Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Safe, comfortable, totally interchangeable

Here is the latest in the New York Times's Class Matters series. It's about "relos," corporate ladder climbers who bounce from job to job, area code to area code, subdivision to subdivision, every two to four years, never really putting down roots anywhere in particular. I think Peter Kilborn captures this milieu so well, I'm reminded of Ruth Shalit or Stephen Glass--I mean, some of these quotes are almost too good to be true.

I have a friend who fits the relo stereotype--six moves in 15 years, by my count. I sincerely admire the guy: he's a planner, a goal-setter, the most focused and successful person I know, on his own as well as society's terms. But "rootless" is an apt word. At times he seems like a human resume'. Like Mr. Relo of the NYT piece, he experienced a corporate merger, and not only survived (which is more than a lot of workers can say) but thrived in the aftermath. My friend is more attuned to corporate cultures than geographic ones: Chicago, Houston, Baltimore are pretty much the same to him.

Raleigh-Cary is a sweet spot for relos. We have the magic combination of good jobs, good schools, and reasonable housing prices. The problem with relos, though, is they're not citizens. They don't really live here, they're just touching down briefly on their marvelous life journey. They're most concerned with low taxes and the value of their house--the rest of the community be damned. These people shouldn't get a vote. The bit in the NYT story where Ms. Relo lobbies against school redistricting? She knows she may be leaving in a year, yet she wants to hoard the best schools for her family and their kind. She should butt the hell out.

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