Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics


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Portland has long been a magnet for artists. But, with the rise of telecommuting, more millennials and young families have flocked to the southeast coast of Maine. People are coming to Portland and bringing their work with them. We see a lot of that. It has drastically changed the vibe and face of the city, which boasts a population of 66, the greater metro area totals nearly , The vision for 58 Fore Street is a reflection of that. The city has always had a bustling downtown with good restaurants and art galleries, but now a younger generation is seeking more density in a city that lacks it.

But it can feel more personal in small towns, where you are likely to run into your development foe at the grocery store and even more likely to see them at parent-teacher conferences, or when you take out your trash. And, as political arguments are wont to do these days, it spilled over onto Facebook.

Soul of Portland, the opposition group composed of mostly longtime residents afraid of losing their views of the ocean, took some heat.

Soul of Portland, who, in various op-eds in local papers have maintained they are not anti-development, did not reply to multiple requests for comment. As more people decide they want the open space and charm of a small town without having to sacrifice the hip restaurants, decent espresso and lively streets of a bigger city, the affordability that made places like Traverse City a dream town in the first place has begun to fade.

Urbanization has been good for business — more hotels and bars mean more jobs — but now these former backwoods gems are starting to grapple with the same issues facing urban centers around the world. How do you foster smart growth in a city center without pushing the workforce to the fringes? Just as in Brooklyn or Detroit, the bigger and more pressing issue is not necessarily more density but the type of density.

Specifically: the rise of the luxury condo. The luxury condo market in downtown Traverse City is downright bonkers. And people are buying them — 83 condos sold in , up from 67 in The same way that lower-income New Yorkers are consistently priced deeper and deeper into the outer boroughs, residents of Traverse City, Portland and Breckenridge are moving farther and farther from where they work and racking up hefty gas bills — and plenty of carbon emissions — as a result.

And the demand for affordable housing close to town is very real. In late January, a new affordable housing complex with 72 units and a separate complex with rehabbed units opened a short drive from the city center. You integrate them.


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In , lawmakers in Breckenridge sensing a looming affordability crisis implemented a deed-restricted workforce housing program occupants must work in Breckenridge that has created affordable units — owner occupied, rentals — since its inception. And though it might be a small town, there are 76 restaurants and bars, shops, and hotels, inns and bed-and-breakfasts. Simply put: The city relies almost exclusively on the service industry.

I am a perfect example. I live in a market-rate home because I built my house in and was therefore able to afford my home. When I leave the community my house will not be affordable to the next local planner. So, where does that next town planner live? Our hope is that the units we are building will help us replace the market units we are losing and we can stay even.

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Breckenridge is in the process of building an additional deed-restricted rental units. The affordable housing program is a boon for local residents, but Breckenridge is still facing a housing crunch. Breckenridge native and restaurant worker Jenna Sheely felt it firsthand. After growing up in Summit County, she moved away for college and then lived in Crested Butte shortly after graduation.

She moved back to Breckenridge four years ago with her boyfriend. When they started looking at both renting and buying last spring, they were overwhelmed — everything, it seemed, was over budget. Then we started looking to buy and that was totally unreasonable. Then, they hit the equivalent of the Breckenridge Powerball: A deed-restricted home came up for sale. So now we own a deed-restricted house. The exact origins of deed-restricted workforce housing in America are unclear.

The specific rules vary from city to city, but the standards are the same: You must be employed locally to inhabit one of these homes some of them have income caps. Deed restriction has been most effective and most prevalent in mountain towns. Park City, Utah, has an ambitious deed-restricted housing program that will expand from units to over the next five years. Aspen, Boulder and Vail all have varying amounts and types of deed-restricted housing stock for their local workforce.

When I asked Mayor Carruthers if there was a willingness in Traverse City to explore policy tools — like, say, deed restriction — in an effort to address some of the affordable housing woes, he did not mince words.

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Teachers and bartenders and hotel workers are all in the same boat. But Breckenridge implemented its deed-restricted housing program in Laurie Best says Breckenridge was experiencing similar growing pains and fears when it ramped up deed restriction way back in And when I asked her if she felt like Breckenridge was smart to implement the deed restricted policy years ago given the current climate she did not hesitate. Very difficult to rebuild community once workforce and families have left.

And the consensus is simple: People, right or wrong, are often afraid of change. But cities and towns, no matter their size or economies, are dynamic entities; without movement, they die. Matson, a vocal supporter for smart growth in Traverse City, has witnessed the venomous debate about change firsthand. One thing he noticed?

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It is without substance. Everyone — developers, lawmakers and opposition — can agree on that. Every time I return to Traverse City something has changed. A new bar, freshly painted bike lanes, a boutique hotel, my favorite secret beach spot somehow discovered and suspiciously crowded. Traverse City! Batali summers there, right? Delta even offers direct flights from LaGuardia during the summer. With that popularity, increased population and a burgeoning economy comes a civic responsibility to the current and future residents. Ultimately, the town voted for relocation, the federal government provided some funds and most of the principals in the story moved on.

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Hometown: A Saga of Small Town Politics

But not all: About a dozen resolute folk remain, while tongues of fire continue to lick below. First-rate research and journalism combine to tell a sad, often infuriating tale. The fire continued to simmer but apparently posed no threat to the townspeople whose homes and recreation areas sat on the ground above the mine shaft.

Then in , a year-old boy was sucked through the weakened ground in his backyard into a muddy, steaming cauldron, barely escaping alive.

When investigation revealed the full extent of the danger, the town and its residents were launched on a long, frustrating odyssey that drew in federal and state governments, the national media, hordes of attorneys, and large corporations. Quigley, the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Centralia miners, is a former business reporter for the Miami Herald. In her engrossing saga, government agencies at both the federal and state levels are shown as irresponsible and craven, and the greed of corporations is sickening.

But the townspeople, striving for economic justice while clinging to the hope of saving their threatened community, wear the mantle of nobility. It involves individual, family and town histories. If it were strictly about the fire and its politics -- i.

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This is an extraordinary book. It is a requiem for the destruction of her coal-mining hometown and an indictment of the corporate and political leaders who let that tragedy happen. It's all here; made in America. You'll feel enraged to know the truth of what happened in our mountains and proud of your fellow Americans who took on Goliath.

Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics
Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics
Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics
Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics
Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics Hometown : A Saga of Small Town Politics

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