Monday, March 19, 2012

Everybody Back on the Roller Coaster

In its role as official house organ for the Builder-Developer-Realtor Axis, our local daily fish wrapper, The Bulletin, editorializes this morning that Bend needs to brace itself for another round of breakneck growth.

"Now is the time to start thinking about a return to rapid growth in Central Oregon," the editorial says. "Did we do it well last time around? What can we do better when it returns?

"During this time of economic loss and stagnation, most of us are waiting impatiently for a resurgence that brings jobs and restores tax revenues. Fortunately, there are a few signs of hope."

One of the "signs of hope" cited -- actually, the only tangible one cited -- is that the city issued twice as many building permits in the first two months of 2012 as it did in the first two months of 2011. The editorial doesn't mention that the total number of permits issued in January and February of this year was only 56 -- or that, according to an index of leading indicators compiled by University of Oregon economist Tim Duy, the region's economy actually slid backwards in the fourth quarter of 2011.

But never mind: Developer Mike Hollern predicts Bend will have a population of 250,000 by the year 2050, and developer Bill Smith assures us that Bend will grow because of its wonderful "quality of life."

"Central Oregon will need quality leadership, with smart thinking, increased infrastructure and wise use of resources," the editorial says. "It will need to balance the benefits of significant growth with preserving the qualities that make this a great place to live."

Did it ever occur to you, o editorial writer, that people move to Bend precisely because they DON'T want to live in a city of 250,000 -- or even 100,000?

The essential problem with this town (aside from its climate and its middle-of-nowhere location) is that the people who run it are idiots with about as much foresight as a fruit fly.

And that's why Bend sucks, and will suck even harder in the decades to come.


Carl said...

250K? Boise, proper, is only 205K today.[Boise Metro area is about 615K though] I don't think they really believe that 250K figure. More likely they are trying to fool people again, to sucker them in.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Yeah, it's completely absurd, and I agree they probably know that. But they'll keep pushing to make it come true, insisting the city has to expand its Urban Growth Boundary halfway to Eugene to accommodate all those tens of thousands of people who are just dying to move to Bend for the terrific "lifestyle." And, of course, trying to convince the suckers to "invest" in Bend real estate because, well, it's GONNA GROW, baby!

How Did I Get Here? said...

We're struggling to maintain the population we have. I think we're headed back to 60K people before we hit bottom.

It's possible that we see those numbers but 6 months of winter is a strong motivator to retire elsewhere. 100K tops but I think we'll likely stay around or under recent highs in population. As the baby boomers see their retirement funds being siphoned off over the next 5-10 years, there will be fewer people who can afford to move here and exist on savings and retirement plans. The job situation is tragic right now. And lets face it, this is a place is the middle of is highly unlikely that anything other than data centers and call centers will consider moving into Central Oregon. This is not where you manufacture products and ship them on a large scale. Truck raw materials in and then truck them back out over the mountains. Novelty things like Ruff Wear, sure but I know several companies that build and ship large items all over the country. Shipping has always been expensive when compared to a competitor that sits 1/2 mile off I-5.

Anyway, I'm gonna have to agree with you on the 250K thing. I just don't see it happening. I sure hope not...

H. Bruce Miller said...

"6 months of winter is a strong motivator to retire elsewhere."

Six months? Try eight -- and in some years nine.

Marshall_Will said...

"As the baby boomers see their retirement funds being siphoned off over the next 5-10 years,"

That's the key, but a dynamic playing out just about everywhere and at all income levels. Those no longer able to afford Carmel ( just for instance? ) might just find that based on their finances, Bend now looks rather affordable!

Predicting those demographic trends is tricky at best and change when (1) of the spouses passes away or needs care.

Further, if the PRICE is right ( you'd be surprised what I could put up with? ) That's what makes it interesting, for many years Bend 'wasn't' affordable. Still, another 'boom', they've got to be joking...

H. Bruce Miller said...

"Those no longer able to afford Carmel"

HA! Carmel hasn't been affordable to anybody but multimillionaires for about 40 years. (And the climate, 11 months out of the year, sucks even worse than Bend's -- it's chilly, cloudy and foggy all the time.)

But there are lots of places that still are affordable to many retirees and have more to offer than Bend -- parts of California, Hawaii, Arizona and Florida, to cite a few.

Marshall_Will said...

