Aug 11, 2021

The Managed Retreat: Moving Away From Disaster

“You can take it with you” takes on a new meaning

By Ed Goldman

Two professors have proposed that towns and cities threatened by cataclysmic ecological events pick up their entire villages, or just parts of them, and move them to somewhere safer.

Floods and fire are probably the break-out stars of what I’m calling an urban shift show, but what the professors have labeled a Managed Retreat.

Edgy Cartoon

Urban Removal

The Managed Retreat shouldn’t be confused with the Management Retreat, by the way. The latter often consists of spending a weekend in a faux-rustic environment with people you work with and couldn’t wait to get away from on the weekend. The chief amenity seems to be that, at least at the retreat, you can all hate each other while wearing flannel shirts.

To get back: When I read, in a recent issue of the New York Times, the professors’ well-reasoned argument—which they had apparently adapted from a scholastic paper they’d also written but with more footnotes, ibids and op cits—I found the concept less revolutionary than quaint. Don’t we all think, at one time or other in our lives, that all of our problems could be solved if we simply changed the geography?

When I had a wonderful four-story, Art Deco home in one of the capital’s tonier neighborhoods, it occasionally occurred to me how much even cooler it would be if, when I walked outside, I’d be only a few yards from the beach. And I still addle restaurant hosts when I dine in Sacramento and ask for a table with an ocean view. California’s capital may be encircled by rivers but the Pacific is at least 90 minutes away. It’s a dumb thing to request, I’ll grant you, but it usually produces a laugh from the hosts, if not my date, who’s heard the joke often enough to simply turn a deaf ear to it. (This probably comes under the category of Relationship Retreat Skills.)

To get back again: There are some disasters that even transplanting your entire town will not likely solve. Earthquakes and volcanos cut a pretty broad swath when they, respectively, rumble and erupt. Also, while the professors don’t cover this in their report, it might be painfully awkward for you to suggest placing an irritating next-door neighbor on another block (or, depending on the scope of the move, in a different zip code). 

The guy across the street who parks his purple Winnebago in full view from every one of your downstairs windows will no doubt continue to do so, causing you to occasionally suspect the vehicle belongs to PBS-TV’s obnoxious and equally as purple Barney the Dinosaur, adored by children absolutely nowhere.

And what if you move your town next to another one, and it has preferential parking? And what if its city council makes an attempt to annex your berg to increase its property tax revenues? 

Or what if you wind up abutting a neighborhood undergoing serious gentrification? Suddenly, when you walk the dog in the morning to what had been an open field, it’s now filled with coffee shops (called Bean There, Done That), trendy restaurants (with names like Chez It Isn’t So and Plant Planet), music clubs that feature only Klezmer quintets, and art galleries that show only animé with Lithuanian subtitles and kitten videos?

Then there are taxes, which Ben Franklin said were as inevitable as death (equally inevitable is that some people will always think Mark Twain said this). 

When, a few years ago, I moved about four miles from that aforementioned four-story house into the condo community I call Cramps ‘r’ Common (its real name is Campus Commons but mine better represents the dominant demographic here), I was surprised that even though I was still within the city of Sacramento, I would now also be charged utility fees by Sacramento County, a useless land mass that now includes three breakout cities (Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights and Elk Grove) which hated being unincorporated areas, as well as the county’s original “FIGS” cities (Folsom, Isleton, Galt and, natch, Sacramento).

The bi-monthly bill is pretty modest (about $85) but I’ve yet to discern what services I’m paying for since I already pay the city for water, sewer, trash collection, and storm drainage services.

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Think what new taxes and fees you’d discover if your entire city were to be moved. I’m thinking the tab would probably include at a minimum (and in perpetuity): new-water hookup and connection termination at your former digs; new-account setup at the utilities department; vehicle transport (unless you’re planning to drive to your brave new world); cable; Internet; license and registration; and for all I know, postage and handling.

When it comes right down to it, the Managed Retreat may be more than most of us can manage. Bring on the cataclysms.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President and CEO, Golden Pacific Bank

photo by Phoebe Verkouw

What is a “Work Family”? For most of us, family is who we spend most of our immediate time with.

Looked at that way, your workers may become like family since, on average, we spend approximately 75 percent of our working lives interacting with our ‘work family.’”

When teaching on the topic of leadership recently at the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado, I stressed that an important common characteristic of great leaders is to invoke passion and inspiration.

But a sense of fun is also notable!

Can we inspire that with our Work Family? Is it up to the leaders, or the workers themselves, to create an environment of healthy production that is not only livable but also fun?

I say it’s up to all of us to work with those around us and be our best selves.

Given these dire months of pandemic fears and staring at screens, it was so nice to have a company-hosted fun event with the “work family” on a Delta Sacramento River Dinner Cruise this past weekend. We relaxed, ate, drank, and relished a new non-work environment on the river.

Thank you, work family, for your support, goodwill, courage, and commitment during this difficult times. You are absolute professionals but also my work family!

All in the (Work) Family

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