OPINION — In his 1949 novel “The Little Sister,” Raymond Chandler said about Los Angeles: “I used to like this town. A long time ago. It was just a big, dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but good hearted and peaceful. Now we’ve got a big hardboiled city with no more personality than a paper cup.”
Today, some 70 years later, Chandler might well add that Los Angeles has lost much more than just her personality. She’s lost her heart and soul.
The city’s unique history and heritage have been plowed under, paved over or left to decay beneath decades of social ignorance and cultural chaos. The modest but safe and decent, well-groomed family neighborhoods where I lived as a lad have turned into dark and bloody battlefields full of cruelty and hate.
Fueled by greed, complacency and unchecked growth, the Los Angeles I knew and loved has traveled the path to self-destruction for a half-century and can never turn back.
Now, our once “good hearted and peaceful” little Southern Utah town travels the same path. We claim to have come here for the clean and tranquil lifestyle, yet we seem hell-bent on making it something else. And we’re succeeding. St. George little resembles what it was a mere 20 years ago.
Ignoring the long-term effects, we can’t write approvals for new development fast enough, whether the citizens like it or not. Lured by short-term financial gain, more and bigger “mega-events” are piled one atop another to attract hordes of visitors and promote yet more and faster growth. It’s become an all-out race for the dollar with little thought for the inevitable social consequences.
And what are those consequences?
Look around you. Twenty years ago, front page news was a fence down and a cow loose on state Route 18. Today? A meth raid and multiple theft and burglary busts; a fatal car crash involving a drunk driver; three arrested for assault in a domestic violence case; and another trio booked for trying to start a prostitution operation. And the unthinkable: A 20-year-old with known gang connections is arrested for raping an 86-year-old woman in her own home.
These are just one day’s headlines!
It’s my Los Angeles all over again. Iron bars are beginning to appear on store windows. There are traffic snarls where none existed 10 years ago. Reckless drivers rule our crumbling streets unchecked, and a half dozen crashes a day is no longer a big deal. How long will it be before our city parks are ruled by drug peddlers and there are random killings in the streets? How long before our nights are shattered by the roar of police helicopters overhead with blinding searchlights and blaring bullhorns?
Growth is a fact of life here, and no one is suggesting otherwise. But healthy growth means facing facts and maintaining control. It means preserving balance between benefit and risk, and unless the risk is skillfully and intelligently managed, that which attracted growth in the first place is lost forever!
There’s too much at stake here, and time is running out. We managed the last 20 years badly, and it shows. What will we do with the next 20?
Maybe nobody cares.
Submitted by BOB SEARS, St. George, Utah. Sears is a 25-year St. George resident, business owner, author and freelance writer. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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