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Re: Buckeye Institute Study: No Urban Sprawl Crisis in Ohio

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  • turpin
    ... Why should that dismay? If I prefer walking three miles to driving my car across town, while my neighbor drives his beloved SUV to cross the street, that
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 4, 2002
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      --- In carfree_cities@y..., Tom Tromey <tromey@c...> wrote:
      > Last night I started reading The Elephant in the Bedroom ..
      > It makes the point that automobiles, roads, and sprawl are
      > actually heavily subsidized by government policy. In fact,
      > I'd say the first couple chapters .. of this book are
      > written from a libertarian perspective(which surprised and
      > at first dismayed me). ..

      Why should that dismay? If I prefer walking three miles
      to driving my car across town, while my neighbor drives
      his beloved SUV to cross the street, that so far is
      simply a difference in personal preference, on which it
      is hard to hang any discussion of public policy. I
      wouldn't have the audacity to push public decisions on
      such meager ground, and were I to do so, there would be
      no reason for my neighbor to listen.

      But if various levels of government are subsidizing my
      neighbor's preference, and the resulting system imposes
      undue costs and dangers on us all, that becomes a
      powerful argument for change in public policy, that even
      my neighber might give some heed.

      Continuing along these lines, it may be that zoning is
      an inappropriate way to achieve our ends. Its use to
      encourage sprawl doesn't mean that it can or should be
      bent to opposite purpose. I can imagine a variety of
      other tools that are more focused, and less easily
      siezed by tomorrow's developers. For example, perhaps
      cities should have the power to impose a direct tax on
      all cars within their boundaries, and even beyond for
      some distance, to help compensate the costs imposed on
      them by automobile commuting. Or maybe property taxes
      on residential property in cities should vary inversely
      to occupation density. Perhaps states should raise the
      mandatory minimums on automobile insurance to something
      reasonable, and adopt Andrew Tobias's pay-at-the-pump
      plan, to make sure that every driver is insured. There
      are a variety of public policies that can be argued
      directly on the grounds of the costs and risks imposed
      on others. Many of these would work silently yet
      inexorably to encourage compact and walkable cities,
      in the same way that automobile subsidy has encouraged
      sprawl.

      Too often, there is the tendency to push for the
      desired end state, rather than for improvements in the
      political infrastructure. The former requires constant
      attention, great political success, and risks large
      damage to other areas. The latter can be done through
      a series of discrete changes that create long-term
      improvement, requires only moderate political success,
      and can be focused in a way where the consequences
      are more fairly allocated.
    • Jym Dyer
      ... =v= I was the one who recommended the book, and I understand the feeling of dismay, but many of the people we encounter in these matters adhere to that
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 5, 2002
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        > Last night I started reading The Elephant in the Bedroom,
        > which was recently recommended here. It makes the point
        > that automobiles, roads, and sprawl are actually heavily
        > subsidized by government policy. In fact, I'd say the first
        > couple chapters (haven't read past that yet :-) of this book
        > are written from a libertarian perspective (which surprised
        > and at first dismayed me).

        =v= I was the one who recommended the book, and I understand the
        feeling of dismay, but many of the people we encounter in these
        matters adhere to that kind of ideology. This makes it possible
        to communicate with them, and indeed to prove your point to them
        in a way they'll have a hard time shrugging off.

        =v= Sometimes there are motivations underlying the adoption of
        an ideology, though, that are so entrenched as to resist any
        appeal to reason. In my experience, so-called libertarians and
        other propertarians rarely wish to consider unfair advantages
        that have already occurred, and practically never do anything
        to redress them, even if the situation is the result of actions
        on the part of the reviled public sector.

        > To claim that the current state of affairs came about due to
        > market forces is to be willfully ignorant.

        =v= Well, that's the other piece of it: dishonestly using an
        line of argument to bolster a ripoff. The Buckeye Institute
        does seem to be in that business.
        <_Jym_>
      • Chris Bradshaw
        ... I am glad the subject of property taxes have been raised. Property taxes once were based on frontage, an idea that this group would probably support, since
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 7, 2002
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          turpin wrote:

          > . . . . For example, perhaps
          > cities should have the power to impose a direct tax on
          > all cars within their boundaries, and even beyond for
          > some distance, to help compensate the costs imposed on
          > them by automobile commuting. Or maybe property taxes
          > on residential property in cities should vary inversely
          > to occupation density.

          I am glad the subject of property taxes have been raised.

          Property taxes once were based on frontage, an idea that this group
          would probably support, since it penalized those with wide lots (and,
          interestingly, especially those with corner lots, since they paid for
          their frontage on _both_ streets).

          But that was penalizing suburban homebuyers over their former neighbours
          who stayed in the city, so the system was slowly changed to reflect more
          of the ability to pay, on which income and sales taxes are based. [Of
          course, in the U.S., since the center city did not have jurisdiction in
          the 'burbs, the suburban taxes did not have to support the older city
          costs, nor benefit from their (declining) commercial-industrial tax
          bases.]

          In 1993, I developed a scheme which was intended to face this issue in a
          slightly more sophisticated way. I suggested measuring the
          "walkability" of each neighbourhood and to use the score to _adjust_ the
          property taxes, up or down by a factor up to x2, otherwise based on
          real-estate values. This would be used for all properties, including
          non-residential ones, in the particular neighbourhood. Besides being
          fairer, it provided an incentive to the neighbourhood (I favour
          neighbourhood government functioning under metro municipalities) to make
          the changes that would reduce its residents' and business owners' tax
          load, specifically by reducing the "load" on the various city
          infrastructures, physical and social/health.

          BTW, I understand that in Virginia, property taxes are based on the
          total value of home and motor vehicles registered to that address. Nice
          twist on a theme.

          Chris Bradshaw, Ottawa
          www.flora.org/chris/
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