Tales of Three Cities

Miss Wilke is an advertising writer.

A recent environmentalist law in Montana prohibits changes and developments that have an adverse social impact on a community.

The law is being invoked by some to prevent expansion of Montana Power Company’s generating facility at Colstrip.

It is argued that the school facilities would be overburdened by new residents.

Actually, the company is providing temporary classrooms until new school facilities can be built. And that’s not all. Having had the community master planned, the company is also building houses, apartments, motels, mobile home facilities and a commercial complex with air-conditioned mall, shops, stores, professional offices, medical facilities… even a post office.

In addition, it is providing a community center with bowling alleys, tennis courts, park and picnic areas and other recreation, as well as providing fire protection and putting in sidewalks, sewers, water lines and other street improvements.

Of course, the company isn’t doing this out of the goodness of its corporate heart. It simply must provide housing and facilities in order to attract the hundreds of additional people it will be employing in this previously semi-abandoned town.

Strangely, these things are rarely mentioned even by company officials when under attack. So, the best kept secret in the world continues to be the fact that private interests are in the public interest.

Since Montanans are being deprived of the opportunity to pay taxes for all those services, it’s a wonder the community hasn’t been called unconstitutional.

That’s precisely the word heard lately to describe another city.

This city, too, was built with private capital and the profit motive. That’s how it was possible for it to be so well-planned and to serve such a great need.

The streets are wide and winding and always clean. Shopping and commercial centers are well located for convenience and traffic ease. Green belts are beautifully landscaped with a variety of trees from the community’s own nursery.

This city isn’t on the most beautiful land in the state. The government owns most of that. But the developers took an available piece of desert waste near feedlots and a railroad and made it green and beautiful with lakes, streams, waterfalls, flowers, golf courses, country clubs and numerous recreation centers with all kinds of sports, entertainment, educational activities, hobbies and crafts. There’s even a band shell bowl and baseball parks.

Sun City is a beautiful answer to a million prayers. It fills a need that should never have existed, but it was a needed response to a society that has sought to force inactivity on some of its most vital, creative, active and fun people.

Sun City is now being called unconstitutional by some because houses are not sold to people with children under 18. Such critics argue that there should not be a community without children — especially since communities without children don’t seem to want to pay for new schools in the next town. They do not say that it is unconstitutional to force some people to educate several generations of other people’s children.

Aside from the absurdities Sun City is occasionally subjected to, it seems to be one of the happiest communities in the United States and has been the model for many other fine recreational and adult communities. And it clearly demonstrates that when a community is privately planned, controlled and marketed, the results far exceed ordinary municipal standards.

Advantages of Private Development Including Schools

In a privately developed community, you know what you’re getting. Streets, commercial areas, church locations — everything is planned on the drawing board. You know the restrictions when you buy the property. No hamburger stand can pop up unexpectedly next door. No billboards. No trashy empty lots.

Everything bad destroys value. Everything good increases it. Developers like increased values. The community grows progressively better.

It was after the success of Sun City’s phase I that Del Webb was able to add lakes, country clubs, bowling alleys, miniature golf, tennis courts — and a mammoth indoor swimming pool, artificially landscaped with giant palms, rock gardens and grass.

The purchasers at Sun City continue to enjoy an outstanding appreciation on their investment along with the progression of profitability that has made it all possible.

Compared to the certainties of private control, purchasing a politically manipulated lot under any municipal jurisdiction is just a grab-bag proposition.

One of the most rapidly developed states in recent years, Arizona has seen the construction of many new subdivisions, and its most successful developers are well aware of the profitability of community services.

These new communities usually include streets, street lighting, sidewalks, water, sewer systems, underground utilities, clubhouses, swimming pools and all kinds of recreation.

And since there’s no use trying to sell a house to families with children if there are no schools around, schools, too, are often built with private funds, not taxes.

It would be interesting to see what the developers would do if we didn’t have a politicalized education system. Imagine the benefits that could result if they tried to outdo each other in providing educational services as they do in providing recreation.

