You remember that episode inThe Simpsons
where the enthusiastic and forward-looking evil genius Hank Scorpio gives Homer a job in his spiffy and fun Globex Corporation and the family moves to that sparkling Pacific Northwest-looking town? And Scorpio’s company shows Marge that documentary about life there, wherein various signifiers of urban blight – bums, abandoned buildings and the like – all magically change into coffee bars?
Houston’s branch-bank invasion of recent years reminded me a little of that, only the banks were replacing things that were, all too often, pretty cool. It was dismaying to see locally-owned pizza places razed in favor of yet another WaMu; beloved dive bars/live-music institutions like the Gallant Knight replaced by yet another outpost of Wachovia/CapOne/Chase/BoA.
Wasn’t online banking supposed to destroy face-to-face banking? Why has the Internet only destroyed cool retail, like record stores?
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Last year, 107 new bank branches went up in Houston alone, placing this region second behind only New York, the Houston Business Journal reported this week. Statewide, from 2004-2007, 1,630 new bank branches were built; from 2000-2003, that number was “only” 918.
This year’s number? Through the first seven months, only 122 have gone up.
Which is still way too many. After all, Sam Houston himself once wrote that his third guiding principle, behind only his love of his country and his constitution, was “an eternal hostility and opposition to all banks.”
Say it again, Sam. – John Nova Lomax