Category Archives: Zoning and Land-Use

Liberty > Democracy

Far too often, people use the terms “liberty” and “democracy” as if they were interchangeable. President Woodrow Wilson justified intervention in other countries to “make the world safe for democracy.” Most if not all of the presidents who have followed have made similar arguments as an excuse to place military bases on every continent. Democracy in of itself is no guarantee that the people will live in a free society.

One thing that drives me nuts is this notion that everything needs to be “put up for a vote” whenever the item in question is not at all the business of the would-be voters. Sometimes communities have meetings to decide if the people should “allow” a Wal-Mart to be built. Those who oppose the building of a Wal-Mart in their community argue such things as Wal-Mart won’t allow their workers to unionize*, Wal-Mart will drive out existing businesses, and Wal-Mart imports too much of their “cheap,” “inferior” products from China rather than American products. These might be valid reasons for you to decide not to shop at Wal-Mart but what makes you think you have the right to deny me that choice by holding a vote?

Perhaps a less sympathetic target to some here in Colorado are the medical marijuana dispensaries. These dispensary owners set up shop and followed the existing rules but in the back of their mind they know that community activists can shut them down if they can gather enough signatures to force a vote**.

Then there are those who believe in wealth redistribution. The “rich” need to pay more taxes to benefit the “less fortunate” we are told.

What about economic liberty? Is economic liberty somehow a lesser liberty than any other liberty? The people from Learn Liberty argue that economic liberty is of more value to the individual than any right to vote. There are just some freedoms that ought not be voted away.

*This is more of a selling point for me.
**I’ve yet to hear of a vote to shut down a Walgreens because its within 1000 feet of a school even though they dispense drugs that are many times more dangerous than marijuana.

Additional Thoughts & Further Reading:
Brad reminded me of a great post he wrote nearly 6 years ago along the same lines entitled: Libertarianism and Democracy. After re-reading my post, I realized that I might have left the impression that democracy is of no value to those who value individual liberty. Brad does a much better job explaining that “liberty is an end, democracy is a means to an end.”

In truth, democracy is often better for making decisions than monarchy, or aristocracy. After all, what can empower people more than to allow them to have a hand in making their own decisions? The key is that democracy can be used in ways that don’t reduce liberty, but it can also be used in ways that do.

So it’s not really democracy that libertarians fear, it is force. The sentiment that elicits anti-democratic quotes, though, is the fear that democracy will marshal government to impose force that destroys our liberty.

I think the important thing that people need to recognize is that there are limits to what a government should have the power to do even if the process is a democratic one. What are the limits? Simply the recognition that the individual has the natural rights of life, liberty, and property that cannot be taken away provided that s/he does not infringe on the same rights of another.

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Open Thread: If I Wanted America to Fail…

FreeMarketAmerica.org has released a great video (above) called “If I Wanted America to Fail.” It’s a pretty decent list of policies one would want to implement to cause America to fail but it’s far from complete.

Here are a few suggestions of my own:

If I wanted America to fail, I would want congress to abdicate its war powers and give those powers to the president so he could commit acts of war against any country he desires for any or no reason at all.

If I wanted America to fail, I would want these undeclared wars to be open-ended with no discernable war aim. This would lead to blowback and create more enemies for America.

If I wanted America to fail, I would have troops deployed around the world to make sure the world is “safe for democracy” but would topple regimes, even those elected by the people of these countries, if the president found the new leaders not to his liking. This would create even more enemies who would try to cause America to fail.

If I wanted America to fail, I would do away with due process – even for American citizens who the president considers “enemy combatants.” I would want the president to have the ability to detain these people indefinitely, ship them to a foreign country, and even give the president the authority to kill these people anywhere in the world they are found.

If I wanted America to fail, I would have the ATF sell arms to Mexican drug cartels so they could kill innocent people on both sides of the border. I would name this operation after a lame action movie franchise and pretend to know nothing about it when details were made public (It’s not like the media would have any interest in investigating this deadly policy because this is a Democrat administration).

Now it’s your turn. What are the policies being implemented now that you would want implemented if your goal was to make America fail?

Donald Trump: Corporatist Bully

I do not like Donald Trump. I don’t dislike him because of his wealth; he probably earned most of his wealth honestly. Some dislike Trump because he is a self promoter. I don’t dislike Trump for this reason either. Many successful individuals are great at self promotion and developing a successful brand (a very good attribute to have to have a successful political campaign).

No, the reason I really dislike Donald Trump – even putting aside his becoming the new face of the Birther movement in recent weeks, his support of the auto bailouts, raising taxes, his anti-free trade proposal that would place a 25% tariff on all Chinese products, and his support for single payer universal healthcare – is quite simply that he is a corporatist bully.

For those who don’t quite understand the difference between a capitalist and a corporatist, I highly encourage you to read Brad’s post “Mercantilism, Fascism, Corporatism — And Capitalism.” This distinction is an important one. Donald Trump is the poster child for what many on the Left as a greedy capitalist; a caricature of everything that is wrong with capitalism as preached by the Ralph Naders and Michael Moores of the world.

But those of us who know better know that Donald Trump isn’t a capitalist at all but a corporatist. Trump doesn’t try to work within a framework of a free market as a true capitalist would, but like far too many businessmen, he uses his wealth and influence to encourage the government to work on his behalf to his advantage (and at the expense of anyone else who would dare get in his way).

