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Columnists
Brugger: How the Magic Valley can better manage our growth

Jayco is expanding its operations in Twin Falls. Great news even with our low unemployment rate. The more skilled jobs will be filled by people who have been under employed, and those jobs taken by people who want more hours or pay. All of this is a good thing for our community.

County Commissioner Don Hall was quoted as saying, “I’ve had this theory that a community is either growing or dying. You can’t stay static in this environment.” I agree with him; however, I want to emphasize the last sentence. In fact, I will add that growth is not as important as dynamism.

There are probably as many problems with growth as there are with decline in a community. Growth does have the advantage of positive feeling, which most people would rather deal with. Unfortunately, the positive feelings can somehow overcome caution and looking further into the other consequences of that growth.

The advantage a community or a business gains from growth should always be economic resilience. Both businesses and communities need to be able to survive when economic conditions threaten survival. Having diverse money-generating entities is a main part of resilience. Businesses who gain their profits from diverse sections of the economy, and employ and develop workers with diverse skills, can prevent tough times from overtaking an entire community. Having more than one “anchor” business as well as a fair number of mid-size employers not dependent entirely on any one of them is also a way to have a resilient business climate.

I caution, however, that resilience is harmed by resource mismanagement, and that is a problem only government can deal with. Increased urbanization anywhere usually means taking agricultural land out of production. It can also alter complex ecosystems. The loss of agriculture is a loss of economic potential. Ecosystems include not only threatened biodiversity; poor management can damage watersheds and air quality, which make further economic expansion difficult.

The infrastructure needed to support increased population: schools, housing, health care, roads, utilities, and quality-of-life enhancement are all a part of the resources needed for growth. These resources create positive economic activity. However, for the parts financed through a governmental entity, revenue must equal expense or the infrastructure will hinder economic resiliency.

Two government tools handle some of the problem of resource mismanagement: zoning and urban renewal. I suggest that both the city and the county coordinate on these two activities. So far, the county has not followed the example of Twin Falls and created an up-to-date master plan. Land is a valuable resource, and when not managed well, economic opportunity as well as quality of life can be irrevocably damaged. Private property must be respected, but good policy solves problems in advance of crisis and anger.

The other area where we can consider land stewardship is urban renewal. This is a state as well as a city and county issue. Property that is allowed to molder is not only an eyesore. It is a drain on economic resilience. It has been developed from bare land but allowed to decrease in value to the community. It contaminates the value of surrounding properties, it produces less tax revenue while still consuming fire protection, public safety and transportation infrastructure. This is an area where tax incentives to improve, sell or vacate property actually produce economic resiliency as well as public revenue.

Economic growth is produced by bringing outside investment into a community, but it also is produced by existing investment producing more local investment. In other words, moving money through the local economy productively. There have been some exciting efforts made in local investment in Twin Falls, but I would like to see more collaboration by the smaller cities and Twin Falls county in encouraging local efforts to grow our area. There are talented people here in southern Idaho, and there is no reason why we can’t create an even wider area of economic resiliency here.


Mailbag
Letter: Vote Hawkins for City Council

I’m a Twin Falls native who has pretty much stayed out of local politics. However, Twin Falls and times are changing. The growth we have seen over the last few years is both exciting and scary. There is a reason I chose to stay in Twin Falls, raise my children and start a business when many of my generation moved away. Twin Falls has so many unique resources from recreation and agriculture to education and tourism, but it’s more than that. It has always had that small-town conservative culture of neighbors caring for neighbors. Twin Falls is a special place, and I want our political leaders to remember why they live here. We must have managed growth that is sustainable. Twin Falls is growing, but it doesn’t have to lose its small-town charm. We must elect leaders of strong moral character who understand this. That is why I’m supporting Suzanne Hawkins for City Council.

Robert Arrington

Twin Falls


Columnists
OTHER VIEW
Other View: Facebook must be prepared for the next election

The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:

By nearly any measure, Facebook Inc. is an extraordinary success. Its market capitalization exceeds $500 billion. Its user base outnumbers all but one continent. Mark Zuckerberg, its chief executive officer, is one of the world’s wealthiest people.

No one should begrudge Facebook (or Zuckerberg) this success. Yet as it begins to play a more central role in American media and politics, the public has a right to expect it to accept the responsibilities that come with its growing power and influence.

Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation and have pledged to bring more transparency to political advertising on the network. Such ads proved immensely powerful during the 2016 election — Donald Trump’s digital guru says they were “how he won” — yet they’re free from the kind of disclosure required of television and radio ads. That no longer makes sense: Campaigns spent $1.4 billion on digital advertising in 2016, more than they spent on cable TV, while 67 percent of Americans now say they get news from social media.

The company has announced it is hiring 1,000 people to manually review ads with significant political content. It will also require more disclosure of ad buyers and will make ads available for anyone to see, by visiting the buyer’s Facebook page.

Those are positive steps, but the company can go further. The public has a right to expect Facebook and its competitors to be more alert to intrusions by foreign governments. It’s now clear that Russia engaged in a pervasive online campaign to sow discord in U.S. politics and help elect Trump. In part, it did so by using fake accounts and buying divisive advertising on social media — including some worth $100,000 so far disclosed by Facebook, which may have reached 10 million Americans.

Better controls are necessary to ensure foreign governments and entities aren’t running political ads — admittedly a tough task as effective political ads need never mention a candidate or election. Nevertheless, Facebook could start by opening up more of its data to outside security researchers and sharing more information with government officials and other tech companies. On this score, the industry’s counter-terrorism efforts could serve as a model.

All this will require investing in people and technology. Fortunately, Facebook is not short of resources. And then there’s the company’s vaunted ability to innovate: Once Facebook acknowledged that the proliferation of fake news on its network was a problem, for instance, it soon found that a relatively simple flagging system could reduce the reach of such hoaxes by 80 percent. Similar ingenuity can be brought to bear on these other challenges.

Part of Facebook’s genius has been profiting from media content produced by others, not paying for the reporting, researching, editing, fact-checking and lawyering that good journalism requires. The problem is that such hard work is what upholds standards, prevents hoaxes, educates voters, shapes civil discourse, holds politicians to account, and generally stands between democracy and the abyss.

Facebook is not, as Sandberg and Zuckerberg are fond of pointing out, a traditional media company. That simple fact, however — for which its shareholders are undoubtedly grateful — does not allow it to abdicate its civic responsibilities to the political system in which it has flourished.