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The Horror: Less Traffic

It's U.S. Census time, so it's time for the dailies to make broad prognostications in front-page stories on what the population numbers mean. This year, the numbers show slowed growth -- and the Sun-Sentinel took it the farthest, with their giant hand-wringing top-o'-the-fold headline: "Has The Luster Faded?"

Oh lord no, say it hasn't. I've always loved the luster. It's almost as great as the sheen. The Miami Herald was much more sedate, with a little bottom corner piece by Lisa Arthur, Tim Henderson and Roberto Santiago under the headline: "Broward's soaring costs have many leaving home." But the more telling piece on the page was a gloriously packaged story by Matthew Haggman titled "WANTING OUT." The article is about some buyers in new condo buildings trying to bail out of their contracts over technicalities since the units aren't going to be worth much of a damn. Very good piece, but the over-the-top play competes with the Sentinel for this week's Chicken Little Award.

Yes, those condo investors are in for a rough ride. And yes, growth is slowing down. So what's so wrong with that? The hilarious part of all of this is that if growth were still going at record rates the newspapers would publish similarly alarmist reports about the overcrowding of schools, potential water

shortages, infrastructure failures, transit deficiencies, etc. Put it this way, this place needs a bit of a break.

And it's still growing. Here's the key informative graph in the story (which is quite well-done, headline notwithstanding) by Ruth Morris and Alva James-Johnson in the Sentinel: "From 2005 to 2006, Broward lost 18,459 people to other counties and states, the data showed. But because 15,227 people came to Broward from outside the United States, and because of gains from births, the county still grew by 5,620 people."

That's right -- the place is still growing. And, like every place growing into a serious metropolitan area, it's going to get there on the backs of immigrants. That's the way it's works, like it or not. While disillusioned white folks move to Georgia and Tennessee to live sedate lives, immigrants are coming to fill the void, do the hard work, and keep the place vital. Antigone Barton conveys it well in the Palm Beach Post, quoting planning official Greg Vaday: "I wouldn't read anything sinister in it."

But even the Post comes from a "Growth Is God" point-of-view that is shared by all three newspapers. Why is that, when most people tend to agree that growth generally leads to a lowered quality of life and local elections have shown that voters want to keep growth and development to a minimum? Well, don't forget that these newspapers are some of the biggest businesses in the area -- and circulation numbers are falling. They're tied into the twisted dream of a population explosion as much as any greed-driven chamber of commerce board is. Pyramid schemes could collapse!

Bottom line (to borrow one of the Sentinel's favorite schticks): Don't trust them.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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