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COMMUNITY VOICES: Is Littleton getting bigger in all the wrong ways?

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By Betty Harris

Does Littleton have an inferiority complex, or is that complex merely a reflection of some of the members of the city council? What is the purpose of spending $50,000 on a new logo and slogan when the council continues to complain about lack of revenue? Will a logo and slogan draw in more people? Will they pull in more customers and more revenue when masses of people have moved to shopping online because it is easier?

The council seems to think that Littleton’s retail doesn’t fit the needs of Littleton residents because now they are talking of annexing Southwest Plaza, a center that is going the same way that Southglenn Mall went some years back. The population changes and so do shopping habits, but when houses in Littleton are selling quickly and many of the new owners are upgrading them as witnessed by roll-offs in driveways all over town, those new owners want new appliances and eventually new furniture because their new house is larger and seems to want for more furniture. Where in the city of Littleton is there a furniture store or an appliance store? We recently had to go to Denver to buy a new dishwasher but have heard from others that they ordered theirs online. What is the real future of retail?

Are people buying houses and fixing them up because of a new slogan and logo that looks like a cigarette? With all the marijuana establishments popping up all over the place, maybe the logo should be turned on its side with the flames or smoke shooting up and be placed on an ashtray, and the new slogan can be “keep of the grass.”

If Littleton annexes an aging shopping center and ends up subsidizing retail, which will be larger, the city or its expenses? If the city takes over an aging shopping center, what will it cost? Who is running the numbers? Is it good to assume that we can “turn a profit” with this annexation? Why not annex all of unincorporated Littleton? What would that cost? The city would then be anything but little, but would it be better off? What would it cost the city to provide services for all the people who live in unincorporated Littleton? How many people would that be? What would be the cost of dealing with two different counties? If all retail is doing badly because too many people are shopping online, then how will it benefit the city’s coffers to take on many more people in need of services? Where is this all heading? Does anyone know?

But let’s talk trash. According to the City Council’s Debbie Brinkman, Littleton needs a cash cow, and what is being discussed is having Littleton get into the trash-hauling business. So, according to this plan, the city would compete with existing, experienced trash service companies that know what they are doing. Putting small trash businesses out of business so the city can have a cash cow as a means of getting revenue that the council thinks is needed is not a solution. Perhaps it’s time to move into the 21st century with revenue generation and charge sales tax on Internet purchases. Perhaps have that sales tax rate be higher than that charged by small businesses in town. It would be easy then to tell if lack of sales tax is the reason people buy online or if online sales simply save time and energy of humans and vehicles.

Most of us would like to keep our fine city the size it is. Annexing aging shopping centers and going into the trash-removal business might not offset the expenses of doing both; most likely it would not. What this city needs is more jobs and more good-paying jobs but we are not attracting those kinds of jobs into our city for some reason. Perhaps this is because the council has focused on approving more high-density apartments rather than what the current population needs and wants. Maybe instead of trying to get our older residents to sell and move into apartments the city should work toward luring more developers who will focus on providing the kinds of housing that seniors will want when they are ready to leave their houses. Maybe they should focus on mixed-use development that will actually improve life for the city’s current residents rather than focusing on an imaginary shortage of apartments for generation Y, who can’t afford houses and cars because there is a shortage of good-paying jobs in town. At some point we need to stop spending money on logos and start spending money providing what our current residents need and will need in the next 10 to 20 years. Maybe we should stop looking at our navels and start using our minds.

It seems that Littleton must have an inferiority complex. First we spend $50,000 on a new slogan that says “anything but little.” Then we hear that we are trying to annex an aging shopping center that needs a remodel so we can get involved on subsidizing retail. So we can get larger. And we have no idea of how much that will cost. And now the city is exploring getting into its own trash business. And they have no idea of how that business works or how much that costs.

Before getting into a business to compete with already-existing national trash service companies you should know what it takes — landfill sites, distribution network, recycling center, trucks, service and repair locations, driver unions, street repairs. We already have a fine city. It is already served by several trash companies, large and small. Why would we want to compete with these companies and take away their business?

We all want a fine city. Getting into other businesses may be anything but little, but it certainly does not make us better. Let’s just get better at what government should be doing instead of studying other businesses that should not be the business of government.