Constructing society

Mortar on a brick. Nail in a board. Shingle on a roof. Concrete for a floor. Gravel on the earth. A window pane. Driveway. Pipes. Boundaries. Sod. Carpet. Mailbox. Home.

Pictures on the wall. Raised panel doors. Neatly cut lawn. Fifty-two-inch TV. Sofa in the den. Tile on the floor. Cabinets. Refrigerator. Lamps. Vacuum. Toilet. Dresser. Computer.

Van to hull the kids. Pilates‎ during school hours. Soccer after. Dance on agenda.  Good grades and bad. Girls date boys. Church. Volunteer. Work. Daycare. Tired. Again.

Have we found a solution in our daily lives? How to live? How to remain calm and how to blow off steam? Have you found an outlet to focus on the one true thing you love?

Many at advanced ages still don’t know where their passion lies. They turn to Budweiser or bourbon.

But I can’t preach. I am one of the lucky ones who knew from the time I way seven years old what I wanted to do with my life. What I wanted to be, when I grew up.

I wanted to be involved in building things. As a kid, while other kids were batting balls and chasing the pigskin, I was playing subdivision. Making roads in the warm-clay dust, my hand creating streets. Bricks became the houses, weeds, to scale, looked like trees. I could spend hours designing developments, although the word development was not in my vocabulary – they were called subdivisions.

When I finished school I began a construction company and began replacing sidewalks in a town with 400 miles of them. The city marked the bad blocks and we replaced them, no competition. The contractor who won the bid for 400 miles of curb and gutter could care less about a little contractor replacing 4-by-4 foot sidewalk blocks as they moved along.

So when I ride down the street anywhere in Chesterfield, I wonder about sidewalks. Typically a bedroom community has no interest in pedestrians. But, Chesterfield’s 400 square miles is no longer a bedroom community. Some of us live only five-minutes from work and the huge farms of yesterday are mostly a sisterhood of cul-de-sacs.

What happens as a suburb turns urban? The suburb continues to grow further from the city, like the bulls’ eye on a liberal’s back, the city creeps into the suburban inner ring.

So the bedroom community that has, in the past, supplied workers to the industry of the city is now become the industry of the burbs.

But these Nuevo businesses are not quite industry, the industry of the city has turned lofts where our children live, and some of the best retail and restaurants have followed them there. So while our city becomes more European in concept ,the bedroom communities become wide highways and shopping malls and strip centers with acres of parking fronting them. By those in the world of planning, we would now be called an Exurb.

Chesterfield serves an exploding exurb of 316,000, where the rush of new roads and shops has almost, but not quite, caught up to the booming population.

“[Exurbs] begin as embryonic subdivisions of a few hundred homes at the far edge of the city, surrounded by scrub. Then, they grow – first gradually, but soon with explosive force – attracting stores, creating jobs and struggling to keep pace with the need for more schools, more roads, more everything. And eventually, when no more land is available and home prices have skyrocketed, the whole cycle starts again, another 15 minutes down the turnpike.”
—Rick Lyman, New York Times

The Exurbs, such as Chesterfield County also fight to keep up with services for its residents – services that include schools, public safety, parks, libraries and transportation.

The upcoming referenda and meals tax are evidence that real estate taxes are not keeping up, so the bonds and meals tax to pay the interest, is the only way to keep, at least, schools in a favorable condition. On the other hand, many who see the word tax, the third item on the ballot, in November, may shy away from voting for a tax, any tax, even though it’s just a couple of cents. Would citizens vote for a schools’ fund?

Is there a middle ground? A solution? How do we determine what is best for us. Maybe we turn to Budweiser and bourbon.


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