Tuesday, March 21, 2006

GOP Gov Hopefuls : Drown Land-Use in the Bathtub

After immigration policy--the fear-based wedge tool being used to pry the base off their couches in November--the state Republican Party seems most fond of ripping on Oregon's land-use policy approach, and using Measure 37 as a cudgel for fundamental remaking of land use law. Well, more of a fundamental unmaking:
Republican candidate for governor Kevin Mannix says he would use the office's budget and appointment power to dramatically weaken what he calls the "dictatorship" of Oregon's land-use planning program.

At a recent meeting of Oregonians in Action, a property-rights group, Mannix said he would withhold money from the state Land Conservation and Development Commission if necessary to wrest from it what he said are desperately needed reforms.

"Imagine me saying, 'I won't fund LCDC unless we reform the law,' " Mannix told the group. "That's the kind of governor I would be."

Mannix is undoubtedly the most reactionary and hyperbolic of the three in the way he speaks about the state's approach to growth, even if he's forced to discount parts of it as "light-hearted" when called on statements like firing the entire LCDC and replacing them with Oregonians in Action members. Did I mention Mannix was talking to OIA members at the time?

Saxton begged off the lynch mob train a bit and left himself odd man out, because third-guy Atkinson lined up with Mannix:
[the agency has become a relic that] "breaks people, financially and emotionally." He said he, too, would use the governor's budget veto authority to bring changes to the agency.

"I would love to line-item the LCDC budget to $1," Atkinson said.
Atkinson also said he didn't support the Big Look task force, saying 'common sense' should drive the cities and counties to do what they see fit about planning for growth and development. That sounds good and I'm sure it plays well, but in context of his call for emasculating LCDC, it's an incoherent position. It doesn't occur to him that the localities participating in the Big Look might want to meet, learn about their options, create networks and maximize their resources.

Why? Because they need the help. Five out of every six Oregon towns don't even have 10,000 people in them, and most of the ones that do run along the Hood River to Eugene "inverted sock" corridor. The rest are pretty much on their own--and the great irony is that Measure 37, the cudgel, is why most of the state needs land use planning help. Small localities simply don't have the data or human resources to consider questions being raised in the vague aftermath of the OSC decision to uphold M37. So they turn to the state for guidance. And you'll never guess who they turn to...that's right, the DLCD--the state agency that supports the appointed commission Mannix and Atkinson want to obliterate.

What does the DLCD spend much of its time doing? It helps localities build their own local growth plans. It reviews those plans once they're drawn. It takes on appeals to local decisions about those plans. And it publishes an array of state planning guidelines, research papers and land-use data that form a reference library at the disposal of the local authority. If you want chaos on the new wave of M37 claims, I can think of no better advocacy than bleeding dry one of the few statewide agencies that could address such chaos.

This is what the Republican slate offers Oregonians in the fall--the same "government doesn't work, so let's kill it" approach that has done the killing on President Bush's reputation in the wake of Katrina and Dubai, et al. It is probably designed to rally the faithful in an election more Republicans may opt to stay home for, but it runs too far afoul from what most Oregonians want. They don't want tickytacky rules that prevent a guy from building on his property, but the same polls that tell us that, also say we want to have Oregon protected from unfettered growth. Pitching a "get rid of the land-use demon" line is less hateful than whipping up anti-Mexican sentiment, but it's more tone deaf and ultimately a fruitless position to take, because half the stuff Mannix was bleating about he'd have almost no ability to do were he elected. Ultimately, it's more fear based politics from a party desperate for executive power. Avoid.