THE SECOND ANNUAL RETRO ISSUE
I have always had the strange sensation that I was the pilot of a B-17
Flying Fortress during World War II and that my plane was shot down
over Germany on a daylight bombing raid. Beyond that, I'm convinced
that on the night before my fatal mission, I met the woman of my dreams
in a pub in London and that she wore a red dress and that our eyes met
and instantly connected while Glenn Miller's "Serenade in Blue"
played on the juke box. I never hear that melancholy song without thinking
of the woman I met briefly in a previous life. I can almost see
make something like this up.
has felt oddly familiar putting this issue together and I can't really
explain it. Recently, I did an internet search for old news broadcasts
from the early days of radio. I found a site that offered just what
I was looking for, and thanks to A.C. Griffin, "Griff" to
his friends and customers, I now own 34 hours of audio tape from the
original CBS coverage of June 6, 1944--D-Day. It is a remarkable historical
document, anchored in the early hours of the invasion by Robert Trout,
the veteran Columbia newsman who died just recently at the age of 91.
The tapes reflect, in a very real way, how much the world has changed
in 55 years.
ways, America insisted on wearing blinders in those crisis years. Social
injustice and bigotry were not just common--they were almost fashionable.
We waged a world war against the racist philosophy of Nazi Germany;
yet some of our own soldiers could not come home and buy a cup of coffee
in any establishment that posted the sign: WHITES ONLY.
a conflicted time. But it was also a simpler time, especially in those
days just before the war. A few years ago, I was hiking in the badland
country south of Hanksville and came across an inscription, left by
a cowboy probably.
my eye was the date: December 6, 1941. What this cowboy was doing
in the high desert country on that cold and blustery Saturday is long
forgotten by now. But whoever he was, the date he left behind had more
significance than he could have known.
day, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and thrust America into the
war. Everything that has happened to us since then goes back to that
Sunday morning in the Pacific. It was one of those watershed moments
in history where one era closes and another begins. Even here in what
was the most isolated section in the United States, the race
to build the atomic bomb before Hitler's scientists could annihilate
us, eventually led to the uranium boom, a rush of people to southern
Utah, and the eventual construction of thousands of miles of roads and
jeep trails. Where would recreationists be today without Tojo, Hitler
and J. Robert Oppenheimer?
the cowboy was that sat in that alcove and scratched his initials on
a rock looked out over the same land that I saw almost 60 years later.
But to see it and feel it the way he did, I really had to squint.
HOW 'CLOUDROCK' COULD
RAISE YOUR TAXES
the Cloudrock development was first introduced to the citizens of Grand
County, its promoters have been trying to convince us that the ultra-high
end luxury lodge/condo/home project will add needed revenues to our
tax base. Some of its proponents have even suggested, and some of us
have even believed, that Cloudrock will ease our tax burden--that
the mostly absentee residents will gladly assume the lion's share of
property taxes and make our lives easier and more affordable in Grand
County and Moab.
is simply not true and history proves it. Never, in any development
of this scale, has the project actually reduced the tax burden of the
community's full-time citizens. Just the opposite is true. Taxes have
increased dramatically. And that is exactly what will happen here if
Cloudrock is approved.
in which those taxes increase, however, will not result from a vote
by the governing bodies of our county or some sudden reassessment of
our land. The increase will come from actions taken by its own residents.
Here's what I think could happen...
developer is saying that building lots for homesites will start at $600,000.
These homesites are just up the hill from existing homes and privately
owned acreage in Spanish Valley. Inevitably, it will take just one
property owner out there to start comparing relative market values.
say to himself, "Ok...if Cloudrock land sells for $600,000, mine
has to be worth at least $400,000." So this one solitary Spanish
Valley resident lists his ranchette, puts up a sign, and sits back to
wait. After all, he's in no hurry. He's under no pressure to sell the
property immediately--he can last as long as he needs to for the right
customer to come along.
