Monday, August 31, 2009

Another Way to Waste Tax Dollars

Apparently it isn't enough that Metro and the city take our money to build boondoggle projects like light rail. They also need to steal from citizens to finance studies to determine the feasibility of moving the facade of an "historic" building that stands in the way of a proposed light rail line.

The Sterling Laundry & Cleaning Company building in the East End was slated for demolition last week. When residents of the area learned of Metro's plans, they raised a stink. According to a Chronicle editorial, ever-meddling council member and nanny Sue Lovell called a meeting to "hash things out".

Because a city park is across the street--and city law prohibits taking park space--Metro can't move the proposed line. One of the residents asked about moving the building's facade to the park, and Metro officials agreed to consider that idea. Tax payers now get to finance the requisite study, and if it goes through, they get to pay to move the facade so that East Enders can stare at a pile of old bricks.

It wasn't enough that Metro took money from tax payers to buy the building. It isn't enough that Metro will build a rail line that few will use, forcing tax payers to subsidize the transportation costs of some Houstonians. Now, Metro will waste more of our money to see if it can appease some vocal area residents and a buttinski politician. And the Chronicle thinks that this is a good thing:

The concerned parties will meet again next week. Usually we'd be appalled by a plan to save only the front skin of a historic building. As consultant Donovan Rypkema once wrote, “Maintaining a four-inch depth of a brick facade is not preservation ... We ought not to settle for this Halloween preservation — saving the mask and throwing away the building.”

But in Houston, where we preserve so little of our past, it's at least something. And that's better than what the neighborhood almost had last week, when the lovely building nearly disappeared completely.

We salute all those working to see that at least a scrap of the East End's history survives.

The Chronicle--like all of the "preservationists"--thinks that old buildings have some kind of inherent value simply because they are old. Sure, they make noises about "historical value" and our "heritage" and similar nonsense while simultaneously ignoring something much older and more significant to our heritage--the Constitution of the United States.

If the age of something is its sole claim to value, the Constitution trumps the Sterling Laundry & Cleaning Company building by about 140 years. So why doesn't the Chronicle propose preserving that document? Why doesn't the Chronicle propose protecting property rights, instead of advocating for land-use controls, sign regulations, and similar violations of our rights?

The truth is, the age of something does not endow it with inherent value. Value is not some mystical quality granted to an item merely because it has existed for a long time.

If the East Enders value the empty building, they are welcome to spend their money to buy it and move it anywhere they wish. But to force tax payers to finance their "hobby" is a gross injustice. The public coffers are not a trough for every pressure group to satisfy their desires.

Anyone truly interested in protecting our heritage would do well to first identify its true nature. Our heritage does not consist of old lumber and bricks, but of freedom--the right of individuals to live their lives without interference from others, so long as they recognize the mutual rights of others. That is something truly worth preserving and protecting.

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