From Robinson Jeffers ( Carmel's Most Depressed bohemian poet! )

Carmel Point by Robinson Jeffers
The extraordinary patience of things!
"This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses-
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads-
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.-As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from."

ISTR much of his work centered on how abysmal the place was?

H. Bruce Miller said...

Robinson Jeffers, whose work I admire and whose home I have visited, loved the desolate beauty of Carmel and the nearby coast. It IS a beautiful place in terms of scenery. But the climate, as I said, is chilly and dreary except for a brief interlude in August and September. I know; a college friend of mine and his wife live there and we've visited from time to time. Even if I could afford to live there, I wouldn't. For what you'd pay for a rather ordinary house in Carmel you could buy a lovely place in Hawaii.

Of course in Jeffers' day Carmel had not yet become chic and was a place where writers and artists could live cheaply.

Marshall_Will said...


Couldn't recall but one particular poem Jeffers described the bone chilling cold and low lying fog as almost a refrain at the end of every line. Apparently something Bendians relate to?

Ok, so Carmel wasn't my best choice of places. Primarily a -financial- observation anyway! What I'd really tried to accomplish ( anticipating The Bust ) was: where would retiring people most want to be AFTER this falls apart..?

The gated communities in Vegas now consist of pitbulls for security systems, so scratch the gate guard. For a time I felt the Big Island might be the next hot spot. But they've been here before, that's why all those roads to nowhere and power 'poles' but no power 'lines'. I'm afraid it's every man for himself.

H. Bruce Miller said...

I don't believe we're going to witness some kind of cataclysmic social collapse, barring a catastrophe like nuclear war. More likely we'll just continue our slow but steady decline to Third World status.

Marshall_Will said...

I'm more hopeful than that. Besides, the whole notion of plush retirements is fairly new. Only a handful of CEO's and well connected public employees actually rec'd them.

Pension Tsunami counts over 12,000 CALPERS recipients collecting over $100k a year. Meaning the majority of loyal, hard working state employees didn't get one!

Might be a few more that slip under the wire but.., That which can not be sustained; won't! As a nation we have a number of long unresolved issues that barring a solution from congress need to be halted immediately until they can. If they can't pass a BUDGET in ober 1,000 Days we can certainly suspend immigration. IMHO

How Did I Get Here? said...

"Six months? Try eight -- and in some years nine.

It does happen but winter is typically 6 months around here with variable weather on either shoulder. I'm here for the long winters. Make no mistake about it, they happen.

"That's the key, but a dynamic playing out just about everywhere and at all income levels

Sure but baby boomers are the ones who are going to retire soon. I've heard in repeated in RE discussions, "baby boomers are going to retire somewhere and Bend will continue to grow because of it." While I think that is true on some level, the pool of people with the funds to move here and retire is shrinking rapidly. Even with affordable housing, this is not a cheap place to live.

I don't believe we're going to witness some kind of cataclysmic social collapse

I'm thinking it's about 50/50 that either SHTF or we get herded peacefully into what's next. Change is coming and it will surely reduce the quality of life for the average citizen. Collectively, we're pretty stupid and lazy so we'll probably accept whatever deal we're handed. Whatever it takes so that we can get back to being distracted by "reality" television while simultaneously jamming our pie hole full of engineered food products. However, collective stupidity can get whipped up into an angry mob pretty quick so I'm rotating bags of beans, rice, and coffee every six months as a hedge.

H. Bruce Miller said...

I just don't see Bend becoming a big retirement mecca under any circumstances. This is a truly awful place for anyone much beyond the age of 60. Besides the long winters (which are a plus only for those who ski or snowboard, and not many old people do) and the snow and ice, it's hell for anybody with arthritis because of the cold and the constant rapid barometer swings, and it's hell for anybody with allergies or sinus problems because of the high pollen counts and the dry air. I think anybody who spends his retirement years here either (a) has no choice, (b) hasn't done his research or (c) is an idiot.

H. Bruce Miller said...

And, oh yeah -- if you're not reallym REALLY into the outdoor rec scene, it's incredibly boring.

Marshall_Will said...

"Change is coming and it will surely reduce the quality of life for the average citizen."

Right, if as you note ( we simply bend over and take it in the shorts? ) Which I for one have no INTENTION of doing.

