Saturday, October 31, 2009

Unduly Burdened By B.I.A. Bullshit

I ran across an article written by Bill Quehrn - Executive Officer, Building Industry Association of Whatcom County. The title of the article is "Those Unduly Burdened, Rise and Fight!". The article lays out some inaccurate and misleading arguments about "takings" and then concludes, "However, recent actions by county government strongly suggest that it is time individual citizens … and even our county’s small towns and other municipal jurisdictions … start reminding Whatcom County’s elected and appointed officials that they will not be “taking” this kind of burdensome abuse or disregard of our Home Rule Charter any longer. It’s time to rise up and fight! CAPR’s time certainly seems to have come!"

I was going to write something to expose just how dishonest and deceptive the Executive Officer of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County was being, but then I realized someone else had laid out the way developers and large real estate speculators have heightened fears and exacerbate problems to recruit the very rural people they'd like to displace by suburbanizing all of our rural areas.

Fourteen years ago, Jay Tabor wrote a report, "Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound" that covers what BIAWC, CAPR and the developers and large real estate speculators behind them are trying to do... AGAIN!

... Movements are defined by the shared values of followers. These values are not the normative values of society but rather the values of a loosely linked sector of society in opposition to an establishment. The most commonly shared value of the Wise Use groups is their determination overturn or weaken environmental laws and open up public and private lands for unrestricted development and exploitation.

The Wise Use Movement is riddled with contradictions. The different levels of the movement have goals directly in conflict with each other. For example, many of the people that are attracted to the property rights and county secession groups in the western Cascade foothills are drawn by slogans such as "Protect Our Rural Heritage" and "Lower Taxes." The middle level organizers of these groups are mostly developers and large real estate speculators who want to suburbanize these areas. Not only will this remove the rural character, but the added long term infrastructure costs will inevitably raise property tax assessments and revenue budgets. Likewise, out on the Olympic Peninsula, the large timber corporations exporting raw logs played a far greater role in closing the small mills than environmental regulations.

It is the hallmark of Wise Use to play on these tensions, heighten the fears and exacerbate the problems. The aggressive scapegoating of regulations and targeting of environmental activists for hostility serves to provide a distraction from the contradictions. In full cry, the Wise Use activists often succeed in suppressing or intimidating any opposition, thereby preventing the open discussion that would lead to the exposure of their hollow program. ...

Not just the property rights movement is a rerun, the mis-use of "takings" claims as a tactic is being trotted out AGAIN.
Appendix I:
The Growth Management Act and "takings" claims

One of the major thrusts of the Growth Management Act was the imposition of "impact fees" that would make developers directly responsible for the infrastructure
costs of new construction. A major tax subsidy for development and land speculation was threatened. If developers couldn't buy cheap land, put up large projects that counties hadn't included in the long-term budget forecasts, and then stick the taxpayers with the tab, a whole industry would have to restructure itself around the real cost of doing business. Suddenly, Wise Use in Washington discovered the "property-rights" movement.

It was a marriage made in hell, but the happy couple of rural people and city-based developers were willing to overlook that. It was also a godsend to Gottlieb's faction of
the Wise Use Movement. Gottlieb and Arnold had failed to cash in on the big bucks now flowing from timber, mining and other industries to Wise Use operations like People For the West!, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, Putting People First, and Alliance for America. The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise was handed a literally golden opportunity with the advent of land-use planning laws like the Growth Management Act.

The key to the development industry's agenda and a mainstay issue for many of the property rights groups that the industry created is the issue of "takings." The phrase has all sorts of resonances, since it implies expropriation. Many of the Wise Use participants share the right-wing belief that rights are a dispensation granted by the
powerful. This is most clearly seen in the oft-repeated catch-phrase, "they are taking our rights." The takings issue was first set forth by economist Richard Epstein. The use of the work "taking" comes from the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, which states in part, "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." Epstein argues that most regulatory actions are a "taking" and thus require compensation.

The notion of easy money from the government has great appeal. Chuck Cushman frequently leads crowds in chanting, "Compensation. Compensation. Compensation." The phrase "property rights" has become a codeword for the takings issue. The issues that property rights groups put forward often revolve around the issue of paying compensation to anyone who complies with a regulation under protest. The alternative to payment is to waive the regulation. This is actually the agenda for industry; they have found an argument by which the government must either pay the cost of regulatory compliance or forgo the regulation. In law, the practice is usually called extortion.


So... while Querhn has been writing fear-mongering articles about "takings", he has also been, quite cynically, telling the Bellingham Herald: “The first thing I would ask them is to find anywhere in the public record where the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County has made any kind of suggestion that paving the county would be the appropriate thing to do,” he said. “You ain’t gonna find it.”

Well gee Bill... just because we "ain’t gonna find it" "in the public record" doesn't mean we ain't on to you.

1 comment:

Paul said...

It's not fair to blame Jay for WUINPS. He didn't write it. It is the work of that notorious anarcho-situationist de Armond.

And for what it's worth, Wise Use shriveled up and died in this county after the 1994 elections. After the elections, it got pretty thoroughly infiltrated and subverted from the extreme right.