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Letters to the Editor

Government money must be able to do things private money hasn’t in 50 years

To the editor:

Government money must have some magical powers.

Let’s look at the Newton Housing Initiative bond for $3,650,000.

I have heard it said, “if you build it they will come,” “it takes new rooftops to bring in new businesses” and also, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

There have been more than 2,000 new houses built in Newton, or a little more thn 35 percent of the houses now in Newton, over the past five decades, 1960 through 2009. During this time we have a population decline of 127.

There have only been a decline in population during four decades in the history of Newton. Three of those have been in the last five; the other was the 1930s with a loss of 9.5 percent.

During each of these decades of declining population, more new houses were built. More than half of the 2,000 in the last five decades were built during these decades of declining population. Does that tell you, “if we build it they will come”?

Also, during at least the last four of the last five decades, we have been losing businesses, manufacturing jobs and retail sales. As you can see over the last 50 years there has been no correlation between new rooftops with either population or new businesses.

Government money must be what it takes to reverse this trend as private money has not done it in the past 50 years.

The two decades in which there were the most houses built in Newton were the ‘20s and the ‘50s, both also with largest increases in population. Was this “build it and they will come”? I think not.

These were the two decades of the largest growth at Maytag; the first with the invention of the Gyrafoam washer and the one-millionth Maytag washer was built in the ‘20s, and the other with the addition of the automatic washer and dryer in the ‘50s. I would say new rooftops did not drive either of these decades; it was jobs that drove these new rooftops, population increases and businesses followed.

This bond will cost the owner of the average $95,000 house a little more than $400 over the 10-year payoff period, or an average of $40 per year. Will this bond with its magical government money turn the tide and increase our population and bring new businesses to Newton or will it just raise our taxes? 

An interesting fact: our city property tax levy is already 19.8 percent higher than the average of the 19 cities with populations more than 8,000 within a 50-mile radius of Des Moines. Only Des Moines and Boone are higher than Newton.

Dennis Messick


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