In the early 1990’s, an elderly widow by the name of Vera Coking was in the way. Coking’s home that she had lived in for 30 years was on a plot of land that the Donald coveted. The Donald wanted the property so he could add a limousine parking area to one of his Atlantic City casinos. When Coking turned down his $1 million offer to buy the property, the Donald decided to enlist the help of his goons on the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Authority. In 1994, these government thugs filed a lawsuit to take Coking’s property for $251,000 and gave her 90 days to leave her property (if she were to stay beyond the 90 days, men in uniforms with guns would forcibly remove her from her home).

Fortunately, Coking’s case gained enough media publicity to gain the attention and help of The Institute for Justice (think a more libertarian ACLU with a focus on property rights). With the IJ’s help, Coking was able to keep her property. In 1998, a judge made a decision that turned out to be final finding that the Donald’s limousine parking area was not a “public use.”

John Stossel confronted the Donald about his failed attempts to take the widow’s home away; he reprinted this exchange in his book Give Me A Break on pages 152 and 153:

Donald Trump: Do you want to live in a city where you can’t build roads or highways or have access to hospitals? Condemnation is a necessary evil.

John Stossel: But we’re not talking about a hospital. This is a building a rich guy finds ugly.

Donald Trump: You’re talking about at the tip of this city, lies a little group of terrible, terrible tenements – just terrible stuff, tenement housing.

John Stossel: So what!

Donald Trump: So what?…Atlantic City does a lot less business, and senior citizens get a lot less money and a lot less taxes and a lot less this and that.

Earlier in the book (page 25) Stossel gives his impressions of this confrontational interview:

Donald Trump was offended when I called him a bully for trying to force an old lady out of her house to make more room for his Atlantic City casino. After the interview, the producer stayed behind to pack up our equipment. Trump came back into the room, puffed himself up, and started blustering, “Nobody talks to me that way!”

Well, someone should.

Had this case taken place after Kelo, the Donald may well have prevailed. In the wake of the Kelo decision, Neil Cavuto interviewed the Donald on Fox News (7/19/05) to get his reaction.

Trump:

I happen to agree with [the Kelo decision] 100 percent, not that I would want to use it. But the fact is, if you have a person living in an area that’s not even necessarily a good area, and government, whether it’s local or whatever, government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and make area that’s not good into a good area, and move the person that’s living there into a better place — now, I know it might not be their choice — but move the person to a better place and yet create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good.

Donald Trump is not one who respects property rights (other than his own). “Tremendous economic development” and “jobs” are great reasons to employ the full police power of government to take away someone’s property in the Donald’s world view.

I shudder to think of what a Donald Trump presidency would look like. Imagine the Donald with control of our CIA and our military. The Donald doesn’t have any problem using force to get what the Donald wants.

Now consider President Trump with a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. What sort of Justice would he appoint? Most likely one who would view Kelo quite favorably.

This bully, Donald Trump is the guy who is polling second place in some early Republican primary polls? Wake the hell up Republicans!

Activists Protest Proposed Church Next To NARAL Headquarters

July 22, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC — Picketers holding anti-Christian placards marched near NARAL headquarters in Washington today, denouncing plans to erect a right-wing Christian church within a block of the abortion rights group. Heated words were exchanged between supporters of the place of worship; luckily physical altercations were avoided in this escalating battle.

Tension has been brewing since late last year, when plans for the Lutheran-denomination church were unveiled in planning commission meetings. NARAL-friendly Councilwoman Diana Matthews had been quietly working to stall the plans, requesting additional information about the parking and infrastructure requirements of the planned structure, but the architect and engineer on the project quickly provided evidence that the demands of the new structure would not materially change from the property’s previous structure.

As the project has neared breaking ground, opponents and supporters have taken to the streets. “It’s an affront to the freedom that NARAL protects that these Christo-fascists would try to base their hate so close to our headquarters,” said Susan Colona, a NARAL employee. “It’s clear that they’re moving so close in order to threaten and intimidate the workers here at NARAL. It’s chilling, in the wake of the senseless murder of Dr. George Tiller, that they’re willing to escalate their actions.”

Protesters carrying signs with slogans such as “Go Back To Kansas” and “Keep Your God Out Of My Uterus” marched outside the headquarters. Supporters of the church countered nearby with opposing signs, “Abortion Is Murder — An Eye For An Eye” and “We Protect Those Who Can’t Protect Themselves.”

Pro-choice US Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) sides with NARAL. “The actions of the picketers in support of this church are a clear example of hate speech. We are a country that values freedom of religion, and I don’t believe we can legally stop this congregation from forming, but I am deeply saddened that the church would choose such a site for their home.”

Pastor Elijah Williams, who would be heading the proposed church, doesn’t understand the fight. “While we as a church are generally against the practice of abortion, many within the ELCA are willing to make exceptions for circumstances such as rape and the health of the mother. In fact, Dr. George Tiller was a member of the ELCA, and we have publicly condemned Scott Roeder for his unconscionable actions. We are a peaceful church, and chose the site of our church because we thought it was the best place for our home, not because of its proximity to NARAL.”

Pastor Williams even suggested that the extremist protestors antagonizing NARAL were not from the ELCA, but rather sent by the Westboro Baptist Church, an organization known for sending protestors to funerals of US Servicemen killed in combat.

