My Sunday column – here – didn’t make any friends among neighborhood opponents of projects proposed in Fountaingrove and Oakmont. When I used developer Bill Gallaher’s complaint about the Santa Rosa city bureaucracy as a starting point for a broader commentary, people opposed to his projects weren’t going to listen to anything else I had to say.
Whatever the merits of Gallaher’s projects, it’s my view that the cities of Sonoma County can no longer afford the luxury of burdening every kind of economic activity with years of study, cost and delay. Our hometowns can no longer afford the old politics in which business and neighborhood groups engage in prolonged controversies, aided and abetted by government’s inclination to dither. Communities can say yes or they can say no, but in a reasonable amount of time, they need to get on with it.
The big projects attract all the attention and controversy, but it is the small businesses that suffer the most. They don’t get the headlines. They can’t afford consultants and lawyers. They just have to deal with all the rigamarole (fees, costly improvements, changing demands) that comes with doing business here. If you know someone who recently tried to start or expand a small business, ask him or her about the experience.
Small businesses create jobs, give back to the community, bring innovation and economic vitality to neighborhoods, pay taxes and provide insurance against vacant store fronts.
In these tough economic times, what could be more important?