Crumb Trail
     an impermanent travelogue
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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

37 measures up.

"The people, in exercising their initiative power, were free to enact Measure 37 in furtherance of policy objectives such as compensating landowners for a diminution in property value resulting from certain land use regulations or otherwise relieving landowners from some of the financial burden of certain land use regulations," Oregon's high court wrote last week. "Neither policy is irrational; no one seriously can assert that Measure 37 is not reasonably related to those policy objectives.

"And, that determination is the only one that this court is empowered to make. Whether Measure 37 as a policy choice is wise or foolish, farsighted or blind, is beyond this court's purview. Our only function in any case involving a constitutional challenge to an initiative measure is to ensure that the measure does not contravene any pertinent, applicable constitutional provisions. Here, we conclude that no such provisions have been contravened."

So said the court. The editorial editorialized.
The measure does not prevent governments from "preserving" attractive scenery, wildlife habitat and the like. It merely prevents governments from shuffling the costs of those noble undertakings onto others. If a local Oregon town or county wants to bar the owners of a hilltop farm from selling off part of their property for a subdivision -- in order to maintain the "pretty view" for all the neighbors -- the municipality can either buy the land, or pay the land owner the amount he or she loses by not being allowed to use the property as the owner sees fit.

This is well in keeping with the letter and intent of the federal Fifth Amendment, which requires "just compensation" for any property taken for "public use."

Self-styled "preservationists" moan this will limit their ability to "preserve" all kinds of stuff which they either do not choose or cannot afford to actually buy.

Yes, and laws against bank robbery make it harder for gunmen to accrue the capital they need to live the Life of Riley.

We need to refocus preservation efforts on sensible measures consistent with a self-ruled society. We got side tracked for a few decades on cheap and easy solutions that trampled liberty and degraded society because power had been seized by poorly educated shallow thinkers who failed to grasp the harm they were doing with their unthinking zealotry.

We also need to realize that zealotry is not a sign of deep concern so much as an indicator of laziness, and in a real sense a lack of deep concern. Those who examine our problems and desires more closely easily see that the prescriptions of the zealous are thoughtless and will make matters worse; different and worse.

This isn't over. The zealots will not suddenly become wise and caring. Hopefully this example will be discussed widely so that a larger number can grapple with the implications and do the difficult work of reconciling our conflicting desires in a just way.

posted by back40 | 2/28/2006 12:25:00 AM


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