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Old 04-14-07, 10:21 PM
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Carlos Guerra: It's time to show how less growth means a more livable S.A. for all

Carlos Guerra: It's time to show how less growth means a more livable S.A. for all

Web Posted: 04/13/2007 11:00 PM CDT

San Antonio Express-News

Greeted by a bewitchingly cool breeze Friday as we left the restaurant after a business lunch, I said, "Wow, it sure has turned into a beautiful day."

"Well don't tell anybody," chuckled my colleague. "Some out-of-stater may hear you."

He was referring to my proposal that we organize the Lesser San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, a group dedicated to spreading true stories — and halfway believable lies — about San Antonio to discourage more people from moving here.

As late as 1940, no Texas city was populous enough to rank among the nation's 20 largest. By 1960, however, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio were the nation's seventh-, 14th- and 17th-largest cities. And the latest list ranks Houston fourth, San Antonio seventh, Dallas ninth, Austin 16th and Fort Worth 19th.

Several readers correctly pointed out that despite being the nation's seventh-largest city, San Antonio isn't among the nation's 20 largest media markets or largest standard metropolitan statistical areas.

Still, our population growth has been pretty significant, growing from 785,880 residents in 1980 to 1,256,509 in 2005.

Some growth is part of a national population shift that has depopulated East Coast and Midwest cities and created sprawl in warmer cities.

In 1900, 18 of the nation's 20 largest cities were in East Coast or Midwestern states. Today, 10 of the top 20 cities are in Southwestern states, and two more are in Florida. Clearly, people are moving to warmer states, where energy needs — and until now, energy costs — have also tended to be lower.

But another factor fueling our growth has been the urbanization that has depopulated isolated small towns as residents follow jobs to the larger cities.

San Antonio's growth has also been fueled by our large military presence, and by it being in the right place at the right time as NAFTA trade exploded.

And let's be clear: Growth isn't always a bad thing. What parent doesn't beam as a child grows into an adult? But who doesn't worry that a child might grow morbidly obese?

While many in our region have hungered — and actively worked — for the prosperity and cultural amenities that properly managed growth can bring, a growing number of area residents are now seeing the folly of uncontrolled growth and growth for growth's sake.

"The economic development we worked for for so long is a double-edged sword," observed Ed Einstein, one of the many readers that commented on Thursday's column.

"I have marveled at the hypocrisy of the local Chamber of Commerce that continuously seeks new growth while at the same time chastising locals for our water use," wrote Emmett Dawson, and another reader added another dimension: "My husband and I always wonder why politicians celebrate a new business that brings in, say, 500 new jobs. That is 1,000 more cars if the spouses drive, and 500 or more new kids in already overcrowded schools."

But most wrote to become members of the Lesser San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and to contribute their "true stories and halfway believable lies" to discourage more legal aliens from other states from moving here and further deteriorating our quality of life.

Given the heavy reader response, the (one-person) organizing committee of Lesser San Antonio has decided to limit membership to those who send true stories and lies, and to give special preference to funny ones.

Some really good ones have already arrived — many focusing on our weather and this area's many pests and critters — but we can always use more.

And like banks and other chambers, every Lesser San Antonio member will be made an officer, specifically, senior executive vice president for (fill in the blank). We considered making everyone a lieutenant colonel but decided that VP's are less common, though not by much.

So send us your stories and lies so we can start publishing them next week and can all get on the same page.

To contact Carlos Guerra, call (210) 250-3545 or e-mail [email protected]. His column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.


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