidate who ignores the noted topics is not worthy of office.
Any candidate who supports growth just for the sake of growth is not focused on the things that matter. This is not a business where adding revenue translates into more profits. By and large, this is a metro area that cannot handle what it already has, so what is the point of adding more? Those who deserve to be in public office must address these fundamental questions. Is more less, or is less more? I suspect that many voters fall into the second category.
It is time for them to speak up.
Ben Palen, of Denver, is a fifth-generation farmer with deep experience in many facets of agriculture. He has been involved in projects around the United States, and in Africa and the Middle East. A focal point of his work is identifying sustainable approaches to the use of resources that go into food production.
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