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Want a Highrise Next to Your Home? No? How About a Pig Farm?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Do you think it is a good idea to give the Department of Housing and Urban Development unchecked power to put an apartment building in your neighborhood? HUD has proposed a new rule that could do just that.

In July, HUD published its long-awaited proposal on “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” in the Federal Register. It is a sweeping set of land-use regulations that has attracted little national attention. The agency wants the power to dismantle local zoning so communities have what it considers the right mix of economic, racial and ethnic diversity. A finding of discriminatory behavior, or allegations of discrimination, would no longer be necessary. HUD will supply “nationally uniform data” of what it thinks 1,200 communities should look like…

HUD and Westchester are battling over local zoning that arose from a 2009 settlement (signed by my predecessor) to build 750 affordable-housing units in 31 mostly white communities. Westchester is well ahead of schedule in meeting these obligations. Almost 400 units have financing and 124 are already occupied. But HUD isn’t satisfied because it wants to control local zoning and remake communities.

–       Robert F. Astorino, The Wall Street Journal

Lane Solutions Replies

So – HUD knows exactly what 1,200 communities should like. And Westchester County, NY, should look just like the other 1,199. And if it doesn’t, HUD, in its bureaucratic wisdom, will withhold $17 million that it had promised to the County to build new sidewalks, playgrounds, and other good stuff in poor communities.

What’s that you say? Westchester is already the fourth most diverse county in New York in terms of Blacks and Hispanics? HUD’s federal monitor found no evidence of exclusionary zoning based on race or ethnicity? HUD doesn’t know what its new rule will cost or if it will work? Why does it matter to Lane County what happens in New York?

It matters because if the Feds can “…dismantle local zoning rules” in Westchester they can do it (and more) in Eugene. Or Creswell.

It matters because if you take money from Washington it can tell you what to do with it. And it can take money from you.

It matters because the Feds think they’re smarter than you. This is rule #1 of Liberalism (oops, we meant “Progressivism”). So they can tell you who should be able to build what next to your house.

Oh, and did we mention that complying with HUD’s new rules will cost Westchester between $3 and $9 million? What could it cost in Eugene?


When Compassion and Moral Hazard Collide

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What Happens When You Try to Help and Just Make the Problem Worse?

People defecating on the public Park Blocks in downtown Eugene, the site of the popular Saturday Market, has led the city to indefinitely cordon off two areas.

During the past week, several piles of human feces were found on a lawn and a landscaped area on the east Park Block, at Eighth Avenue and Oak Street, said Jeff Perry, the city’s facilities director.

People also had urinated there, creating potential health hazards, he said.

The Register Guard, August 24, 2013

Compassion’s an admirable human emotion – it tells us to respond to suffering and help when we can.

But compassion is still an emotion, like anger or sorrow. Left unchecked it runs away with us, making us do things that actually bring on harm.

Moral hazard occurs when our attempts to do good create incentives that encourage people to engage in destructive behavior.

Could we be witnessing moral hazard as a result of knee jerk compassion as we try to give transients a place to sleep in Eugene? Are we encouraging destructive behavior? We think it’s worth considering.

By designating a “safe” camping ground downtown we’ve made it easy for transients to (you guessed it) camp downtown. This will result in more campers because it’s convenient and safe. Making it easier to leave home and camp will  inevitably draw in those who sort of wanted to camp but didn’t know where.

The result? More people who have to use a bathroom, resulting in a health hazard to Saturday Market vendors and customers.

We’re not taking sides here. But we are asking Eugene and Lane County officials to consider the probable results of what they see as compassion.


Paper, Plastic or Unintended Consequences?

Monday, June 24, 2013

The debate about Eugene’s plastic bag ban is getting heated.

The City Council’s champion of the bag ban [Alan Zelenka] on Monday said he will propose that the council exempt people who receive food stamps from paying the 5-cent charge for paper bags in the city’s recently enacted prohibition on thin, single-use plastic retail bags. Southeast Councilor Alan Zelenka said he will propose the exemption as a way to make the ban less of a burden on low-­income people.  – Eugene Register Guard, June 11, 2013

Lane Solutions replies:

We believe that this sort of constant fine tuning is the inevitable result of governments’ attempts to force changes in citizens’ behavior. First the Eugene City Council bans plastic bags in the interest of the environment. Their goal? Encourage use of reusable bags. One result has been increased use of paper bags. Paper or plastic – which uses more total energy? According to a study cited by UO chemistry Prof. David Tyler this March, it’s paper. Which leaves more solid waste? That’s right – paper! Now comes the unintended consequence of poor people struggling to pay $.05 for each grocery bag. Next follows a lengthy debate on exempting the bag charge for the poor. Inevitably, there will be conflicts of interest with the Council picking winners and losers. Which products will qualify for the exemption? Groceries? Soft drinks? “Essential” hardware? Producers and retailers will lobby the Council to exempt their products from the bag charge. The result? More unintended consequences, more debates and more regulations.

Let us know what you think below