“Livable Communities Act” (Senate Bill 1619) Part II

Posted: September 16, 2010 in Complete Streets, New Urbanism, Urban Design, Urban Lifestyle

Ok, I read the bill.

I received a comment from a friend after the last post that referred to an article by ultraconservative blogger bob Livingston. (First I had heard of him). You can find his opinion on this bill here:  http://www.personalliberty.com/conservative-politics/liberty/social-engineering-bill-in-senate-will-force-you-into-city/

Bill writes rather alarmingly:

This bill is designed to destroy your community. According to the non-profit American Policy Center the bill:

  • Is a blueprint for the transformation of our society into total Federal control.
  • Will enforce Federal Sustainable Development zoning and control of local communities.
  • Will create a massive new “development” bureaucracy.
  • Will drive up the cost of energy to heat and cool your home.
  • Will drive up the cost of gasoline as a way to get you out of your car.
  • Will force you to spend thousands of dollars on your home in order to comply.

I think this article is an over reaction and it is obvious he has not read the bill.  I see nothing in this bill that would destroy your community or “force” anyone to do anything. The bill provides for coordination of policy between the Departments of Transportation, Housing and environmental protection to support smart growth that is transit oriented, more energy efficient,  mixed use and higher density than suburbia. It does not force you to live there.

What I do see , and object to is another way for politicians to reward their supporters with more largess from the public treasury, by the use of grants that encourage states and cities to develop and adopt regional plans that promote more transit oriented development.  You can bet most of these grants will go to favored constituencies. In fact, it appears to be mainly a regional planner employment act. It does create  another government agency  that once created will have a life of its own. An appropriation of  $100 million is authorized for this agencies whose sole purpose is to administer grants that total $3.75 Billion dollars over the next three years.  ( I will let you decide if that is “massive”). At a time when we are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar the feds spend, this seems reason enough to stop this bill from passing at this time. How is it to be paid for? Not addressed in the bill.

Since the Feds encouraged and subsidized urban sprawl in the first place, (no, it was not Free enterprise at work, free enterprise just responded to the incentives), and there are real negatives, both social, health related ( can you spell “Obesity” ?) and economic associated with urban sprawl, then it makes sense to me that the Feds should do something to reverse the trend. These policies include (but are not necessarily limited to) subsidies for the auto and trucking industries, subsidies and mortgage regulations that favor single family residences over other types of housing, and the use of gasoline tax money to favor auto and truck transport systems at the expense of other transportation options.

However, I would prefer that the Federal government simply remove these pro sprawl policies and let the market work.  Developers will freely build mixed use communities because they sell. Many people will freely move to  these walkable communities in the absence of these subsidies, over time, because they like the environment they create and transportation savings.  More density will make it possible for mass transit to once again become viable. No force or subsidies required. These policies are not affected or changed by this bill.

I say, good goals, but lets try another approach. What do you think?

In case you missed it, here is a link to the bill itself: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s111-1619

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