Sun City, Colorado
In Boulder, youths are out, and geezers are in
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by Wayne Laugesen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It's the year 2030, and the traffic in Boulder is unbearable. It's not much heavier than it was in the year 2000, but it's far less functional. Old people who can't see or think straight are running into each other constantly. Golf carts have replaced bicycles as the major non-car irritant on Boulder's streets.
The restaurants here mostly feature foods that won't up the blood pressure, are easy to digest and are diabetic-friendly. The typical entrees, served up at any of the city's fine all-you-can-eat buffets, taste like hospital pabulum.
Head shops and Buddha boutiques have been replaced with knitting stores and medical supply outlets. The bike paths lie dormant. Parks feature wheel chair ramps, but no slides or jungle gyms for kids.
Welcome to Boulder of the not-so-distant future‹a wealthy polyester retirement community for the selfish, heartless and mean. This is a place where two old men beat each other with golf clubs after an all-too-common fender bender. It's a place of old people without grandchildren. It's a place for people who had no kids and obsessed as young adults over their incomes and property values, never thinking they would someday grow old and find their possessions rather meaningless. Today, they're left with nothing of true value.
The most recent census data has been through the numbers mill, revealing statistically the trends that best characterize Boulder: Most families in Boulder, by a long shot, are unmarried without children; the number of single parents, particularly single fathers, is rising steadily; the average age of the population is rising in Boulder as young families with kids move east.
Every demographic trend revealed by new census data points to the fact Boulder is a cool, hip, open-minded community of out-of-the-box thinkers‹only in its past. The community, through materialistic selfishness, is moving in exactly the opposite direction today. Youth are out, and geezers are the coming trend. In just a few decades, Boulder will be to metro Denver what Sun City is to Phoenix.
Some stories in local newspapers seem to be celebrating this, as if locally we're all being freed from the evil bondage of traditional family values. Daily Camera columnist Clint "Safehouse" Talbott links "conventional" homes to domestic violence, marital rape and suicide. The column suggests that the dwindling number of "conventional" families in Boulder is the result of women leaving abusive men in pursuits of happiness. Never mind the statistics, which show the decline as a direct result of functional families moving away.
Josie Heath, president of the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County, told the Daily Camera that traditional families in Boulder have been replaced by households modeled after a popular TV sitcom.
"People are marrying later in life, and they almost supplant what would be a new family with kind of the TV 'Friends' family," Heath said.
And there's really nothing wrong with young people doing that. Many of them grow up to unite and multiply, an activity essential to the survival of humankind. Problem is, few of them ever do so in Boulder. Instead, say the census data, they move to Louisville, Lafayette, Erie, Superior or Longmont to have kids. Those who choose not to have children stay here in Boulder getting older, lazier and more materialistic each year. Through their intolerance and wealth‹which they choose never to share with a younger generation‹they gradually take over the community.
Married couples with children make up just 14.4 percent of the population in Boulder, far below the state average of 32.8 percent. The census data aren't news to young families with children who have hung around in Boulder like oddballs.
My wife and our children are among the outcasts. We live in Boulder, where we will likely stay out of our sheer refusal to live anywhere near suburban monster homes with steroid-enhanced garages. Taking children to a restaurant in our home town of Boulder is always an adventure. Waiters and fellow diners are always polite, but in the same uncomfortable way as one who tries not to gawk at the quadriplegic.
I'll never forget one recent trip to a local restaurant, when a businessman acted like a zoo exhibit had just pulled up. He walked right up to our table and told us we were "precious." I asked him what he meant by that. He explained that our children were adorable. Mostly, however, he hadn't seen a mother, father and children dining together during a work day in quite some time. He began asking if we were indeed a married couple with three of our own children. We confirmed his suspicion, and he continued his embarrassing amazement at this fact. It felt weird, but clearly my family is weird.
Married families with children‹regardless of race, color or creed‹have become Boulder's most notable minority faction. People in this group should get affirmative action, perhaps, as Boulder economically discriminates against them. If these people had two incomes and no children, they could all afford Boulder. If they were 20-something and shacking up with a half dozen friends‹an illegal but common activity in Boulder‹they could easily afford to stay here. But having chosen a once-traditional lifestyle that today is unquestionably non-traditional, they're an oppressed minority faction being squeezed economically by the forces of those who choose to live only for themselves.
The mass Boulder exodus of married-with-children types is nothing akin to the nationwide inner-city exodus of the '60s, '70s and '80s. Families fled inner cities to get away from crime and to find cleaner and safer neighborhoods.
Boulder, however, is full of nothing but clean and safe neighborhoods that all border spacious and pristine parks. It's the perfect environment for the very children who are vanishing.
As Boulder rots
It's the fault of city government, and the people who put our decision-makers in place for the past three decades. One decision after another has limited the supply of homes in Boulder. Stupidly and/or selfishly, the city has simultaneously done little to restrict clean industrial and commercial growth, so the demand for housing in Boulder has skyrocketed in conjuction with an artificially limited supply. Therefore, the price of homes has gone up and the only people who can afford them are the idle rich, DINKS (double income no kids), and large groups of friends who base their lives on a bad TV sitcom. This is no longer conjecture; census data prove it.
It's all funny, in a way, but at Boulder's expense. Traditional families (oops, they're non-traditional in ever-hipper-than-hip Boulder) will continue moving east where they'll enrich other communities with youth and vitality. Meanwhile, Boulder will grow old and rot. And there will be mayhem. Not from gangs left behind, as with an inner-city exodus. This will be the mayhem of angry, intolerant, forgotten old people with homes and worldly goods they can't possibly share with younger generations they long ago shoved out of town.