If you grow too fast, the moment won’t last

Published 7:30 am Wednesday, May 1, 2024

By Harold Brummett
Denmark Star Route

The Oxford Chamber of Commerce sent out an interesting email. “33 million Americans are changing where they call home; let’s help them find Oxford and Lafayette County.”  

Let’s don’t and say we did.  

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I understand, some growth is necessary for a healthy community. How much is enough? 50, 000 more people? 100,000 more?  Drive on Jackson or University when the students are in session. Where do we put the cars? Does Oxford really want to become more like Dothan, Alabama, Birmingham, or Memphis? 

At some point as the town grows Oxford will no longer be listed on the national polls as a nice place to live. More people, more crime. More crowded roads. Current infrastructure built to transport people, house people, feed people, entertain people will not be able to keep up with demand. 

When demand finally levels out with supply it will be because people leave looking for the next special place, the special in Oxford having been all used up. 

Taxes will rise with the necessary improvements made to accommodate more people. Oxford will fade away into just another city – what made it extraordinary, crowded out. 

When working at FEMA I discovered towns and cities that had outgrown what made them distinctive. With the uniqueness diluted, a Disneyian version would then try to tap back into what made the town distinctive in the past. Somehow, it never quite worked.  The realtors and moneymen pumping a dry well would try to extract the last bit of good.  

In my opinion, the goal should be neutral or slow growth. Let’s not look for crowds and masses to come streaming in. Football weekends do that.  Give space for people like Ron Shapiro, Barry Hannah, Willie Morris, Motee Danials, Marion Randolph Hall, Nina Goolsby and the like to appear and grow here. 

Newcomers arrive and look for folks that are not here anymore, special people who spice up life wherever they go, turning plain white bread into cake.  Bigger than life characters made of delta dust and hill country red clay not imports humble bragging putting on a show, but characters who are the show.  

I am not advocating hanging out the No Vacancy sign, but be aware the things that make Oxford special very well could be the things that take it away.