Realtors will shake
their heads and privately question the sanity of the seller, because
they're convinced that the property is seriously over-priced. The property
may sit for a year. Maybe two years. But inevitably, a visitor from
New York or Los Angeles or Aspen--wherever--someone will discover the
'for sale' sign, think it's a good deal or a good investment or a fun
way to spend their pocket money on a Monday morning and will sign on
the dotted line.
that moment, every nearby landowner will assume that his property
has a comparable value. And then we'll begin to see real estate prices
escalate all across and up and down the valley. When that happens, that
is when we'll see the County Assessor out there with a calculator, reevaluating
land values and taxes will start to climb accordingly.
saying here isn't idle speculation; this is exactly what happened
on my own street over the last 15 years, albeit on a smaller scale.
More than once I've mentioned my good fortune when I bought a small
home here that I could actually afford in 1985. But when out-of-staters
began to speculate in the Moab housing market, prices began to climb
and by the beginning of the last decade, my fellow property owners and
I figured our homes were worth maybe $35,000.
day, a 'FOR SALE' sign went up, just a few doors from me, and I learned
that the absentee-seller wanted close to $70,000. We all thought that
was pretty funny and the house sat vacant for months and months. But
finally, the 'SOLD' sign went up, the seller got his asking price, or
close to it, and the price of real estate on Locust Lane almost doubled.
what can happen again, on a scale far greater than anything we've seen
so far...and we've seen a lot in the last ten years.
the generosity and benevolence of potential Cloudrock taxpayers, human
nature tells us that people want a return on their investment. Their
tax liability will never go into some massive tax surplus fund, to be
used exclusively for worthy projects like affordable housing and improved
education. If Cloudrock residents pay millions of dollars into the Grand
County tax base, they will expect and demand improved county services--services
that will directly benefit them.
demand that Spanish Valley Drive be improved and widened and re-paved
and curbed and guttered.
demand improved fire protection.
the developer claims that crime will not be a problem up there (apparently
rich people are more honest), you can be sure that ultimately there
will be a demand for more law enforcement protection.
time passes, who knows what demands might be made? Cloudrock residents
may come to the conclusion that driving 25 miles to the county airport
is an imposition that they will not tolerate, considering the huge investment
they have in the county, and will demand a new airport, closer to their
homes. They may even start negotiating with SITLA again for more state
residents will demand more than just improved services, they will want
to change the way we live. And the first thing to go will be Moab's
'Beloved Junk,' so prominently featured in the last Zephyr. There will
be a demand for tighter zoning, restrictions on property maintenance,
limitations or bans on animals. The list will be unending.
will that leave us? The upside is that, if we want to move, we'll probably
get a damn good price for our homes. But if we've lived here for years,
or decades, or for all our lives--and if we want to stay--it will become
increasingly difficult to afford it. And ultimately prohibitive.
community has some serious choices ahead. But the decisions we make
must be based upon the Truth. And on Reality. And NOT on a sales pitch
from a developer who wants to fulfill his lifetime dream at our expense.
'PROMOTING' MOAB...A never-ending saga
following the most recent efforts by some local citizens to "promote"
Moab. It's a story that has repeated itself for the last 65 years. This
Second Annual Retro Issue is dedicated to the 1940s, and as you follow
the events of that decade, it's apparent that Moab tourist boosters
have been around for a long, long time.
now, there is a sense of desperation in the voices of some of these
boosters. They are concerned that we are not promoting the area enough,
and that business is suffering as a result. In the last several months,
I've read a few letters to the Times-Independent with that near
hysterical plea to pump more and more money into the Travel Council
budget and to take tourist promotion to new levels.
HAVE MORE TOURISTS TO SURVIVE!!!
Reality Time. With the commercial infrastructure of this town growing
at a rate much faster than the visitation increases, what could we possibly
expect? How thin can you slice the pie before everyone starves?
what is the response? "WE NEED MORE PROMOTION!" Of course.
The never-ending spiral. We promote the area. Visitation increases.
