Truth: in 1000 words or less
by Steven A. Craig
Please Don’t Move Here
Seriously people, please stop moving to Denver. I know you’ve heard all that jargon from the Colorado tourist bureau that our weather is spectacular with 300 days of sunshine each year, more than San Diego or Miami. I know that our remarkably low unemployment numbers hovering just over 3 percent suggest a soaring job market laden with fresh career options. And heaven knows that I am aware of the beckoning yawp of the Rockies- the Siren call to a landscape full of unique, dynamic beauty and abounding recreational opportunities. But forget all that. It sucks here. Or at least that’s what I’m going to tell you if you are entertaining even passing fancies of moving here.
Fact is, we have enough people living here already. When I relocated here from Washington D.C. back in 1999, Denver looked quite different. Back then, the Denver metro area population numbered around 2.6 million people. Sure, Denver was a major city with its own urban issues, but compared to the congestion and crime I had come to accept as normal living in D.C., Denver seemed like an open oasis, a remarkably livable city with vast areas of open space in the foothills and mountains a shot drive West of the city. I loved it. I may have come too late to the party to ever get one of the coveted “Native” bumperstickers you see proudly displayed all over Colorado, but I knew I was going to be a lifer. I wasn’t leaving.
But since then, the Denver metro area’s population has grown more quickly and steadily than Pinocchio’s nose after his first day on the job as Trump’s press secretary. Now with a population of more than 3.1 million, Denver is officially the nation’s fastest growing large city. Since 2010 alone, the population has grown by more than 9.7%, ranking it 4th in the nation during that time span. And just this last year, Colorado grew by 1.68%, far outpacing the national average of .7% and placing the state 7th in growth nationally. Shoot, Denver itself adds 50 new residents each and every day, meaning that four people have moved here in just the time I’ve been writing this column so far. And unfortunately I can’t make people stop moving here simply by stopping my writing.
No, instead they keep coming here in droves. In fact, the Brookings Institute recently named Denver the number one city for millennial migration. And I get it. Our weather is amazing, the people are friendly, the mountains are scenic and adventurous, and heck, we even have legal weed. But don’t think for a moment that everything is perfectly rosy here in Denver, Colorado. The recent population boom has had its share of unintended consequences as well. While rising demand has correlated with a prosperous housing market that makes current homeowner’s giddy, it has also caused a shortage of affordable housing for those trying to get in on the ground floor. You simply can’t buy a house in Denver these days under $400k unless the structure itself is entirely dilapidated or the previous owner was a shady-looking guy from New Mexico named Walter White. And rents in most Denver neighborhoods are just as bad, especially when you have to sit on the sidelines of home ownership and merely watch as home prices become even more and more unaffordable for you. It must feel like swimming towards an island that is itself drifting away in the powerful tides.
Meanwhile, the hiking trails and ski hills that drew everyone here in the first place get more and more crowded with each passing year. Weekends are especially busy, and it now takes a pretty far drive to escape the throngs of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts who have moved here to get back in touch with Mother Nature only to find themselves having to do so shoulder to shoulder with every other weekend warrior. And good luck getting there. Traffic in the metro area has put a severe stress on an infrastructure system that was never intended to handle the current demands being asked of it. Commute times have gotten longer and longer as more and more residents flock to the urban corridor to avoid the nightmare of driving to work, while everyone bemoans the perpetual standstill of I-70, the only major thoroughfare into the mountains. It’s enough to make you want to shut the door behind you and throw away the key for anyone else wanting to come here after you. So you’ll have to excuse me when I tell you to stay the hell out.
But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? Everyone wants to shut that door after THEY get in but not a second sooner. I’m hardly a native, so who am I to tell others not to come here? The folks who have relocated to Denver in recent years have done so with the same intentions and desires that I had mere years before, so despite my occasional frustrations, I have to learn to accept that others will want to move here as well or get the hell out of Dodge myself.
And by now, you probably see where I’m going with all of this because you know darn well that the same principle exists on a national level as well. Unless you are a full-fledged Native-American, you or your ancestors immigrated to this country from somewhere else. And yet, each group of immigrants who flock to this country want to shut the door (or build a wall) behind them now that THEY are in. Well, sorry Charlie, but it doesn’t work that way. The folks from Mexico who want to come here now are no different than the members of your family that came here before them. So unless you’re prepared to strap a sign up on the Statue of Liberty that reads “Sorry- closed for business due to hypocrisy”, it is well past time for you to welcome those who want to come here with open arms and accept what being a melting pot nation is really all about.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com