Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Unholy Alliance, Part Three

The following is excerpted from Dr. Steven Hayward’s speech at a Center of the American Experiment Luncheon Debate with Ted Mondale, Chairman, Twin Cities Met Council, on January 18, 2000. At the time, Dr. Hayward was senior fellow and director of the Center for Environmental and Regulatory Reform at the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. I'm going to post some of the better quotes, but the whole speech is a good read.
The Irony of Smart Growth

As one planner in Portland told a reporter, "We got tired of protesting the Vietnam War, read Jane Jacobs, and decided to take over Portland."

[That, in a nutshell, explains the origin of PARD. They got tired of protesting against Dubya, so they read Al Norman's "How to Slam Dunk Wal-Mart" and decided to take over Pullman. - TF]

One great irony is that the chief Senate sponsor of the Interstate Highway Act in 1956 was Senator Albert Gore. So you could say Vice President Albert Gore, Jr.’s embrace of smart growth represents a case of the sins of the father being visited upon the son.

What prevents conservatives from becoming card-carrying members of the smart growth movement, however, is the overwhelming sense that many folks want to use stringent land use regulation to cram smart growth down our throats, whether we want it or not.

One hears throughout smart growth discourse a condescension toward suburbs and suburbanites that suggests many smart growth advocates aren’t simply aiming at improving the practical functioning of cities and suburbs, but in fact wish to transform them wholesale. This is not a new idea. I once stumbled across an article from a 1957 issue of the Community Planning Review titled "Hell Is a Suburb." In his famous 1967 book The Levittowners, Herbert Gans wrote that elite opinion regarded suburbanites as, "an uneducated, gullible, petty ‘mass’ which rejects the culture that would make it fully human, the ‘good government’ that would create the better community, and the proper planning that would do away with the landscape-despoiling little ‘boxes’ in which they live."

If you think this is merely academic hyperbole—Gans is a sociologist, after all—just check in with James Howard Kunstler, one of the leading advocates of smart growth and the new urbanism. In a speech to the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Kunstler said:
[Suburbia] is the dwelling place of untruth. We call it suburbia. A cartoon of rural life, with none of the qualities of it. I believe we in the CNU [Congress for the New Urbanism] recognize its profound culturally toxic nature.…

The common complaint about these brand-new mega-suburbs is that "everything looks the same." [Or some might say "a big-box clone of a thousand other places" - TF] This is only the most superficial symptom of their evil nature.

Its present is a dangerously provisional collective hallucination, nourished by a sado-masochistic idiot pop culture, which can fall apart at the slightest provocation. We have a name for this collective hallucination, by the way: The American Dream, a sort of mega-lie stating that this sort of ghastly provisional collective hallucination is the ultimate state of being worth aspiring to.
Nor is Kunstler an extreme or unusual example. Urban affairs writer Neal Pierce has called suburban sprawl "a virus eating us from the inside out." Both Kunstler and Pierce have blamed sprawl for the Columbine High School shootings, and others have blamed sprawl for obesity. Andres Duany, one of the leading neotraditional planners, wrote that "suburban sprawl is a cancerous growth rather than healthy growth…. The suburb is the last word in privatization, perhaps even its lethal consummation, and it spells the end of authentic civic life."

The social attack on sprawl also reminds me of the poet Randall Jarrell’s remark that we could solve all of our problems if only we could get our hands on this fellow "Society." Today "sprawl" has taken the place of "society" as the general cause of all bad things.[And nothing personifies "sprawl," and therefore "evil," to the liberals more than Wal-Mart]

The point is, no matter how probitive some smart growth critiques of urban form may be, I simply do not trust giving more power to people with such offensive and condescending attitudes. Very little good can come of it.

...a lot of the popularity of smart growth with ordinary citizens is that it is a high church version of NIMBYism. In other words, a lot of people who hear "smart growth" take it to mean "less growth," or no growth at all in many cases.
And that, my friends, is how PARD, No SuperWalMart and all these other anti-Wal-Mart groups sell themselves. They cloak their anti-capitalist agenda by appealing to people's selfishness and fear of change. Trust me, if Wal-Mart were being built on Terre View Dr, instead of Bishop Blvd., they would just find some other clever excuses besides "Wal-Mart will impede hospital access" and "Wal-Mart will desecrate the cemetery." And those in town who don't want any growth or chnage in Pullman would unquestioningly go right along with it as they do now.

And I agree with Dr. Hayward. I certainly don't want to give may more power to people with such "offensive and condescending attitudes." That's why I will do everything I can to stop that from happening.

Technorati Tags:

No comments: