Opinion Columns & Blogs

Editorial: Chamber, Peters use straw-man argument on suburbs

Susan Peters, chairwoman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, set up the annual “State of Sacramento Forum” hosted by the Sacramento Metro Chamber on Friday. The crux, she declared, was addressing “why suburbs deserve our continuing support as a legitimate lifestyle choice.” The crowd of 250 chuckled.

Just who is saying that suburbs are not a “legitimate lifestyle choice”?

Chamber president Roger Niello said we must “pay attention to the health and vitality of our suburbs because that’s where our citizens live.” Just who is saying that we should not “pay attention” to the region’s suburbs?

The whole event, orchestrated by Niello and Peters, with $15,000 in Sacramento County taxpayer money, set up a straw-man argument, attacked it and proclaimed victory. Suburbs rule!

Meanwhile, the real elephant in the room, the need to have thriving neighborhoods throughout the region – in the urban core, small cities and suburbs – got only lip service. For $15,000, we expected better.

We need a full range of choices for people, in different cycles of their lives, at different levels of affordability. Let’s have an honest dialogue about that.

The title of the event was “Suburbs: Popular and Politically Incorrect, The Importance of Having Prosperous and Livable Suburban Communities.” The speaker was Joel Kotkin, who has made a career out of controversy and self-promotion.

He delivered. His predictable one-sidedness came across in his renaming of the talk as “Is Suburbia the New Hell?”

He asserted that California is heading in the direction of “densifying,” that it is “not going to build any more suburbs.” He claimed California has declared a “war against suburbia,” that people are indoctrinated in schools, and the media follow this “party line.”

Kotkin alleged that California has taken “the economic view that we’re so creative and brilliant” that we don’t need manufacturing or an industrial base. In fact, he alleges that we’re “determined to wipe out what is left.”

This all makes for a lively talk, but it is a distorted, exaggerated view of what is happening in the state – and certainly not designed to engage people with differing views. A column Friday by Rancho Cordova City Councilman David Sanders focuses on what’s real and pressing, such as saving our older suburbs from decline.

Put on by an organization and a supervisor who supported the leapfrog Cordova Hills project, the Kotkin event came across as a thinly veiled campaign to push more far-flung suburbs and discredit the basic principles of the region’s Blueprint. It’s appalling that taxpayers in a cash-strapped county financed this sham.