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Today's word on journalism

Friday, September 1, 2006

"[F]ew things are as much a part of our lives as the news. With the advent of sophisticated mass communication, the news has become a sort
of instant historical record of the pace, progress, problems, and the hopes of society. On the other hand--and here's the puzzle -- the news provides, at best, a superficial and distorted image of society. . . . The puzzle, simply put, is this: How can anything so superficial be so central to our lives?"

--W. Lance Bennett, political science professor, 1988

Providence residents divided over growth issues

By Taylor Scott

May 2, 2006 | PROVIDENCE -- After the close election between Mayor Randy Simmons and Clint Thompson, the residents of Providence have been divided on issues, particularly growth and land development.

For the past several months at City Council meetings, public comment has been allowed.  These 20-minute sessions, which allow the residents of Providence to vocalize opinions, have been filled with citizens commenting about land use and development. As these plans become increasingly actualized the public comment sessions have been terminated, but the citizens have not let this stop them from making their voices heard.

"There is a set of people who've organized based on the last mayoral election who were supporting my opponent and who are opposed to growth of any kind. There are some others who are slow 'growthers' who get pulled in a bit, but the core set of people are those who just want to stop growth.  They are well organized and well funded," said Simmons.

"There are two people who have lot of money and they are just willing to say I'm going to take my expendable money and spend it on hiring attorneys," said Simmons. "Their strategies range from lawsuits to actual intimidation of the city council by sending their lawyer, to attempting to do a citizen petition to oppose land use decisions."

Simmons said he was not trying to get in the way of growth and whatever market forces that are operating should continue, however, he was not looking to subsidize growth in any way either

Simmons said he believes all city council members excluding Kathy Baker are in favor of development in Providence. 

After confirming this, Baker said it was because Providence is "growing faster than other communities in the valley and we're having a hard time keeping up with the infrastructure.  I'd like it to be slower."  Baker had no comment when asked whether she supported the mayor.

Skarlet Bankhead, city administrator, said the slow growth and no growth residents are concerned mainly about open space and the preservation of Providence's character.  The council's main concern is with defining Providence's character and once that definition forms, the council will plan so  "people can still have their homes and we can still have new growth, but that it can be done in a way that minimizes sprawl and creates areas of either publicly or privately owned open space," said Bankhead.

The next issue according to Bankhead is water availability.  Those in favor of slow growth and no growth don't believe that the information the city has on the water supply is correct, she said.  They feel that their information is more correct than the city's. "There are some people that are worried that Providence may not have the source water capacity." 

Bankhead said the council is continually looking into the infrastructure plans and Providence is still on track according to the numbers.

"The issue of water is quite important and the issue of more people moving into the city and preserving the open look of the city and yet watching it fill up with homes is difficult for some people to accept," Bankhead said. "There definitely are concerns about the amount of growth that we are experiencing.  Most people will say they aren't anti-growth, they just think it needs to be managed differently than how we are doing it."

One thing agreed upon by most residents is that growth is inevitable.

Baker, who is in favor of a slower growth rate said, "It is hard to have a viable city that is totally static; things change.  It is very hard to be economically feasible if you don't have some change and some growth.  I just don't like to see it running away with everything."

Simmons said Providence is going to develop and there is nothing that can be done to encourage or discourage that.  Simmons said people will no longer be able to build buildings wildly out of character with the style of Providence. 

Bankhead said these issues are ongoing and long-term but for now a balance needs to be found.


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