The fight doesn’t appear to be waning. NARAL has been searching for legal ways to fight the church, including potentially having the entire block declared a historic landmark due to its age. Stephen Simpson, a lawyer who had previously advised the ELCA on other matters, doesn’t see this as cause for hope. “What should have been a very simple process of building a home for a budding congretation is now likely to be derailed. Once national politics and the legal system become involved, this will become a circus. I hope the church and NARAL can come to some agreement to avoid this outcome.”

Given the contention between the parties, though, this appears unlikely at this time.

NIMBY, Granny!

Oh dear.

“Stonemill Farms will be the scene of many memorable days with family and friends alike,” according to marketing materials. The development, with its $300,000 to $500,000 homes, is “the perfect place to raise a family,” the website boasts.

Sounds like a nice place. At least until the influx of the brain-devouring proto-zombie hordes (Alzheimer’s patients).

But maybe not if your family is like that of Woodbury resident Marilyn Nehring, whose husband, Jerry, has few memorable days now because he has Alzheimer’s disease.

Residents at Stonemill are opposing an attempt to turn an empty retail site into housing for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Another man opposed it if there were “one-tenth of one percent chance that anything could happen to a kid.”

A woman holding a baby fretted that potential clients with brain damage probably led lives of daring and danger, which might return. They don’t have “the fear, the healthy fear, that the rest of us have,” she said.

Nearly everyone who spoke against the facility had concerns that their children might be attacked or see an elderly adult do something inappropriate.

Depressing. Just depressing. Now, I’ve had more experience with Alzheimer’s patients than many. Prior to college, I worked a summer in maintenance at a nursing home. The Alzheimer’s ward was easily the most depressing* of the entire complex, as some of these folks just didn’t have a handle on reality. For example, one particularly depressing patient constantly asked the nurses what time her (the patient’s) daughter would be arriving, since she was scheduled to come that day. Every day this woman was “waiting for her daughter”, and every day her wait was fruitless; I’m not sure she even had a daughter. Almost more heartbreaking were the families who would show up to see their loved one, only to not be recognized at all. I can’t imagine anything worse than having to go see a loved one in the hospital and dealing with the hurt of him/her not even knowing me.

That being said, there was no danger there.

The Alzheimer’s ward was locked down. Keycodes were required for entry and exit, doors were alarmed, and everyone in the place (including lowly maintenance workers like me) were well-trained on the security procedures. Staffing was far heavier in this ward than most (as the patients needed much more individual care), but even those who were fully ambulatory weren’t exactly threats to the community.

The summer I worked at that home (the summer of my 18th birthday) was definitely one of the better learning experiences of my life. As depressing as some of the areas of the home were, exposure to reality is part of life. At the very least, having that experience made me thankful for what I do have in life. Now, as a parent it is my responsibility to control what access my kids have to that reality, and at some ages I wouldn’t subject a child to some of these things. But I would do so out of respect for my own child’s ability, at a certain age, to fully comprehend a situation, not out of fear for his well-being. Even though there are locks on the doors, this is a hospital facility, not a prison.

Often these types of misconceptions about people are only heightened by insulating society from their very existence. These parents are merely inculcating the same misconceptions and paranoia into their own kids**. How sad.

Hat Tip: Free Range Kids
» Read more

Find Out What Happens When HOAs Stop Being Polite — And Start Getting Real

Homeowner associations [HOAs] are a bit of a prickly issue for libertarians. On one hand, they are voluntary, so you don’t have to choose to move into an area that has one. On the other hand, they are common enough (and arbitrarily nasty enough in many situations) that it is a significant limit to purchasing decisions to avoid them. Further, choosing a home with an HOA does not necessarily mean that the HOA you move into will resemble itself 5 or 10 years down the road — it may be much more restrictive. Much like local control of politics and federalism, choice is better than non-choice, but at the same time when a libertarian sees an organization that infringes upon property rights, the libertarian bristles.

Occasionally, though, an HOA does something worthy of genuine outrage. Especially when they do so in a callous and inhuman manner, which is the case here:

Kimberly, a 6-year-old in the custody of her grandparents, is facing eviction by local law enforcement because her grandparents live in a retirement community. The child has lived in the house her whole life, as her mother is unable to care for her due to unspecified drug problems. Now authorities plan to remove the girl from the only home she’s ever known and place her in foster care with strangers due to a homeowners association policy.

Kimberly’s grandparents, Jimmy and Judie Stottler, have been unable to sell their home and move elsewhere due to the housing market crash. The Stottlers have even lowered the price from $225,000 to $129,000, willing to get completely hosed on the move just to keep their family intact, but no one is buying. The battle has been going on for several years, the better portion of Kimberly’s life, but the Stottlers are of limited resources to fight the situation.

That’s bad. But this quote (from the HOA president) is the truly callous part:

“No, the sheriff will. I will merely be the President of the Board who is trying to enforce the policies of our association that she agreed to when she moved in.”

Yes, you’re not the one throwing a six-year-old girl out of the only home she’s ever known, and the care of two loving “parents” who never expected a child to be thrust upon them to be raised because her biological parent had abdicated all responsibility. You’re not responsible, it’s all the sheriff — who just happens to be acting on the orders you gave him. What’s the life of a small child worth? Obviously not as much as your rules.

