Property rights are funny things. They cross over all kinds of political and social boundaries, creating strange bedfellows from unlikely sources.
Liberals raging against the corporate machine may be surprised to find their teammate against a big development is a strong conservative who believes the government should not change the rules.
Likewise, conservative private developers may enlist support from liberal urban league groups, as they solicit taxpayer dollars to subsidize a business project they tout as having a public benefit.
The crossing of traditional lines makes property rights, and the laws, ordinances and comprehensive plans that come with them, a melting pot of vivid interactions. There are very few soft, squishy opinions among those involved; when their property is affected, otherwise disengaged people quickly become determined activists.
One case-in-point is the new County Comprehensive Plan, now in the final stages of the approval process. The plan is huge; it’s a heavy book. And now the commissioners are going through it line-by-line in public meetings. Progress is slow and the pace is frustrating for many, while others call the detailed examination careful and conscientious.
Add to this scenario the fact that two of the commissioners, Rick Currie and Rich Piazza, are up for re-election this year. In our heavily Republican county, the primary election is often the most important and it is right around the corner in May.
Are there politics involved in the speed of the Comp Plan approval? Probably. But the mix of supporters on each side of the property rights issue makes playing this political game a virtual mine field. There’s no clear path to please either side.
Two different conservative candidates are being called “anti-development” because they support the protections in the new Comp Plan that will make it harder for massive developments to plop down in rural areas of the county. Others factions support the big developers, claiming the tax base will be bolstered and will help the real estate market improve.
Another twist on the property rights issue is the use of public land, which is the “ours” in yours, mine and ours. How and when can the government decide the use of public land? Should the people have a say? Should it go to a vote? After all, the land belongs to everyone. You want to see an eclectic mix of people? Just wait until the city starts changing McEuen Field and you’ll see a constellation of citizens from every age group, walk of life and political viewpoint show up to express solidarity in protecting this city’s jewel.
My newsletter about McEuen, two weeks ago, sparked some interesting feedback. Almost everyone wanted it to stay the same. Some thought a few minor changes would be ok, and one guy suggested a restaurant down by the water with a parking garage in the park!
Then there’s the government’s heavy hammer of Eminent Domain, which is the law allowing them to buy a person’s private land, even against their will. Did you know that the unelected board of LCDC has the power of Eminent Domain? And now with a new ruling by the State Supreme Court, they’ve been defined as an independent entity, not under control of the city. So who supervises this board which can use Eminent Domain, handles many millions of tax dollars and does not even fall under the weak ethics laws of elected officials? But I digress...that's a question for the legislature.
Property rights come down to the basics of human behavior: We work hard for our property and we must fight to protect it against undue intrusion or negative influence. And the government wants to tell us all what to do, so we need to band together in our efforts and stand up for our rights. Yours, mine and ours. It makes for interesting teams and a deeper discovery of the common bonds we share beneath our outside labels.