New businesses come in until we have more businesses than can really
be supported by the current level of tourist visitation, and profits
start to fall. The demand goes out for more promotion and visitation
shoots up again. More new businesses come to town. The slices of pie
shrink yet again, and the call goes out for more promotion. Et cetera...Et
that almost seven years ago.
same issue, I printed a letter that was sent anonymously to many Moab
businesses, urging them to demand more tourist promotion. In part, the
letter said, "Grand County must not give the impression that we
do not want tourists. We need to be able to pay our bills and put food
on our and our employees' tables."
Unknown Letter Writer said this, "We have experienced enormous
growth and the solutions to the problems associated with the influx
of people will take care of themselves (emphasis added)."
this rhetoric, mine and theirs, came in the summer of 1994. Calculate
how many more thousands of people come here annually. Then take note
of how many new motels, restaurants, and curio shops have come to Moab
in seven years. More motels are on the way, even as I write this. I
recently heard that the Spanish Valley Water Conservancy District wants
to extend its service area all the way north to Seven Mile Canyon
and the Dead Horse Point Road, so that some entrepreneur can build even
more motels out there. And then add Cloudrock into the mix.
I'm sure I'll get tagged with the old "Anti-Growth" label,
but is it anti-growth simply to want the existing local businesses to
survive and flourish? Communities like ours can experience two types
of growth: Internal and External.
Growth requires the never-ending influx of new businesses to an economic
area and generally these businesses merely compete with businesses of
the same kind that are already there. Motels? Fast food chains? Souvenir
ball caps? How many more of these tourist-driven businesses will be
needed to satisfy the voracious, bottomless appetites of pro-growth
doesn't this town focus more on internal growth? Why doesn't
the Chamber of Commerce or Pro-Moab support the growth and expansion
of already established businesses? If the Chamber really wanted to be
effective, it should advertise the idea that if out-of-town businesses
want to come here, they should at least offer us something we don't
the coffee shops in Moab. Right now they're all independently owned
and operated and struggling to survive as it is. So do we want to boost
our tourism to such levels that we finally meet the demographic requirements
for a Starbuck's? What will that do to Red Rock Bakery and the Knave
of Hearts and Mondo and Eklectica and the others? Is the purpose of
tourist promotion to drive out the small businesses and replace them
with national chains?
hope not. But that seems to be where we're headed.
I DETECT A PULSE!
always been my opinion that this town can move mountains when it wants
to, but that we rarely feel inspired enough to try. Recently, I even
narrowed the focus of my wrath to the "under 30" population
in this community and asked sarcastically, if any of you cared about
anything beyond cappucinos and rock climbing.
I am happy
to announce that in the last month, I have been shamed by that very
demographic group beyond my wildest dreams. As opposition to Cloudrock
grows, it is important to note that many of the most vocal leaders of
the opposition are young Moabites who have moved here in the last few
years and who are devoted to preserving the character and diverse quality
of life in Grand County.
Moab's latest, and perhaps most crucial, controversy plays out, it is
heartening to see such passion and conviction from a growing number
of citizens who are not willing to just sit back and let their fate
be determined without their participation. The December 6 meeting of
the Grand County Planning and Zoning Commission should have at least
sent that message to our elected officials. I haven't seen a
turnout like that at a public meeting in a decade.
On a personal
note, I'd like to thank all of you who have decided to get involved
in this issue. And to Molly, Matt, Mark, Howard, Kilie and the other
"young" locals who have already devoted so much of their time
to fighting for their town, thanks for making a liar out of me. Keep
up the good work.
STANDARD RETRO ISSUE DISCLAIMER
of you know, this issue of The Zephyr is printed before Christmas,
but does not reach newsstands until late January. This allows the publisher
and writers to screw off even more than they usually do. So...if local,
state, national, or world events occur between press day and distribution
day that render all or parts of this issue irrelevant, tasteless, or
just plain wrong, we apologize.