Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tom Sowell is Half Right

 
It isn't often I disagree with Tom Sowell. In the above article, The High Cost of Liberalism, he blames the astronomical rise in housing prices near Stanford University (a liberal haven) due to the liberal call for open space. He is half right; but I believe conservatives can share in this artificial valuation. How do I know this?
 
I was involved in East Fallowfield Township politics in the 70's and 80's. East Fallowfield is one of the most affluent townships in Chester County, Pennsylvania dubbed the 14th most affluent county in the United States. As an auditor and then on the zoning board, I watched as both conservatives and environmentalists (liberals as long as it's not in their back yard) created zoning maps that all but eliminated low income housing and commercial zoning. The better angels of my nature want to believe that it was based purely on economics and not on racism or classism. Although, I do recall how some near neighbors opined the loss of property value when the first African American family moved into the viewing area. As I said above, liberals all as long as it's not in their backyard.
 
Where they did zone for low income housing was already established trailer parks and already established enclaves of poor people located on the farthest extremes of the township boundaries. West Chester Borough, the county seat, did the same thing by locating their low income housing in industrial areas (Wyeth, Bolmar Street, Side Track) and on the extreme boundaries of the borough (Oak Place, Forest Manor, Everhart Park Apts. 'La Loma').
 
Supervisors also created zoning laws that made it almost impossible for farmers to parcel their land to their children. I actually witnessed township supervisors issue provisos to ordinances that specifically addressed farmers appeals for relief based on hardship. I saw how township zoning laws contributed to urban sprawl by creating two-acre minimum housing; the unforeseen result of which was to price their own children out of the housing market where they were born.  This was all done legally and I never once saw a county court grant an appeal. What the supervisors and their planning commissions dictated was written in stone. 
 
This was political manipulation of the free market and an anathema to a true conservative. The free market will distribute wealth justly if left alone.
 
If I walk to the top of the hill from my house in Coatesville, I can throw a stone into East Fallowfield township. The distance that stone travels is worth about $150,000 in property value and measures the distance between affluence and disenfranchisement.
 
There were other free market manipulations in Chester County:
 
How about the largest land grab by the rich in Chester County history, the dividing up of the King Ranch property. Imagine how much better off the Coatesville Area School District would be if that land would have been put on the market and developed into middle income housing. Not only would CASD have a larger tax base but more importantly, newcomers would have exerted an influence on the district.
 
And how about the delaying of the Exton Bypass so that a 202 corridor of commerce could go directly to West Chester rather than the western part of the county specifically Coatesville.
 
So, when you hear Coatesville folks decry that they have been done wrong at the county level, they too are half right; they are half wrong because they were not sophisticated enough to look beyond their own city block to see it happening and too provincial in their attitude to organize politically to do something about it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wolf's Hollow 4.14.2014

First reptile of the season. Maria walked right over this Garter Snake without even noticing him.