Population surge, despite growing pains, is net win


Move overRaleigh and McKinney, TX: Our fair Alexandria has joined the ranks of Americasfastest-growing cities with more than 100,000 residents. According topreliminary 2010 Census data, Alexandria experienced a 3.8 percent populationincrease from 2008 to 2009.

Populationincreases are a mixed blessing, with additional residents bringing in more taxdollars, but also more students who need to be educated to a tune of almost$20,000 each, more cars on already crowded streets and more demand for socialservices.

Deputy CityManager Mark Jinks views the influx of city residents as a positive forAlexandria. Jinks has said that the growth in population will create 40 percentmore tax revenue than will be consumed in social services. The surplus willhelp fund the rest of the budget. In addition, more residents means the citymay qualify for more money from the state and federal governments, as manyprograms receive funding based on population levels.

Despite clear benefits, a fast-growing population is notall positive. Some of the negatives are less quantifiable, but still have agreat impact on a citys livability. Many of the approximately 5,400 newcitizens surely brought cars with them, further worsening the already awfultraffic in our region. Anyone who has lived in Alexandria for 20 years or morecan attest to the steady increase in auto congestion in the city over thatperiod. Driving from one end of the city to another anytime in the three-hourwindow of 4 to 7 p.m. is a nightmare most days. Sitting in traffic is stressfulto commuters, visitors and parents ferrying children to activities. Worseningtraffic also increases pollution and further strains our regions eco-system.

There arenumerous theories why Alexandria is growing rapidly while many cities have beenhard-hit by the recession. One reason is surely the presence of large numbersof federal government workers in our city, as government jobs tend to be moresecure than private sector employment in lean economic times.  Also, some city residents who might becontemplating a move may be staying put for the time being because of thedecline in housing prices over the past couple of years. Limited employmentopportunities elsewhere may leave some people with no choice but to remain herein the city.

Despite thechallenges posed by surging enrollment in our public schools and worsenedtraffic, a steadily increasing population is a net win for Alexandria. If weregrowing it must mean were a place where there are jobs. It must mean peoplewant to live here. To put it another way, its better to be growing thandeclining. The problems that thriving cities like Raleigh, Gilbert, AZ, andyes, Alexandria face are surely preferable to those in Detroit.