Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mayoral Preview: Peter Brown

City Councilman Peter Brown is one of the leading candidates for the 2009 Houston Mayoral race. His web site lists seven "solutions" to issues confronting the city. Not surprisingly, his "solutions" are short on details but invariably involve an expansion of government power.

1. Plan For The Future Update Houston’s planning and development standards; adopt a comprehensive plan to realize our shared VISION for the future and to shape the quality growth our citizens want.
Brown implies that all Houstonians share the same vision for the future. Either he is naive, has been sleeping through Council meetings, or is being disingenuous. Houstonians have diverse views about the future. For example, some want less dense development, while others want increased density. Ultimately, if such decisions are left in the hands of government officials, the vision of some individuals will be embraced and the vision of others will be rejected. This is a necessary consequence when government sets planning and development standards--the vision, views, and values of some are imposed upon the entire city.

Given the diverse views and values of Houstonians, the only "shared vision" that is possible is one of freedom--the right of each Houstonian to pursue his values without intervention from others, so long as he respects their mutual rights. But this is not what Brown means. What he means is that the vision of some--those who yell the loudest, or have political connections, or can build the largest gang--will be the "vision" we all share, whether we like it or not.
2. Fix Neighborhood Flooding Implement a comprehensive drainage plan; coordinate improvements, provide adequate funding, and set better standards to protect homeowners, businesses, and property owners.
It is very nice of Mr. Brown to want to protect me, but setting better standards sounds a lot like more controls and regulations. Apparently he thinks homeowners, businesses, and property owners are incapable of making decisions for themselves. And how will he "provide adequate funding"? That sounds a lot like higher taxes.

3. Take On Crime Put more police on the streets; apply advanced “hi-tech” strategies; invest in crime prevention, youth, anti-gang, mentoring, and job training programs.
This is the one "solution" that I can give the most support. However, why should the city be providing mentoring or job training programs? I know the typical argument is that these are cheaper in the long term. I find that argument dubious at best.

Ironically, Brown wants to invest in anti-gang programs while simultaneously promoting a gang mentality. He has no problem endorsing proposals that criminalize billboards or certain uses of land, and he does so at the behest of "the people". Since "the people" do not speak with one voice, this really means that some individuals can impose their values on others. And this is precisely what gangs do--they believe that might makes right. So does Peter Brown.

Regardless, mentoring and job training are not legitimate functions of government. Apprehending criminals and throwing them in jail is.
4. Relieve Traffic Congestion Synchronize traffic lights; coordinate highway, street, and transit improvements; expand rapid transit; build mixed-use centers to attract commuters back to the city.
Brown wants to build mixed-use developments in order to bring people back into the city. These projects increase density, and higher density projects have been opposed on many occasions--see the Ashby High Rise as one example. How will he reconcile high density development with the demands of those who oppose it? How will he reconcile these disparate views with his promise to implement a "shared vision"? He won't be able to, which means, some will see their vision implemented while others will be told to take their vision and stuff it.

5. Clean The Air We Breathe Set enforceable standards to make Houston a national leader in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; promote energy conservation, re-cycling, and “green” building.
I am certainly in favor of clean air, but "enforceable standards" sounds like more controls and regulations. Already the city has enacted energy efficiency standards that will increase the cost of new homes, which means, make them less affordable. Refusing to learn anything from the draconian policies of cities on both coasts, Brown proposes to emulate those cities by enacting further controls on the citizenry. And the results will be the same--less affordable housing, a higher cost of doing business, and an increase in the cost of living. Maybe this is the "shared vision" that Brown is speaking of--a city in which only the wealthy can afford to live.

6. Prepare Houston For Emergencies Prepare, adopt, and test a comprehensive City-County emergency management and evacuation plan that addresses natural disasters, toxic spills and explosions, and terrorist attacks.
I could get behind a plan to hunt down and kill terrorists, but I'm not certain how or why the city should be involved in such efforts. Nor should the city be involved in emergency management--I survived two weeks without electricity after Hurricane Ike without any help from the city. I took responsibility for my own welfare and acted accordingly. If Brown is really interested in Houstonians being prepared for emergencies, he would encourage individual responsibility and promote individual freedom. He would not propose erecting more controls on our lives and more dependency on government.

7. Care For Our Entire Community Improve access to social services, health clinics, parks, libraries, and community facilities; improve programs for our youth and seniors; revitalize and protect our traditional neighborhoods; celebrate the arts and our cultural diversity; and make our economy more inclusive.
Improving access to social services, parks, etc. sounds like more tax money. It sounds like money will be taken from some and used for programs that benefit others. Revitalizing and protecting neighborhoods sounds a lot like zoning--which Brown supported-- or one of its euphemisms.

I would definitely support making our economy more inclusive. The most effective way--in fact the only effective way--to do this is by increasing individual freedom and thus, economic opportunity. A good place to start would be by repealing land use regulations.

Peter Brown is offering nothing new to Houstonians. His "solutions" are a re-hash of the same altruistic/ collectivist platitudes we've been hearing for years. He promises to make our skies bluer and our grass greener. He will save us from ourselves and make us help our neighbors.

His vision for the future is not my vision, and I resent the fact that he thinks he should have any voice in my future. Politicians like Peter Brown pander to the electorate. They must coddle a wide variety of special interest groups, walking a fine line to step on as few toes as possible. If they must trample all over individuals rights in the process it is of little concern.

No comments: