From time to time our local paper carries stories on a small town's struggle to survive and build the local economy. Along with attracting outside businesses to move in, developing tourism, and promoting new local businesses, a measure often discussed as both a means and a goal is increasing population. While I would endorse the first three suggestions, for those who advocate the fourth I have a modest proposal. But first, some history.
My folks were from here, but when they married in 1936 they moved to California. I was born in Long Beach just before the war, which made me witness to the postwar southern California boom. I remember the southern California of my childhood as not a bad place to live. When Los Angeles was a small town like Wichita, the beautiful countryside was a short drive away. In the summer, my family could go to any of the hundreds of National Forest campgrounds in the mountains for free, and often we were the only ones around.
Fast forward fifty years, cram eight million people into the Los Angeles area, and you find me living back here in the place my parents left. When I hear people say they want to increase population here, I wonder if they want all the things that will bring. When you go to camp at the local lake for a few days, do you want to pay big fees and make reservations months in advance? Do you want freeways with coils of razor wire wrapped around the signs to keep the savages from climbing up and spray painting their stupid gang scribblings? Do you want a parking industry, backed up by local government parking enforcement, that rips you off for big dollars every time you get out of your car? Do you want fast food joints with pay toilets? Do you want parts of town where you had better have your car doors locked when you drive through them, even in the middle of the day? Do you want gas stations where the customers are not allowed to use the restrooms? Do you want drive-by shootings? Do you want to double the cost of your car insurance? Do you want to pay half a million dollars for a house you can now get for $50,000? Do you want to spend an hour to drive ten miles? I could go on. These are all real things I have seen and experienced. They are not made-up imaginings from some nightmare horror movie.
So for those of you who want a lot more people, here's my proposal. Think carefully about all the things I've described. If they sound attractive to you, I have good news. There are several places that fit my description. Pick one and go there.