I’ve never understood how the acquisition of a little bit of power can seemingly remove someone’s sense of humanity. Maybe this douchebag never had it to begin with?

Common Ground for the Left and the Right on the Bill of Rights

Petty Meddlers Face Jackboot

Homeowners’ Associations are one of life’s little sour tastes of government. Petty meddling nannies who tell you that you can’t do X, or that you must do Y, in order to keep the neighborhood “uniform” or somesuch. Sadly, it’s also a microcosm for most peoples’ reactions to government. When it’s a neighbor doing something they don’t like, they scour the by-laws for a way to run off to the HOA board of directors to get a nice little note sent to the neighbor. But when it’s their own behavior scrutinized, they think the HOA board of directors is an intolerable PITA.

So you can imagine I’m not a big fan of HOA’s, and there’s a little bit of schadenfreude in watching them get their hands slapped… But I still can’t support this (via Ezra Klein — hence calling this “good” — on Waxman-Markey):

Lots of small tweaks were added in the past day or two. And some of them were good! Rep. Dennis Cardoza, for instance, added a smart amendment to discourage neighborhood associations from prohibiting solar panels of aesthetic grounds.

So, they can tell you not to paint your door green, but they can’t stop you from filling your roof with a solar array the size of a tennis court.

I have a coworker facing this issue right now. He lives in Newport Beach, CA, and his HOA has some waterfront homes. One of his neighbors with oceanfront (cliff, not sand) is planning to put solar panels down the face of the cliff to electrically heat his pool. This, of course, is California. There are environmental laws, and the HOA doesn’t want to see this happen either. But being California, they ALREADY have laws that stop the HOA or anyone else (including the Greens) from interfering, because solar energy takes precedence. Now it sounds like this will extend nationwide.

This is one of those issues that gets thorny for libertarians. It comes down to property rights, but the question of what legitimate hindrances can be placed on the owners by HOA’s. After all, an HOA is a contract that a buyer of a house willingly enters into. But it doesn’t seem to me like an issue in which Congress has any right to intervene.

As a renter who is waiting for the complete collapse of the market before I buy a home, I know that I may be faced with a tough decision regarding my purchase based upon whether or not I’ll choose a neighborhood with an HOA, and whether the existence of an HOA is enough to dissuade me from the house we otherwise find desirable. But I know what I don’t want, and that is for Congress to be the one telling my HOA what it can or cannot do.

The District of Corruption Owns Your Driveway

In Washington, DC aka the District of Corruption, the friendly local meter maids are now issuing parking tickets, on your driveway.

Beverly Anderson is mad as hell. She just started to get tickets for parking in her own driveway.

That’s right. The District of Columbia is ticketing people who park their cars in their own driveways.

“This is clearly an attempt by the city to extort money out of property owners,” Anderson tells WTOP.

Anderson has received two of the $20 tickets in the past month. Anderson has owned the Capitol Hill house (and the driveway, so she thought) for more than ten years and has never gotten a ticket. And she’s not alone.

Well, you’re probably thinking that DC’s Department of Public Works have raided Marion Berry’s crack stash. However, there is strangely enough, a legal justification behind this obvious money grab by the District of Corruption:

“Any area between the property line and the building restriction line shall be considered as private property set aside and treated as public space under the care and maintenance of the property owner.”

Basically what that means is most property owners in the District don’t own the land between their front door and the sidewalk, but they are responsible for taking care of it. It’s why you can get a ticket for drinking beer on your front porch in the Nation’s Capital. You’re technically on public space. It’s also why the city can ticket you for parking in your own driveway if you don’t pull your car deep enough into the driveway beyond the façade of your house or building.

Apparently, in DC, you just own the building and land directly under it. You merely maintain District property outside of your front door. How nice of them.

Perhaps every property owner should sue the District of Corruption and the Federal Government for fraud because they thought they were buying the house and the entire lot. Instead, they’re taking everything between the front door and the sidewalk. Any DC residents up for that lawsuit?

h/t: Hit and Run

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Frustrated Property Owner Sends A Giant “Screw You” To All Of Alexandria, Virginia

Anyone who has dealt with the pettiness that often finds itself residing in zoning boards is likely to understand this one completely:

To many in Old Town Alexandria, the sex shop that opened recently on King Street is nothing short of scandalous, a historical desecration just blocks from the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee.

But to Michael Zarlenga, it’s justice.

Zarlenga spent $350,000 on plans to expand his hunting and fishing store, the Trophy Room. He worked with city officials for almost two years and thought he had their support — until the architectural review board told him he couldn’t alter the historic property.

Furious and out of money, Zarlenga rented the space to its newest occupant, Le Tache, which is French for “the spot.”

“I can’t say I didn’t know it would ruffle feathers,” said Zarlenga, 41. “Actually, I was hoping for a fast-food chain because I thought that would be more annoying to the city.”

As you can imagine, this has ruffled the feathers of quite a few people in Alexandria and has even sent the local prosecutor on a pornography hunt in an effort to find some way to shut the business down.

Considering the way they treated Zarlenga, though, it’s pretty clear that the City of Alexandria has nobody to blame but itself:

Zarlenga’s saga with the building dates to 2001, when he opened his hunting and fishing store. In 2006, he bought the building with the idea of renovating and expanding it to include more retail space, a bathroom and an elevator.

