Monday, March 3, 2008

Growth Management

The mantra, "growth should pay for itself" is continually proclaimed and then quickly ignored. But why? This is probably one of the most important issues facing Idaho families and so I'll try to shed some light.

When a legislator or anyone else says that growth should pay for itself it is important to understand what that actually means. The problem is that I am not sure that everyone is in agreement on that point. Due to this, fracturing occurs and a unified voice is lost. Without this unity the issue dies out and that gets us to where we are today. That is the Reader's Digest version.

Then there is the story behind the story. Namely, it is that the powers that be are vociferously opposed to any changes and work the system to maintain the status quo. As a citizen legislature, we are particularly disadvantaged in being able to weigh the arguments and come to an independent conclusion. We rely heavily upon the information from those with an agenda to push. They are committed to their agenda and they are equally committed to us embracing their perspective. This is due to the fact that most public policy is a zero-sum game. That is, there are winners and there are losers. The vested interest that would pay the freight for the new growth management policies are very clear losers. They act predictably and oppose the changes. From my observations, they are agents of disunity. They pit those that would otherwise agree against one another in an attempt to fracture the cause and put pettiness above practicality. This cripples the process and ta-da, no change in the status quo, mission accomplished. This is harmful for the public policy making process, but more harmful on the lives of Idahoans.

To be clear, I support growth management, but this is not a profund statement. In fact, I would content that there is not a single legislator that would say differently. Growth management can come in many shapes and sizes. There are those that would advocate for a no-growth policy. On the other end of the spectrum there some that insist the market is the growth management mechanism. Ostensibly, there is a middle ground. Unfortunately, it is those in the middle that have the least to gain or lose and thus are the least well organized. A lack of organization is the Achilles heel of moderation. Think about it... When was the last time you heard someone get all pumped up for a moderate policy? It doesn't happen. In a world where the squeaky wheel gets the oil, moderation is well calibrated machine that should be listened to more often.

In the same way, it is the middle ground that is the best solution to the growth management issue. I certainly would not advocate ending growth. I would also contend that the market has been unsuccessful in regulating itself due to failures (asymmetry of information, externalities). I support streamlining the impact fee process so that it is easier to utilize. I also support expanding the right to administer impact fees to school districts and local highway districts. On this last point, lets remember that the executors of these organizations are elected by you and me. That means that they are accountable to the public and if they are acting outside of our will, they can and should be replaced.

I could go on for ever, but like growth, I have to know when to stop. To conclude in the words of Paul Harvey, "Now you know the rest of the story."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great BLOG!