In Saturday’s opinion piece, you suggested that it was elitist for Langley residents to expect their government to be concerned about growth. This is both remarkable and disconcerting. A government that responds to its residents’ desires is not elitist; it is democratic. It is far more elitist to have a government, and local newspaper, that is captured by local economic elites and ignores the preferences of its constituents.
There are two issues here: growth, and government capture. With regard to the first, there are real limits to growth on any island. Our future growth is limited by at least two scarce resources: fresh water and ferry capacity. Encouraging additional growth without considering its effect on these scarce resources prioritizes short-term economic interests at the expense of long-term sustainability.
The second issue, government capture, is related to the first. I, for one, am tired of subsidizing the Langley retail core, which has captured our city’s government. For over a decade, the city has thrown piles of money to help Langley’s store owners. Our taxes paid for the costly remodeling of downtown streets and sidewalks, and the city’s mismanagement of these projects has drained our infrastructure funds to pay for the resulting cost-overruns.
Consequently, we are told that Langley has no money left for necessary infrastructure updates and repair, necessitating the recent $4-million bond measure. Now the city and your newspaper want local residents to subsidize the wage bill of Langley business owners, by underwriting the cost of their employees’ housing. Give us a break! The appropriate response to insufficient wages in Langley is to get business owners to pay greater wages — not ask the rest of the community to bail them out again.
If the city is serious about affordable housing, it needs to work harder to attract better paying jobs. This should be job number one. In addition, the city might consider buying a slice of property, building our own public housing facility, and managing it in a way that is fiscally sustainable. This means limiting, not expanding, the tax burden and utility fees associated with living in Langley.
Remarkably, neither option seems to be a subject of discussion. The current effort to generate affordable housing by taxing residents and increasing utility rates, in an effort to stimulate new housing construction, is unsustainable, costly, and elitist. Worse, it will not help the underpaid workers in downtown Langley.