East Valley Tribune readers got a chance to learn more, in a week-long series of articles, about their new neighbors in the fastest growing part of our community. And although the breakneck growth is a bit unnerving to even those among us who benefit from this economic engine, it‘s hard not to welcome the good folks moving here.
One can nit-pick the demographics — predominantly white and middle to upper middle class may not be viewed as "diverse" enough by some — but we see nothing wrong with the values and dreams we found most of these households bring with them. In short, they possess traditional American values and it’s the quintessential American Dream that they pursue.
It’s not mysterious, and it’s not necessarily politically correct. Many are young families with children moving to a place they view as more promising and supportive of young families. They find spacious, attractive homes on ample-sized lots at reasonable prices, good schools, plenty of parks, terrific weather most of the year, moderate taxes and a political system that generally favors individualism over big government.
Come to think of it, those are pretty much the same things that brought a lot of us to the East Valley. They’re qualities championed by our best-known statesman, Barry Goldwater, and we hope they never go out of style.
But like many good things, there are limits to Arizona’s bounty. The current drought has brought that home. Even with the engineering marvel known as the Central Arizona Project, which brings Colorado River water to our Valley, we are learning that unrestrained growth is simply unsustainable.
What to do? Well, the last thing we should do is follow the sorry example of California and ratchet up taxes and regulations to the breaking point. But embracing a policy of ensuring that growth fully pays for itself makes good sense.
East Valley cities have made progress in that regard in recent years by enacting development impact fees that ensure new home buyers pay more of the costs associated with growth, such as extending streets and utilities and building new parks and libraries.
But East Valley growth still does not fully pay its own way. Not by a long shot. We all pay taxes to build more streets and freeways, and to extend bus routes to accommodate newcomers.
Many East Valley thoroughfares are falling into disrepair because of scarce tax dollars and going to pave streets in newer areas. And state as well as local school taxes are largely being used to build new schools in fast-growing areas.
We see no need to slam the brakes on East Valley growth — or to make newer areas "exclusive" by artificially driving up prices. But making growth fully pay for itself is just good public policy, mainly because it stops existing residents from subsidizing growth that many view as a mixed blessing — or worse.
East Valley cities should reexamine their development impact fees to make sure they are adequate to fund expansion of all municipal infrastructure and services. And the state Legislature should do the same, particularly with respect to education and water. While new-school construction is paid for out of the state’s General Fund, there is no requirement in state law that the families moving into those newer neighborhoods pick up a proportionate share of the financial burden that they are creating.
The East Valley can and should continue as a land of promise and opportunity for those seeking a better life. But there’s nothing unreasonable — or un-American — about expecting people to pay their own way.