Hometown Crusade: Whose Village Is It, Anyways?
Eric Renderking Fisk | March 8th, 2008
My two worlds are about to collide, and I hope that maybe for a brief moment or two they'll join forces and continue a dialog that needs to happen and is over due in The United States.
For those who know me only as "The Hat Guy" in my home town of Rindge New Hampshire - I'm a classic movie fan and vintage style aficionado, hence the hat. I participate in a few websites and forums that are dedicated to these topics, in addition to hosting "The Electric Speakeasy," a forum I manage with some of the friends I met elsewhere on line.
For those who only know me through the internet and don't know this yet, I'm an outspoken opponent against many franchises moving and taking over small towns in America. I'm obviously against them coming into my town, Rindge New Hampshire, too. There's a naive notion, that many people in this town have, that allowing or even out right inviting corporations to build and open new franchises along Routes 202 and 119 is going to solve some of the problems such as our growing money deficit.
I'm all for growth in Rindge. There should be more opportunities for employment here, but not at the cost of having dead end jobs where locals earn minimum wage while the profits go to corporate executives, share holders, and foreign owned manufacturers and ultimately don't benefit Rindge. Locally owned businesses should be given the incentives and sweet-heart deals to develop in Rindge. For example - invite the owners of Toadstool Books to open up a new shop in Rindge, rather than Boarders or Barnes And Noble.
Coincidently, or maybe not, many members of the community are pushing for a public works building that the town is in desperate need for. We do indeed need a bigger building to house our towns fire equipment. The Police Department needs a wing of that proposed Public Works Building for what they need, such as more cells (there is only one now) to house those of us who get a little out of control and need to cool it in the village clink.
Sort of "convenient" that while there are those who are proposing that we invite someone like "Home Depot" to move in to our town there's a sudden crisis that's always existed with our town's lack of modern facilities. There's a psychological game being played: by introducing these two problems at the same time, people will "get the hint" that one problem (whether or not we should allow someone else to 'move in' now that Home Depot has with-drawn their plans to open a franchise here) can solve another (we need a new Public Works Building.)
The American people aren't stupid, nor are New Hampshire residents or people in Rindge. A "Home Depot" isn't going to get hit with a huge tax burden to pay for everything we need right away, and I highly doubt a corporation is going to just DONATE a public works building out of the goodness of their hearts. Were a company to donate such a building, there shouldn't be any doubts that there will be some strings attached?
I would ask my global readers to indulge me for a few paragraphs: What I have to say here is about the specifics of my local area, but the general idea here involves everywhere in the Western World...
The Dreaded C-Word: "Convenience"
About two years ago I was helping someone here in my neighborhood with his family's lawn. We had to go get some grass seed and fertilizer one afternoon. We drove into Keene, which is one of the larger towns in close driving distance to Rindge. We got what was needed... and went to work on the yard around his house.
During this trip, we talked about how I'm not too fond of the idea of there being new franchises brought into the area. I'm concerned about the social impact, rising the prices of houses in Rindge which would cause our taxes to go up again. I'm not keen on the idea of the money made by those franchises not staying in Rindge or southern New Hampshire.
His response: "Oh, Eric. You're just going to love the convenience."
Americans are ruled by convenience. Obesity is an American epidemic because of drive through windows, prepared and packaged food, electronic gadgets (i.e. iPods and Game Boys) and riding lawn-mowers. We're becoming illiterate and under-read because it's so much more "convenient" to turn on the television, despite the fact that our access to information has grown exponentially since The Internet became open to the public. We're becoming a nation of fat, stupid, arrogant and ignorant drones because of Convenience.
That's the attitude many "pro-franchise" people have. That's their dismissive nature: Forget the social impact, ignore the tax burden of home owners (since living close to such "convenience" will artificially inflate home values.) and distract people from the fact that corporations have accountants that are able to find loop-holes in any tax code or that some towns offer incentives like tax breaks to entice corporations in the first place. Wave your hand in an hypnotic gesture: "You're going to love the convenience... You're going to love the convenience, You're going to love the convenience... you're getting sleepy... very... sleepy."