No, Bend is not a cheap place to live. But I've felt that had more to do w/ their retail structure than remote locale. When all you have is upscale eateries and shopping, yeah, just getting thru the day gets expensive.

Bend isn't the only place that could benefit from a makeover that brought more family/corner bar type establishments. Personally I wouldn't view hanging out at the VFW most of the day "a third world economy". Plenty of guys have done it. Back when we were in that golden era?

Bend Economy Man said...

Any meeting or conference is just a competition of who can make the most outlandish, optimistic prediction.

It's kind of like in the USSR at Communist Party congresses - each speaker says how wonderful things will be, prosperity and prestige for everyone, with each orator topping the one before, and no one believes a word of it.

But believability isn't the point at a meeting of the faithful - the point is to show how loyal you are to the cause. In our case it's not Communism, but the insidious ideology of Bend exceptionalist boomism.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Good to hear from you again, BEM! What's happenin'?

H. Bruce Miller said...

"When all you have is upscale eateries and shopping"

But that's not the case at all.

Carl said...

How did I get here:

You might want to add some ammo (maybe more than some)and gold coins to your beans, rice, and coffee.

I am no Doomsdayer, but I can see several scenarios where ammo is going to be handy to have. Even if it is a Greece-type insurrection of the entitlement crowd seeing their bennies cut.

Bend Economy Man said...

Just L.I.V.I.N., HBM.

To me the comments made by the likes of Hollern and Smith were sinister in 2006. In 2012 they're laughable.

In 2006 I hoped no one would believe them and the economist shills who supported their likes.

In 2012 I'm kind of hoping someone will believe them. I don't want to see the town become a wasteland - I have always been one who hoped beyond hope that the mass hysteria could be stopped BEFORE the crash.

But the fools and their money have long since been separated from each other.

It's not enough any more to convince gullible idiots that Bend is the New Best Thing (formerly known as the New Best Thing but then for a while the Last Place You'd Want to Put Your Money but watch out it's the New Best Thing again). You have to convince the few savvy people who didn't fall for the bullshit the first time round and have money and credit, and those folks are much less gullible and not idiots at all.

I take your point made on Duncan's blog that these guys don't mind the boom-bust cycle. The one thing you can't accuse Hollern and Smith of is of being fly-by-night carpetbaggers who're prone to skip town in a downturn. But hey, they're not the only ones who are hungry for a boom. If you ask just about any hand-to-mouth person who depends on RE who's hung on in Bend I'm sure if you offered the choice of slow, sustainable growth versus another big boom, the choice is clear.

But there's just no way, no how, not for a long time. Five years will go by, then ten, then maybe even fifteen, and it's not unimaginable that the boom times will never come back.

H. Bruce Miller said...

"I'm sure if you offered the choice of slow, sustainable growth versus another big boom, the choice is clear."

Psychological research proves that most people would rather have an incredibly slim chance of winning an enormous prize than a pretty good chance of winning a more modest prize. That's why lotteries are popular and why so many Americans think America is terrific because it produces a handful of multi-billionaires. They think they're gonna be the next ones to win the Great Economic Lottery.

Bend Economy Man said...

That's right HBM, but I would go a step further.

By analogy there's a crappy old Chevy Chase movie called "Funny Farm" where Chevy and his wife move up from the big city to [Vermont], where it soon becomes clear that the community is dysfunctional despite the bucolic appearances, and he pays off the townfolk to act quaint in order to sell his house.

By another analogy there's a Simpsons episode, I couldn't find the name of it, where a film production comes to Springfield and the whole town gangs up to nickel-and-dime the filmmakers. Finally the film crews leave, the "naive" folks from Hollywood having been taken advantage of by the locals.

Long story (not so) short: there are some people in Bend--government workers, retirees, some in professional trades, maybe some others--who don't care whether Bend is a boom town or a bust town. But the rest of them (and there are a lot of them) eventually get in on the act of "selling" Bend despite their own personal convictions. Some believe, some don't. But roping in newcomers, whether as tourists, vacation home owners or new permanent residents, is the job description of plenty a person in Bend.

And they'll stretch the truth. "300 days of sunshine" isn't a new slogan. Only once you've been here a full year do you realize you've been had. And most people can't afford to live here a full year until you've moved here. And it's much easier to move TO Bend than it is to move FROM Bend - you know this more than anyone!