And it would be interesting to see what sales packages of improved materials and methods educators could come up with in their competitive efforts to convince developers of the superiority, and therefore salability, of their services over another company of educators.

A City of the Future

But let’s leave Arizona and look at another city in the United States built with private funds.

This is a city where the sidewalks are resilient so you won’t get tired from walking. A city where the streets are never torn up. A city with a "basement" —an underground infrastructure of tunnels, walkways, wires, ducts, cables, water lines and sewage systems that are easily accessible and readily repaired.

All city operations are monitored by computers and closed circuit TV — methods that suggest the possibility of developing crime-proof communities.

There’s a hotel in this city with a pollution-free monorail running through its ten story lobby.

The rooms for the hotel were completely prefabricated units —wired, partly furnished, and hoisted into place by cranes. The modules are complete with artificial moonlight.

This city had a mass transit system from its inception. People are also transported by non-polluting aerial tramways and "people movers" that run on the most basic of all principles — friction. And it’s the only city in the United States with a STOL (short take-off and landing) airport.

The community is served by over 200 watercraft and has the 5th biggest navy in tonnage in the world — a navy that exists only for purposes of entertainment.

This city has houses that are experimentally powered by fuel cells, a hospital that utilizes closed circuit TV to diagnose cases by remote control.

Half the power for this community is generated by gas turbines whose waste heat is turned into chilled water for air conditioning.

The city extends over 37,443 acres with 7500 acres set aside as a well protected wildlife preserve. It also includes a $7 million water reclamation project with 40 miles of canals that look like natural rivers.

Garbage disappears from the streets of this city at a velocity of 60 miles an hour through vacuum tubes. It’s sucked into a compacting plant equipped with an incinerator that purifies its own emissions with filters and scrubbers so that nothing comes out of the stack but clean steam.

Waste water is recycled to a "Living Farm" of trees and plants. This city, built on a swampy wasteland, owes its existence to the genius and energy of one man — Walt Disney.

It exists in a country of cities that never trusted their street maintenance, sewage responsibilities, power generation, parks, conservation and recreation to private enterprise. Cities where trucks still haul refuse and streets are torn up regularly in order to repair pipes. Cities where recreation is always swings, sandboxes and monkey bars — certainly not African safaris and Snow White’s castle. Cities that have polluted rivers and streams with the waste from their treatment plants and, as public bodies, are never answerable for their actions. Their answer to a messy environment is never action but always exhortation to "keep the city clean."

Part of Disney’s success was in expecting people to be as they are. The Disney communities are meticulously clean — and under cotton candy circumstances. He expected sticky little fingers and spilled popcorn. He planned for it — and his plans led to undoubtedly the most efficient waste disposal methods in use in the country today.

Can Dreams Come True?

There are more new cities too. Cities of dreams. Cities we’ll never see — not as long as we consider communities to be political entities instead of private properties. Not as long as we trust politicians and distrust private enterprise and corporate bigness.

If a city is a political entity, property rights don’t exist. There’s eminent domain to prove it. And building codes. And zoning. And rezoning. And permits. And fees. And taxes. And graft. And favors.

One reason for the startling innovations at Disney World is that it was constructed with its own building codes. This allowed the use of new materials and techniques and specifications.

Modules could be made wider, for example, because they weren’t transported over state roads.

Disney’s independent code also resulted in much stricter safety and fire protection than the law allows under municipal mandate. Building codes, in fact, establish minimum requirements that usually become standard. Their effect is simply to stifle progress and substitute repetition and monotony for innovation and improvement in building.

Largely because of these codes, we build and rebuild the same houses over and over. And mostly because of zoning regulations, we build the same cities again and again and then complain about them, calling for more of the city planning that has already contributed so largely to their deficiencies.

Our best hope for better cities is private development and profitability — corporate prosperity. Although "big business" is popularly deplored, it is the big corporation that is capable of the biggest accomplishments.

And fundamentally, we need new respect for private property and enterprise with the long overdue recognition that the public welfare inheres in private interests — and only in private interests.

We won’t have really new cities until we first enjoy the depoliticalization of human relationships.

That would not only give us new cities. It would give us a new world.