After returning from my final tradeshow of the year in California I was reminded of how natural disasters, and other tragedies, have impacted many parts of our country this year. Whether it is the wildfires in Southern California, Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida, or the deadly Las Vegas concert shooting – so many people (in far more states than the few listed above) have been impacted.
In the days leading up to the California conference, I learned one longtime member would not be attending this year after tragically being killed in the Las Vegas concert shooting. At the same time, employees from other counties were working 24-hour shifts due to the wildfires ravaging much of Southern California, and one retired employee lost their home. In Santa Barbara alone, more than 30,000 people were forced from their homes by midweek.
As of December 11th, the Thomas Fire spanned 231,700 acres making it the 5th largest wildfire in California history and was still only 20 percent contained. The fire had destroyed 794 structures, damaged 190 more, and there were still 18,000 buildings at risk. By the end of the week the fire had unfortunately become the 3rd largest wildfire in the State’s history.
California already has a housing crisis. According to the state realtors association, 75 percent of Southern Californians can’t afford to buy a home; and it isn’t just impacting low-income housing, but middle-class housing for teachers, firemen, and others that need to live near their place of work. Real estate developers are subject to a process that can take more than 5 years from concept to approval – compared to the year and a half it takes in Florida, Georgia, and Texas.
Home prices in California are twice the national average. The cities of Houston and Dallas built more homes in 2016 (63,000) than the entire State of California, which built 50,000. Experts say California needs to double the number of homes built to lessen the gap between them and the national average. Others say the cost is a product of supply and demand. It certainly is a tricky problem because more homes means more traffic in some of the most highly congested areas already.
To bring this back to where I started, whether it was driving through a tent city in Sacramento on my way to the conference or the fact that officials in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties declared homeless emergencies earlier this year, it is hard not to think about people facing challenges by natural disaster or other causes.
Weeks earlier, I learned of a county employee in Texas that had been displaced from their home because of Hurricane Harvey. Houston Texan, and Wisconsin native, JJ Watt raised more than $37M in the aftermath of Harvey. He recently announced plans to distribute $31M to four different charities over the next 18-24 months to rebuild homes, restore child-care centers, provide food and address health care needs.
Reflecting on the year, it reminds me of what is truly important as we head into this holiday season. Often, the things we spend so much time worrying about are insignificant compared to what other people are facing.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and joyous holiday season with your friends and family.
About the Author: Troy Burke
With 30 years of experience providing clients with stellar service and strategic solutions for growth and development, Troy is committed to ensuring his customers receive the highest quality solution, training and support with every implementation. He frequently speaks on the topic of redaction and is actively involved with National Association of Court Management, Property Records Industry Association and several other government organizations.