"Homogenization Of America."
What's happening in Rindge is part of a national, if not international scourge: The Homogenization of Society. There's an effort, even if it's only on a subconscious level - to recreate every town in another's image. Rindge should look at what's happened to other areas in New Hampshire, such as Nashua and Daniel Webster Highway. What is DWH best known for? Besides the same shops that can be found on that stretch of road? And the congestion? Imagine if all of the companies who are looking at Rindge and it's unique location had their way and were allowed to develop at their own whims.
Another example of the decimation of small town America is what happened to Brattleboro, Vermont after Wal-Mart moved-in across the river. Main Street and the streets that intersected it had a diversity of businesses that had been family owned and operated for generations. Most of those stores aren't there any more, and the spaces are constantly revolving because they cannot compete with a corporate giant. The folks who had been working at those stores have been displaced, most have been moved away since they could not find work locally.
I would like to ask my fellow residents here in Rindge to stop looking to large corporations for bail-outs and hand-outs and actually work harder and think smarter for ways to fix the problems we have, fight to keep our "Normal Rockwell" style and unique identity.
I'm not against ALL development in Rindge, and I'm well aware that there are areas in Rindge along Route 202 and Route 119 that is zoned for commercial use. The questions I have for my fellow residents is pretty simple: Who should get to use those lots? Local business (new and old) or corporations who couldn't find this town on a map? How can we best use those lots that will keep New Hampshire dollars in New Hampshire?
Rindge is at a very unique crossroads right now, both literally and figuratively. Many people come through Rindge to go to places further north, west and east. We can be more then a portal or a gateway to other destinations. We can be the actual destination if we chose to be. Shouldn't there be places here where people can stop and experience something that's unique to New Hampshire? You can find Wendy's anywhere, so shouldn't there be something like a cozy diner close to the intersection of 202 and 119 or something better to direct traffic towards businesses that already exist here?
We are also at a place in time where we can choose our identity for generations to come. We can either be identified as Rindge, that town with all those cool places, or that town that has all of those corporate stores? Our identity can either be "Rindge, A Unique Place To Live," or "Rindge, home to franchises...just like everywhere else".
If Rindge is to survive as Rindge and be home to such places as Cathedral Of The Pines, Pizza Haven, Sunrise Landscape, Lilly's On The Pond Restaurant and Rindge Country Convenience Store (which is home to New England Hot Dog Company... a locally owned franchise that should get more of our support.) then we need to fight this homogenization.
To save Rindge and keep other small towns unique, every effort should be made to keep franchise where they belong. We should push towards growth benefit residents and local business alike, vote for candidates who share our ideals and on propositions that keep rural areas moving in the correct direction.
In an effort to help and get behind this issue, I'm fully endorsing "The Rindge Citizens For Smart Growth," and I'm opening the door for everyone to participate in this discussion on my site. Rindge/New Hampshire residents, Fedora Chronicles Readers and Electric Speakeasy Members to contribute articles about the topic of "The Homogenization of Society" and the preservation of Hometowns and American rural areas, or post about this in our forum.
If there's an article or materials about this subject you would like us to host, please send them to me via this email address. You can also e-mail us your thoughts and reactions to this article at that address, or discuss this issue here.
"The Four Cornerstones of Rindge," A perspective by Edward Lamoureux For the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.
"Well it is that time of year again. The Rindge Voters get a chance to choose who they want to represent them in the coming years and what kind of town we all want Rindge to be in the future. On March 11th, at the Rindge Memorial School, please join us in supporting this terrific group of candidates that we believe to have the best interest of Rindge at heart and are willing to serve Rindge with dedication and integrity." - Edward Lamoureux - Click Here for the list of candiates.
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