He hired a Washington architectural firm, which created eight designs for the project. The final one included plans to raise the roof on the back of the building and demolish a small section of a historic brick wall that was built about 1800. Most of the back wall would have been incorporated into the renovation.

Zarlenga said he consulted Alexandria’s historical preservation staff along the way to be sure everyone was on board with his plans. He said he relied heavily on the advice of Peter Smith, who at the time was the principal staff member of the city’s Board of Architectural Review.

(…)

Zarlenga said he felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under him. He appealed to the City Council but lost in September 2007. Council members suggested he go back to the staff of the architectural review board and submit new plans.

For Zarlenga, it was the final straw. He choked back tears as he told the council he was finished: “I have no faith in the staff. . . . They have completely taken the integrity, as I see it, out of the system. . . . The simple fact is there’s no money left, okay?”

And so, he rented the space out to a business sure to ruffle feathers and piss people off, and he’s not done yet:

[T]here’s another piece of Zarlenga real estate that might start causing buzz. He owns a shuttered, dilapidated building several blocks away at Princess and Royal streets. Some of the broken windows have been patched with duct tape.

“As far as I’m concerned, that corner will always be an eyesore,” Zarlenga said. “That’s a little slice of revenge.”

As far as I see it, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Susette Kelo Tells Her Story at The Cato Institute

Interestingly, this new development that was supposed to bring in so much revenue and jobs to the City of New London remains an empty lot. The city has lost a tax base and the only new jobs which were created were for demolition. Here’s hoping that New London does not recover from this immoral stealing of property anytime soon.

To watch or listen to the rest of the event featuring Susette Kelo’s attorney from the now infamous case Scott Bullock and the author of the book Little Pink House Jeff Benedict, click here.

In fact, let me say unequivocally, I’m OK with more people dying, so long as we have more freedom; be it with drugs, or guns, or sex, or anything else.

Are there limits? Of course there are; at the very least, my fist is limited by your nose… but doing immoral, unethical, and unconstitutional things (and I include setting arbitrary limits on freedom in that list) in service of “a good cause”, does not make those things right.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Cali Going “Green” — Raising House Prices By Restricting Supply

California, in an attempt to fix the housing mess* by making houses less affordable by making you buy features you wouldn’t otherwise**, has announced new statewide building restrictions to go “green”.

From the Governator on down, nanny statists in California are more than willing to use force to make your life more expensive, and are quite happy to gloat about it the whole while:

Today, the California Building Standards Commission announced the unanimous adoption of the nation’s first statewide “green” building code. The code is a direct result of the Governor’s direction to the Commission and will lead to improved energy efficiency and reduced water consumption in all new construction throughout the state, while also reducing the carbon footprint of every new structure in California.

Unanimous? There’s nobody willing to step up and say “maybe we should let individuals decide how their houses should be built”? You can argue day in and day out whether building codes for safety purposes are a legitimate form of government coercion, but this is just nanny-state do-gooderism. It’s the logical next step to a government that won’t allow any market forces the freedom to develop the energy people want to use, so simply requires that they use less. Allowing market forces to price water, for example, might suggest to people that they should save water for their own sake. But government regulation artificially keeping water prices low means, of course, that they must either ration water, mandate regulation to reduce use through the building code, or both. Throwing bad government after bad? I’d say so.

“Once again California is leading the nation and the world in emissions reductions and finding new ways to expand our climate change efforts,” said Commission Chair Rosario Marin.

Sometimes being first is a good thing. Sometimes it’s not. Something tells me that increasing housing prices in a place like California, already far too expensive with other taxes and regulations (and market forces) for the average person to survive comfortably, will not end up helping the state.

“The commission should be commended for bringing everyone to the table including representatives of the construction and building trades industry, environmental groups and labor organizations, and achieving something no other state has been able to.”

“We railroaded this through in a bipartisan manner. Therefore it’s obvious that it’s futile to resist.”

The new California Green Building Standards Code goes well beyond the current building standards. These new statewide standards will result in significant improvements in water usage for both commercial and residential plumbing fixtures and target a 50 percent landscape water conservation reduction.

Plumbing fixtures? Better buy a plunger. Maybe even an auger when they get through with your house. Oh, and I hope you like Xeriscapes, because you’re going to see a lot more of them. (Again, this is a result of government artificially pricing water too low, and then enacting use restrictions that natural market forces could already have arranged).

They also push builders to reduce energy use of their structures by 15 percent more than today’s current standards.

Again, in many ways this is a good thing. But it’s not something that most people had deemed necessary to pay for in the past, or it wouldn’t need to be regulated.

They also push builders to reduce energy use of their structures by 15 percent more than today’s current standards.

I guess they thought this was really important to point out, since they repeated the sentence in the press release. Or perhaps they are just experts on “being green”, and not so much into the whole proofreading thing…

The new standards declare the minimum California will accept in environmentally friendly design – local jurisdictions and builders who wish to do more are applauded.

[clap clap clap]Yay, Berkeley! You go girl![/clap clap clap]

In addition to the new codes adopted today, Governor Schwarzenegger’s Green Building Initiative (Executive Order S-20-04) (http://gov.ca.gov/executive-order/3360/) directs state agencies to reduce energy use at state-owned buildings 20 percent by 2015, while also reducing the impact state buildings have on climate change.

