Cato fellow to speak on comprehensive planning

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Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O'Toole will speak in Tulsa on Saturday, April 24, 2010, 1:30 p.m., on the topic of comprehensive planning. The talk is sponsored by Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise (OK-SAFE) and will be held at the Hardesty Library, 8316 E. 93rd St. The event is free and open to the public. Here's their blurb about the event:

Heard a Lot Lately About:

A Tulsa Without Cars...A Light Rail System...
New Urbanism...MAPS 3 and PlaniTulsa...

Wondered What it's All About?

Randal O'Toole, senior fellow with the Cato Institute and author of The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future and Gridlock: Why We're Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It, discusses how government attempts to do long-range, comprehensive planning inevitably do more harm than good by choking American cities with congestion, making housing markets more unaffordable, and sending the cost of government infrastructure skyrocketing. Does this effect how, and whether, churches are built?

O'Toole will also speak in Oklahoma City on Monday, April 26, 2010, at 6:30 pm at the Character First Center, 520 W. Main.

While I disagree with OK-SAFE's opposition to PLANiTULSA, I respect the fact that it is grounded in principle. (That's in contrast to groups who are trying to derail or mutilate Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in a generation in order to serve their own institutional and commercial self-interests.) It's certainly reasonable to be skeptical about large scale, long-range government planning. A good deal of the sprawl and urban destruction of the past fifty years was the product of a previous generation of government planning. And the places that urbanophiles hold most dear were built before zoning and planning took hold of our cities.

It should be said, however, that developers of that era had a sense of self-restraint -- think of the long-standing gentleman's agreement that no building in Philadelphia would be taller than the William Penn statue atop City Hall. And the way development was financed in that earlier era encouraged permanence. Typically, you were building for yourself, not building something to flip as quickly as possible. At some point construction shifted from being a craft performed as a service and turned into a commodity-producing industry.

As Paul Harvey used to say, self-government won't work without self-discipline.

I would urge OK-SAFE members to look at the PLANiTULSA documents, what they actually say, as opposed to what someone calling himself a new urbanist said on a website somewhere. What they'll find, I think, is something very different from the large-scale, overly-prescriptive comprehensive plans of the '50s and '60s. They won't find anything calling for a "Tulsa Without Cars." Existing single-family residential developments are labeled as Areas of Stability (much to the chagrin of the development industry). If implemented, PLANiTULSA would allow for types of development that are currently very hard to do under our existing zoning code. Parking requirements would be reduced, so you wouldn't need to buy as much land to put up a commercial building.

As long as you have people living in close proximity, you're going to need rules, since what I do with my property affects my neighbor's enjoyment of his. As long as local government is involved in building and maintaining streets, water lines, and sewer lines and providing police and fire protection, local government is going to need to be involved in urban planning. The question then becomes whether your planning process and philosophy reflects your city's values and an accurate understanding of how people interact with the built environment.

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2 Comments

Bob said:

The City of Tulsa and INCOG would benefit greatly if Michael Bates was a member of the TMAPC, or even to the BOA?

Why hasn't Republican Mayor Dewey Bartlett appointed him to replace one of the Developer hacks currrently seated at the TMAPC?

Ms. Wright needs some help at the TMAPC.

Tom Elmore said:

Compare "CATO-ite" Randall O'Toole's line of argument to that of "Heritage-ite" Ernest J. Istook.

Remember with me that while Istook was funding the completely needless destruction of OKC Union Station's rail yard -- center of Oklahoma's unique railway system -- he was simultaneously funding aggressive rail transit development in Utah, home base of his favored religious organization and in Arizona, a stronghold of that same religio-political-economic system.

Today, Istook mouths lengthy diatribes against rail transit development -- insisting that the automobile is the key to American freedom. He counts on the predictable ignorance of most of the "true-belivers" who buy his nonsense to "cover his tracks in Utah and Arizona."

In reality, the highway / automobile / oil hegemony of transportation long since crowded out the key requirement for the "free market" these think-tank-types claim to love: competition. There's no free market without competition and no competition without competitors.

As W. Edwards Deming pointed out in his last book, "The New Economics," the US traveling public had choices in the 1950s that it doesn't have now. The alternatives that "went away" just happened to be the cheapest-to-maintain, safest, most environmentally friendly and by far most fuel efficient. But they couldn't compete with massively subsidized highways and airlines favored by the politicians. Oh -- and by the way -- they were operated by the railroad companies, not by government.

A strong argument can be made that the alternatives that remain now keep us at war around the world -- and thus are the fountainhead of the "military-industrial complex" that President Eisenhower warned us all about in his farewell speech.

Unfortunately, returning to the world of real competition among real competitors in a somewhat fair (ie, "regulated") marketplace (I call it "The Old Republic") has now probably been made impossible by the hegemonists' crowning blow, "deregulation."

So it appears to me that what the "Hertige-ists" and "CATO-ists" are actually protecting are the new and emerging oligarchy/monopolies of their financial backers.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 16, 2010 10:25 AM.

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