Sunday, March 27, 2011

Want a little tea with your conspiracy?

I recently learned that I am part of a vast, left-wing conspiracy. That came as surprise to me. But it appears that smart growth and sustainable development are the new face of socialism in America.

According to Tea Party groups across the country, land use planning and zoning -- and especially smart growth -- are part of a huge conspiracy to rob people of their property rights, driven by something called UN Agenda 21. Last November, Mother Jones magazine published an excellent article about this aspect of the Tea Party movement.

Our own local Tea Party focused on Agenda 21 at its last meeting and now has a related action group. That group's next meeting will tell people what to expect at the April 4 meeting on the Amador County General Plan general plan update. People who attended last week's board of supervisors meeting got a little preview of that, as Tea Partiers pointed to "trick" words to watch out for in the general plan language.

Considering that our general plan update isn't yet very smart or sustainable, I'm not sure what these folks have to worry about. After all, their very own supervisor, Brian Oneto, had the words "sustainable" and "sustain" removed from nearly all of the plan's draft policies a good while back. (Speaking of Oneto and the UN, I can't recall whether it was Brian or one of his brothers who brought up the UN in the 1990s during a Jackson presentation on the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project report.)

What the Tea Party folks have in mind nationally, it appears, is the destruction of modern zoning and land use planning as we know it. They might take a look at Oregon to see just how well that works.

Back in 2004, Oregon voters rebelled against the state's land use laws and passed Measure 37, which was sold as a way to restore Oregonians' lost property rights. Things went so wrong, however, that a mere three years later voters approved another initiative that stopped the wholesale development of farming, forest and groundwater-limited lands that loomed following Measure 37's passage.

Apparently, zoning and planning start to look pretty good when your ranch is threatened by a big subdivision down the road or your next-door neighbor plans to open a gravel mine.

Tea Partiers who care about land use planning would do well to read Republican real estate and economic development consultant Donovan Rypkema's excellent 2008 speech, "Property Rights and Public Values." Here's one of its concluding quotes (emphasis added):
"Land use controls are, in fact, a capitalist plot to optimize the property values of the majority of owners, not some communist conspiracy to deprive individuals of some imaginary 'property rights.'”
Maybe I'm part of a conspiracy after all. A capitalist one. I think I can live with that.