Please tell me they’re going to do this by reducing quantity of state buildings and number of state employees by this much!

His executive order directs that new state construction and major renovation projects should meet a minimum of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification in order to save energy, conserve water, divert waste from landfills and cut greenhouse gas emissions. To date, 13 state buildings have achieved LEED certification.

I guess that’s the end of major renovation projects to state buildings. Oh, wait, they’re spending our money? Never mind.

And wow, 13 whole buildings so far? What size bucket does that drop fall into?

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings nationwide account for 70 percent of electricity consumption, 39 percent of energy usage, 12 percent of potable water consumption, 40 percent of raw materials usage, 30 percent of waste output (136 million tons annually), and produce 39 percent of associated greenhouse gases (CO2).

I thought I learned from the NRA that buildings don’t waste energy, people do. Up next, Washington DC outlaws private ownership of buildings!

California’s new building standards will result in increased water and energy savings through a combination of more efficient appliances, use of efficient landscapes and more efficient building design and operation.

Again, I’m sure they’re not doing anything to increase the efficiency of government.

The code also encourages the use of recycled materials in carpets and building materials, and identifies various site improvements including parking for hybrid vehicles and better storm water plans.

Hey, so you get primo parking for your 20 mpg Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, while the guy with the much more environmentally-friendly 36 mpg Honda Civic languishes at the back of the lot. I’ll bet he produces a lot less smug, too.

Additionally, the new code contains standards for single-family homes, health facilities and commercial buildings. The code is composed of optional standards that will become mandatory in the 2010 edition of the code. This adjustment period will allow for industry and local enforcement agencies to prepare for, and comply with, the new green building standards.

This is why the construction industry went along… Anyone with half a brain will be pushing for their construction to be complete by 2010! After all, what California really needs is MORE real estate being developed, because we don’t have quite enough of a surplus now!

Moving forward after 2010, the California Green Building Standards Code will be updated on an annual basis to ensure that the latest technology and methods of construction have been incorporated to always maintain a high level of standards.

And here’s the giveaway to lobbyists. Just think how much money is going to be spent at the state capital ensuring that pet technologies get implemented into the code. Oh, and I’m sure regulations that change yearly will require a lot more inspectors and training, another fun way to spend taxpayer money. Sacramento should be a boom town over the next few years.

For more than 20 years, the California Building Standards Commission has established California as an international leader in areas such as energy conservation, water conservation and seismic strengthening—resulting in some of the most efficient and sustainable buildings in the world.

Ahh, the final buzzword. “Sustainable.” As long as they keep taxes and regulation just shy of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, Sacramento’s economy should remain sustainable. But just imagine if the local government was trying to pull this sort of shit in a state without beautiful scenery and picturesque beaches… They’d call it Detroit.
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14 Libertarians Win Tuesday’s Elections

Out of 81 candidates running as Libertarians in Tuesday’s elections, 14 (17%) won (full results here). While this may not sound very encouraging, it is encouraging to me to see at least a few Libertarians actually winning elections and holding public office. A small town mayor here, a judge there, and a hand full of city council members can make a difference in their communities. This can be especially important dealing with issues such as eminent domain, zoning, and property rights in general.

It’s good to see that the Libertarian Party is capable of running winning campaigns in local elections. We have a long way to go before we can hope to populate the state legislatures, governors’ mansions, and state courts with Libertarians, much less anything as ambitious as the U.S. House, Senate, and the Oval Office but that doesn’t mean we cannot win on the local level where the government is closest to us.

The Endangered Species People Act

(WSB Radio) — Despite the threat of legal action by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Army Corps of Engineers says it has no plans to reduce the release of water from Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona.

Army Major Darren Payne tells WSB’s Pete Combs the Corps is required by law to send water down the Chattahoochee River to protect endangered wildlife, power plants and water needs along the river.

“At the moment there’s not a whole lot we can do,” said Payne. Gov. Perdue has given the Corps a deadline of today to respond to the state’s demand to reduce the amount of water, under the threat of legal action.

Payne says the Corps will continue to release 2 billion gallons of water a day.

“We cannot deviate without some action being taken on the endangered species act or special legislation,” said Payne.

Ah, the Endangered Species Act strikes again! A law which has arguably done more to undermine property rights in our country than any other could potentially endanger the lives of Georgians. The Army Corps of Engineers apparently has no choice but to follow the law as it is currently written meaning the federally protected mussels and sturgeons have priority over the people of Georgia.

As Gov. Sonny Perdue threatened legal action, the Georgia delegation to the U.S. House as well as both of the state’s senators introduced legislation to amend the ESA to allow states to be exempt from the law if either the Secretary of the Army or the state’s governor declare emergency drought conditions (Personally, I would prefer a complete repeal of the ESA but this proposal seems like a reasonable enough compromise for now).

I fail to understand where the controversy is. Does anyone really want to argue that these animals should have priority over American citizens who are being forced to cut back their water usage so they can have water to drink, bathe, and clean with? Outrageous!

Neal Boortz proposed a rather interesting idea: the governor should order the Georgia National Guard to seize the dam from the Corps of Engineers. I have no idea of what the legalities of doing such a thing are and other legal options should be exhausted first, but I believe one could make a good case for doing just that. During the War of 1812, at least one governor who opposed the war refused to allow U.S. troops to come into his state. If one were to look at a more contemporary example, certain “sanctuary cities” refuse to enforce federal immigration laws.

