By ROSS DAY
When it comes to politics, I have a number of rules I live by. These are little sayings – or “truisms” I suppose – that I use to guide my way down the complicated political path. My rules are simple to understand, usually accurate, and hopefully helpful.
“Always be the bearer of your own bad news.”
“Don’t get mad, don’t get even, just get ahead.”
“Never trust a guy with two first names.” (except, of course, our own state senator Larry George).
And this one “Beware of buzzwords.”
Unless you have been driving down River Road with your eyes closed (and if you have, you have bigger problems, to be sure) let me say two things: first, thanks for opening your eyes to read my column. Second, you have seen the liberal use of the buzzword “livable” all over town.
The signs read “Keep Keizer Livable.” Who doesn’t want to keep Keizer livable? What is the other option? Make Keizer unlivable? Isn’t the reason we all live here because we find Keizer to be livable? Curious.
I have spent the better half of the last ten years as a land use attorney. I have heard the term “livable” used probably thousands of times. And still, to this day, no one has been able to give me a satisfactory definition of the word “livable”.
The reason why there is no appropriate definition for the word “livable” is because what is livable to one Keizerite may not be livable to another. In other words, whether something is “livable” is in the eye of the beholder.
Consider this: you may want to put up a 20 foot wall between you and your neighbor’s house, that would make (in your opinion) your home – and therefore the city of Keizer in your eyes – livable. Your neighbor, on the other hand, might find a 20 foot wall a tad bit excessive and overbearing, turning Keizer, in his view, to the status of “unlivable.” Who is right?
In the current debate, if I understand it correctly, voting for the measure on the ballot will keep Keizer “livable.” If that is true, then the opposite must also be true: if Keizer allows so-called “big box” stores, that will suddenly make Keizer “unlivable,” forcing everyone to move out of town, leaving nothing but empty houses and broken dreams (well, maybe not broken dreams, but certainly empty houses).
Ergo, if “big box” stores make a community “unlivable,” that must mean that every community that has a “big box” store is unlivable. Which means that Salem – with three Wal-Marts, two Home Depots, a WinCo, a Lowe’s and a Costco must be one of the most “unlivable” cities in Oregon.
I get the claims that “big box” stores take business away from local businesses, especially those located along River Road. In response to that argument the free market champion in me comes out and asks: should government be protecting certain businesses at the expense of other businesses?
In other words, is it right for the government to pick winners and losers? And if so, where do you draw the line? Today we need to keep “big box” stores out of Keizer to keep Keizer “livable.” Tomorrow, some group may decide we need to get fast food restaurants out of Keizer in order to keep Keizer “livable.”
Next thing you know someone is going to suggest we get rid of all the attorneys in Keizer in the name of “livability”. (stop cheering!)
The point is, there has to be a better reason to support the “big box store ban” other than keeping Keizer “livable,” whatever that means.
Ross Day lives in Keizer.