I had written a response to Sam Naujokas letter “Death of a small town” thinking that Mr. Naujokas was an older man who had grown up in Healdsburg. When I got an email from the Tribune’s editor, Kerrie Lindecker, that Sam is a fifteen year old high school student I was a little stunned. First of all I would like to say that Sam is an excellent writer way beyond his years. If all fifteen-year olds could write like this we wouldn’t be having the debates about how schools are failing our students. That said, since Sam entered this debate about Healdsburg’s future growth writing and thinking like an adult he deserves an adult response.
First of all this isn’t a zero sum game where winner takes all. It’s a matter of degree. For capitalism to work it requires growth and growth is progressive. Conservatives would like to see things revert to the past or at least stay the same. Whether we like it or not successful business,’ like healthy children, will grow because it’s the nature of things.
Although Healdsburg’s tourism industry has brought changes many locals feel that the positives of those changes far outweigh the negatives. The tourist dollar has upped the town’s tax base which has allowed for improved community services such as infrastructure; and park and rec activities. The vibrant vitality of the shops and services around downtown are the envy of many towns in California and across the nation. And it’s not just the tourists that reap the benefit of the creative merchandise that stocks our stores.
Tourists come and go. They are here to visit the wineries; sip wine at the tasting rooms; visit town shops; eat at local restaurants; and sleep in our hotels, motels and B&Bs. And then they leave. It’s no different than when the town swells for the Tuesday night Plaza concerts and then un-swells. Tourism is a clean industry and if you are into people watching sitting on a sidewalk bench on a weekend is like watching a fashion show go by. With the right outlook it’s a lot of fun.
Although we sometimes wonder our town council is not stupid. They have their finger on the pulse beat of the community and most people pay attention to Healdsburg’s civic activities. They just commissioned a study to see how many more hotel rooms would be required to meet the demand so now they have a benchmark. This study doesn’t mean that the town is going to allow that many new hotel rooms. You see, they too are concerned about the quality of life in Healdsburg.
The reason a lot of people have resented Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions is because they have come to town and tried to control the conversation about growth. They have insulted the people in this town who have worked years to shape the quality of our town working hard to include the entire community. To say that a couple of hundred responses to a survey represent a community of 12,000 people is insulting. Nobody disagrees that we need to have controlled growth but with HCSS one just gets feeling that they have a hidden agenda.
The housing issue is another problem that has no answer but to build more homes which HCSS opposes. The same thing happened to us who grew up in Marin County. We couldn’t afford to buy homes there and had to look north for more affordable housing. This problem is not unique to Healdsburg. Every desirable community on the West Coast of California is experiencing this lack of affordable housing. It has nothing to do with tourism. Healdsburg would be desirable with or without the tourist. Now if HCSS could contribute to finding a solution to the affordable housing problem maybe the community would be more supportive of them.
Sam wrote a wonderful letter. It bodes well for our society having young people as articulate as him. Just as the Common Core Standards requires students to look at math problems in more than one way, so does the planning of a community. And remember the only thing that never changes is the fact that everything changes.