While I normally advocate the rule of law, it seems to me that if cities and states can pick and choose the federal laws they wish to follow, then ignoring the ESA in this emergency seems to be quite appropriate. Endangered species should never have the ability to endanger people.

It’s the Spending Stupid!

In the immediate wake of the bridge collapse in Minnesota, politicians (mostly Democrats) have advocated raising taxes to repair or replace other structurally deficient bridges throughout the country. Apparently, there just isn’t enough money in the treasury at this time to repair these bridges. Why am I skeptical that this is not the case?

Assuming for a moment that constructing and maintaining bridges and highways is a legitimate role of the federal government, it’s hard for me to believe that the treasury department cannot find the funds to repair highways, bridges, and infrastructure. Yet this same government can still find enough of our money to fund such things as the arts, public radio, public television, museums, midnight basketball, Amtrak, Americorps, subsidies, the war on (some) drugs* and a seemingly endless laundry list of other government programs and initiatives which go well beyond the scope of the federal government as defined in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

I have found Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) an invaluable resource when it comes to determining whether or not the government can demand more of our tax dollars. The CAGW website did not disappoint. As it turns out, my suspicions were correct: the treasury does have enough funds to repair the bridges and highways without raising taxes and still have plenty left over. What I found in this article was especially interesting:

The Federal Real Property Profile (FRPP) was created by the Bush administration in order to help federal agencies manage and dispose of their surfeit property. So far, the FRPP shows that the government owns and leases 3.87 billion square feet of property, and 55.7 million acres of land. Real property asset value for all these holdings is estimated to be $1.2 trillion.

One startling example of the government’s wasteful holdings is Chicago’s Old Main Post Office. This 2.5 million-square-foot unused structure has been vacant since 1997 and costs $2 million to maintain annually, yet the government continues to hold on to it at taxpayers’ expense.

That’s $1.2 trillion that could be put towards repairing the bridges or other priorities such as improving the VA hospitals, paying down the national debt, or Constitutional functions the government is actually supposed to fund. While $20 million over 10 years to keep this post office is small potatoes to our government, it’s not an insignificant amount to the taxpayer. How many families could have put their children in private schools, purchased their own health insurance, made a down payment on a home, or invested in their futures had their share not been taken at gunpoint to fund this wasteful spending?

And this is only one of many examples of wasteful spending of our money folks. Maybe when our elected officials decide to eliminate the pork, the waste, fraud, and the abuse, and if the government still needs more money to support the Constitutional functions of government, I’ll be receptive to the idea of them taking more of our money. Until that day comes, the idea of raising taxes is a complete non-starter.
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And “The System” Rolls On

So, it’s been over 100 most days for the last month and a bit, with some massive wind and dust storms… generally not the most pleasant outdoor environment, and like many Arizona residents we’ve neglected our yard a bit.

Note, I said “a bit”; here’s the total weed growth since we last did the weeds in March(the dead branches are damage from a series of severe wind storms over the past couple months. We’ve been waiting for the trees to recover a bit before trimming back; and the desert scrub grass at the base of the trees is there ON PURPOSE):


Today we received a notice from the city of Scottsdale, demanding we remove the “Excessive weed growth” from our “desert landscaped” front yard by Sunday, or face a $2000 fine.

WHAT!

Well, first of all, they call THAT EXCESSIVE?

WTF Over?

Not only that, but a $2000 fine?

We’re not talking about some anal HOA here. Our house was built in 1953, long before the unholy institute of unlawful prior restraint, the home owners association, was an itch in Satans scrotum.

No, this is the city of Scottsdale…

Now, I thought something was a bit fishy about that; so I started looking at city ordnances etc… and there is nothing that says they can levy a $2000 fine for weeds. The only thing I can find is a “blighted property” statute where they can charge you $2000 for allowing your property to fall into a dangerous state of disrepair or abandonment.

Sooo, they’re going to declare a property “blighted” because of (and I counted them) 29 small weeds, mostly right along the edge of concrete.

Yeah, Ok, that’s really gonna fly. Obviously, if I took them to court then I would win; but seriously, who’s going to do that? Hell, just to take them to court, I’d have to post the fine, AND fees penalties and costs in escrow before hand.

So, grumbling, we go out in the 102 degree sun and pick the weeds. Then we notice a bunch of other folks outdoing similar things.

It seems that every house in the neighborhood got some kind of a violation notice.

Our neighbor got a notice saying he would have to pay a $600 fine for not having his house number posted properly so that it was visible from the street…

Only the house number is PAINTED IN 8″ HIGH LETTERS ON THE CURB IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE.

Not only that, but it’s also on his mailbox, which is on the side of his house facing the driveway. He has a set of numbers on the side facing the street as well, but one of the numerals had fallen off during a recent windstorm, and he hadn’t fixed it yet.

This one was flagged because it was a “fire hazard” because “emergency services may not be able to find the address in case of emergency”.

Did I mention that every address in the city is in the cities GIS database, which is GPS linked to all city vehicles, and emergency services?

