Editorial – A living history lesson

Jeff Burgar

Bill Murray fans enjoy his old movies! Ghostbusters holds up well. Caddyshack is great and of course, Groundhog Day is an annual favourite when Feb. 2 rolls around.

It being the season, and seeing it was on many channels, we had to catch the show. Again. Déjà vu all over again!

Among lead roles, Andie MacDowell has many shows to her credit. Chris Elliott, the wanna-be cool cameraman in Groundhog Day, is these days best known as the mayor of Schitt’s Creek.

This time watching, we thought the real star of the show wasn’t Murray, the several Canadian actors, or even the groundhog. This time, it’s the town of Punxsutawney, PA, the home of the esteemed weather forecasting Phil the Groundhog.

Punxsu, as locals call the place, doesn’t steal the show. But gosh, it sure gets licks in. It is home to just under 6,000 people. Camera angles, set decorations, and happy extras show the town wonderfully well. The bowling alley, cracked sidewalks, run down streets, bumbling armoured car staff come across as friendly and outgoing. Lounges and restaurants are pleasant and busy. Food looks great. The bed and breakfast where Murray sleeps looks nice, even if it does have a shortage of hot water. It looks like a nice town to raise a family or run a business.

Punxsu has also done a fantastic job marketing itself, at least as far as Gobbler’s Knob and the groundhogs are concerned. In fact, Punxsutawney Phil might well be the most famous weather forecaster in the western world.

So, nice town. Nice people. Nice businesses. International reputation. But why are there only 6,000 people? In fact, according to biggestuscities.com, Punxsu has actually declined 16.3 per cent since 1990. That’s a loss of almost 1,000 people!

The state of Pennsylvania itself is one of the so-called “Rustbelt States.” Yet, instead of dwindling away to nothing, it actually grew its entire population by 7.5 per cent during the same period.

We don’t know if Punxsu has an economic development board. If Punxsu is like so many Canadian communities, it does indeed. Thus making it, across North America, one of about 6,000 or 7,000 towns and cities that has such an office. All compete to attract the next Amazon, Google, or a Walmart or Target or something. Maybe a factory making windmills or solar panels. Because you know, every town needs a couple of those plants.

For those watching the movie, it seems like Punxsu has the right things, also known as the Five Pillars of a Community. A safe community. Good health care. Decent education. Recreation, even if youngsters are roaming the streets attacking visitors with snowballs.

Ah, but business and job opportunities? Perhaps not quite one would want. That one is an unknown.

All five pillars seem mandatory if any community is going to have a long run. Local leadership in our own communities may well ask themselves, are they doing as much as they can keeping those pillars strong? Growing them?

Or sleepily passing the buck to nice guys and gals, but still the equivalent of a rodent named Phil?

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