Thursday, August 10, 2006

Things are not what they seem.

That admonition is especially true in the wild west world of California Initiatives. One only has to watch the advertisements for or against any given initiative to gain that understanding.

Probably the most insidious of the current set of Propositions is Prop. 90.
Bars state and local governments from condemning or damaging private property to promote other private projects, uses. Limits government’s authority to adopt certain land use, housing, consumer, environmental and workplace laws and regulations, except when necessary to preserve public health or safety. Voids unpublished eminent domain court decisions. Defines “just compensation.” Government must occupy condemned property or lease property for public use. Condemned private property must be offered for resale to prior owner or owner’s heir at current fair market value if government abandons condemnation’s objective. Exempts certain governmental actions. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Unknown, but potentially significant major future costs for state and local governments to pay damages and/or modify regulatory or other policies to conform to the measure’s provisions. Unknown, potentially major changes in governmental costs to acquire property for public purposes. (SA2005RF0146.)

This will probably be advertised as a method to end abuses of the eminent domain processes made famous in the Kelo v. New London case recently decided by the Supreme Court. That case expands the use of eminent domain to cover cases where the property will be given back to private enterprise and the only benefit to the local government would be additional tax revenue. The July 24, 2006 edition of High Country News reveals that this is just a cover for a well funded, major effort in which "property-rights advocated have exploited Kelo to advance a broader anti-government agenda."

California's Proposition 90 would have serious consequences for all environmental regulation, all restrictive zoning regulation, even on home owners associations who collectively may attempt to restrict the nature of development.

I urge everyone to read High Country News' feature article by Ray King. Taking Liberties does more than outline the scope of this Grover Norquist - Wise Use Movement effort. King provides insights from lengthy interview with one of the signature gatherers who considers himself a "proud libertarian." He also shows both sides of the ongoing discussion in Oregon, where Measure 37 was approved by the voters in 2004 and has resulted in a bonanza for land use lawyers and almost none of the promised benefits.

If you think that it is great for California that over 30,000 new homes have been built in the flood plain of the San Joaquin River since the last major flood (1997) and that the levee system has been labeled a disaster waiting to happen that could surpass Katrina's flooding of New Orleans in scope, this is what Proposition 90 would encourage. If, on the other hand, you think that government should restrict development in flood plains and ensure that the average tax payer is not saddled with the financial obligation to bail out this un-wise use of the land, then Greens all over the state should be strongly opposing Proposition 90.

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