The very morning the storm came ashore on the Gulf Coast, I began a column meant to have a bit of fun with the housing bubble and what we here in the Boise Valley might do for an economy should real estate markets go belly up. I was hoping to get a laugh or two out of it. After a few paragraphs, I put aside the writing, forgot about Katrina, and went to my regular work.
That evening, my wife tried to get hold of her twin brother, Alan. Over 30 years ago, Alan moved south and has been living there since. He's a welder. Works hard. Fathered three beautiful daughters, two of whom are old enough to be married, mothers and home owners. All way down yonder in New Orleans. My wife couldn't reach him.
The next morning, I went back to the column. It was coming along well. I have no way of knowing if my readers think the same things are funny that I do, but I was getting some good giggles out of what I was writing. I was on a roll, I thought, and paid little attention to the reports of rising water in the streets of New Orleans.
That evening, my wife still hadn't reached her brother. She was pretty sure he was OK, somewhere. He'd called over the weekend and told us he was getting out ahead of the storm, which was no surprise. Alan's far too careful a man to take a chance with his family. When they say "evacuate," he evacuates. Of course, he has a car and some money, so that makes it easier.
Wednesday morning, I went to finishing the column up. Only the funny stuff wasn't nearly as funny as it had been, and it was getting unfunnier with every image coming from those rooftops. By Thursday morning, my topic seemed almost tasteless, and by Friday morning, when it was due to be delivered to BW, it verged on the vulgar. And we still hadn't heard from Alan.
I handed the column in anyway, but immediately set to work on a new one--a subject more befitting the situation--and had it done in time for last week's edition. As a result, I have a week's worth of material with no where to go. I could let it sit for a while, I suppose, until a time when we're not so sensitive about people losing everything. But what if the housing bubble actually does burst while I'm waiting for a suitable time? Then how funny would it be?
So I'm going to take a chance and give you the gist of it. If you think it inappropriate, just write BW and say, "That ain't funny!" I won't mind. ruth is, it's probably not.
"Ways for Boise to stay afloat when property values sink" (actual title I had picked out before Katrina)
Today, neighbors, for the benefit of our community, I am offering alternatives to support ourselves here in the Boise Valley when the housing bubble pops.
And please, don't be deceiving yourself into thinking it'll go on forever, that the value of your home will just climb and climb. If something weren't going to eventually burst, they wouldn't call it a "bubble," That's right, if it were a solid, permanent, ever-upwards adjustment on the true worth of our properties, they'd be calling it a "bunker." Maybe a "boulder."
Believe me, one of these first mornings, some big Santa Monica real estate mogul is going to wake up, come to his senses and think: "I just paid a million and a half for WHAT?!" Then watch out. The cascading values may take a while to reach Idaho, but eventually, this mutant growth we've been experiencing will come to a screeching halt when Californians can no longer sell a modest home for enough cash to move up here and build a four-car cul-de-sac castle, thereby putting everyone in the development and building trades out of work, thereby sending the Treasure Valley's economy into a nose dive that even Steve Appleton couldn't pull out of.
Following are a few things we might do for a living when sensible pricing sets in.
• We could become an artist colony. You know, like Taos, New Mexico or ... uh ... er, give me a minute and I'll think of another one. Of course, this would mean that most of you would have to either 1) start painting, 2) start buying paintings, or 3) move. There's no room in an artist colony for uncolorful people. So if that's the route we decide to go, we need to prune the population of Boise down to about ... I'd say ... about 20, 000, each one of which must have either talent, impeccable taste or lots of money to spend. The rest of you can move to Melba and commute in when we need our lawns mowed.
• We could move the Tamarack resort down here--lock, stock and golf course. There's still some room out between Star and Middleton for it, and as for Cascade and Donnelly ... screw 'em!
• We could extend Boise State's football season to year-round and make them play six games a week. That way, the rest of us can sell Bronco pennants, Bronco decals, Bronco T-shirts, Bronco burgers, Bronco hats, giant "We're #1!" Bronco foam fingers, Bronco tailgate party favors, Bronco stadium chairs, styrofoam Bronco drink cozies, Bronco luxury suites, etc.
• We could become "Haunted Un-Completed Subdivision Capital of the World."
• We could start charging citizens admission to attend property tax hearings. I'm sure Select-a-Seat would carry the tickets--especially if the governor gave them an enormous break on property taxes. And if that works out, the policy should be expanded to annexation hearings, planning and zoning hearings, and Ten Commandments hearings. I firmly believe if the people of Boise will pay $75 to get into see Momma Mia, they'll cough up a few bucks to watch Brandi Swindell bitch about the city council.
There. I used what I could and threw the rest away.
By the way, we finally heard from Alan. Two weeks after the storm, there's still two feet of standing sludge in his home and his loved ones are strewn about over three states like old family photos after a category five wind. But everyone's OK.
Oh, and about that housing bubble? ... don't lose any sleep over it. Sure, we may be in for an uncomfortable economic adjustment, but things could be worse.