Unconscious Hypocrisy

Over the weekend, I read a letter to the editor in the “local” paper (it’s mainly about St. George, but includes regional news and some stories about Cedar City). The writer was deeply concerned about the rapid and uncontrolled growth in St. George, and how the pleasant and friendly town had changed into a small city with traffic and rude drivers, growing air pollution, runaway building that would lead to water shortages, and other urban problems.

Then the writer went on to describe how the same process had occurred in the Los Angeles in which he’d grown up.

Now, the writer was totally accurate, possibly even understating how much St. George has grown in the past twenty years, but it didn’t even seem to occur to him that he represented the reason why St. George has grown so much. In both Cedar City and St. George, the “immigration” numbers from California are staggering.

When we moved here from New Hampshire twenty-eight years ago, the reasons were purely economic and professional – the only full-time job in her field that my wife could find (after massive cutbacks in the New Hampshire higher education system) was here. Writers are portable, female soprano opera directors not nearly so much. At that time, the move was far from ideal, but there weren’t any other feasible options. We bought an existing house [which we slowly spent twenty years repairing and upgrading] on a street where only one other family happened to be “immigrants” – and he was another academic from the east coast.

For the first fifteen years after we arrived, only three houses in the two block stretch in our area changed hands. Since then, more than half the homes have been sold, and every one of them, except possibly one, has been bought by a family from California, most of them retirees.

This is happening all across the southwestern corner of Utah. I understand why people want to leave California, particularly retirees who can sell homes in California for ridiculously inflated prices and buy a retirement house in Utah (often larger) for far less, but it does mystify me that those who come here don’t seem to understand that, when so many of them descend upon a largely rural and arid area, they’ve become part of the problem, particularly when a good percentage of them oppose local government controls on growth, but then complain about uncontrolled growth.

2 thoughts on “Unconscious Hypocrisy”

  1. Postagoras says:

    Well, you know, Americans as a group are exceptional. And individually, they’re the exception. To every rule.


  2. Trevin Matlock says:

    My wife and I are not quite to retirement age but we can see it. The ridiculous current valuation on our SoCal home had us looking at zillow listings all over the country to see if we could sell and plausibly retire early. Maybe we could. Maybe we will but it turns out we really like California and don’t want to move. But if these prices keep heading up we may end up your neighbors.

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