We talked with him (a great guy actually. A rastaman in his early 50s who’s been here for 20 years. He and his wife have a beauty salon a couple miles away, and a bunch of grown kids), and he says a few days ago a guy from the city was around looking at everyones houses, and didn’t leave ’til he found violations on everybody. Then this morning he went around posting notices.

So, what would have happened if we were gone on vacation for the week?

This is your tax dollars at work ladies and gentlemen. bureaucrats have to justify their existence after all, or they could be downsized (unlikely, but hey, it could happen). Thus, they drive around every neighborhood in the city, and search every house and yard for some kind of violation.

I guess if here are no violations, then obviously they aren’t doing their job; so there have to be violations.

Just like lawmakers have to make new laws… because after all, they are lawmakers right; if they arent making laws then they aren’t doing their jobs…

…right?

But what about when there AREN’T any violations, or no more laws are needed?

Of course THAT would never happen, because there are ALWAYS more laws to make, and the laws are written so that EVERYONE is a violator, no matter how they try not to be; because the government cannot control you if you aren’t guilty of something.

So everyone is guilty, and the system rolls on

…and more bureaucrats are hired, and more attorneys, and more prosecutors, and more officers… and the system rolls on.

Because that’s what systems do. They perpetuate themselves. They create work, to ensure that there is always work. They increase work, to ensure they can always increase their empires. They justify work, to ensure they will always increase their budgets… and the system rolls on.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

It’s Constitutional For The Government To Harass You

So you buy a property. The property is free and clear. Then some bureaucrat comes along and tells you that the government has an easement on your property, but there’s no written record of it. You tell them to go screw. So they start harassing you. Is this right?

This is the subject of a case now being mulled by the U.S. Supreme Court, Wilkie v. Robbins. As R.S. Radford and Timothy Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation explain in a Legal Times article, Harvey Frank Robbins is a Wyoming man who bought a ranch in 1993, “not knowing that the previous owner had agreed to give the Bureau of Land Management an easement over the land. BLM agents, however, had neglected to record the easement, so when the purchase went through, Robbins got the land free and clear.”

This clearly was the mistake of the government agents, yet they weren’t about to let Robbins off the hook when he did not accede to their request to reinstate the easement. The agents made threats against him. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke during oral arguments “of a pattern of harassing conduct that included trespasses on this man’s lodge and leaving the place in disarray, videotaping the guests, selective enforcement of the grazing laws, a whole pattern of things, even asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs to impound his cattle.”

Rather than punish government agents who have clearly abused their power, the federal government is asserting in the nation’s highest court the right of government representatives to act in this very manner.

In this case, the federal government claims that there is no constitutional right to physically exclude the government from your property, and even if there were such a right that it would offer no protection against harassment. This government argument, Radford and Sandefur explain in an amicus brief on behalf of Robbins, is “based on a disturbing and mistaken understanding of the relationship between the American people, their government and constitutional protections of private property rights. The framers of the Constitution accorded great weight to the importance of private property as a bulwark of personal sovereignty and autonomy, which not even the power of government could breach except in limited circumstances. . . . If the government were allowed to retaliate against citizens who exercise their right to exclude government agents from their land, the right itself would be extinguished.”

In a society that respected individual freedom, the agents who harassed Robbins would face prosecution. Instead, they are exonerated and the government itself arrogantly demands a right to harass individual citizens because — get this — the Constitution does not specifically forbid harassment by such officials.

They used to say that a man’s home is his castle. We’re increasingly moving towards a world where your home is simply somewhere the government allows you to live. You can pay your mortgage, you can pay your taxes, but if they want to evict you, you’d be well-advised to start packing.

We’ve built a government big enough to do all sorts of “wonderful” things for us. But this is something that Barry Goldwater warned against: “A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.”

This case is currently before the Supreme Court. To learn more, listen to today’s Cato Daily Podcast, where Timothy Sandefur (mentioned in the story) of the Pacific Legal Foundation explains why this behavior is “worse than Kelo.”

Zoning Out Freedom

Unhappy with legislative failure in Richmond, the leaders of the City of Alexandria, Virginia have turned to a new, rather unique, tool in their effort to force local businesses to ban smoking:

Frustrated that the state legislature failed to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, Alexandria officials have come up with a maverick plan of their own that would prohibit smoking in all new eateries and make it more difficult for existing establishments to allow people to light up.

The unusual proposal would use the city’s zoning authority to mandate smoke-free restaurants.

If successful, Alexandria would become the first jurisdiction to bar restaurant smoking in Virginia, where the state legislature severely limits local authority. That means individual governments do not have the power to institute outright smoking bans in restaurants and bars, such as those adopted in the District and several Maryland jurisdictions.

So Alexandria has decided to use its limited powers to achieve the same result.

(…)

Alexandria would seize control of the smoking issue with such mundane tools as use permits. When a bar or restaurant came to the city to request a permit, the city would require it to be smoke-free before granting the permit.

And if you own a restaurant that already has a use permit, don’t think that you’re safe:

Restaurants that have permits must agree to go smoke-free in three months or risk future restrictions or even closure.

So much, it seems, for the right of a private business owner to decide how he or she wishes to cater to potential customers. So much for the idea of sitting outside on a summer evening at a restraurant on King Street and smoking a cigar just because you want to. So much for property rights and freedom in the city that George Washington called home.

Cross-Posted At Below The Beltway

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