Thursday, October 29, 2009

An Open Letter to Buckhead Investment Partners

Update note: Buckhead Investment Partners is the developer of the proposed Ashby High Rise.

Dear Matthew and Kevin,

For more than two years you have suffered a gross injustice at the hands of the city of Houston. The city has placed barrier after arbitrary barrier in your path, forcing you to spend valuable time, money, and resources in an attempt to use your property as you choose.

You are not alone in suffering injustice at the hands of the city. As two recent examples, Spec's Liquor was forced to close a store and the sign industry faces a growing litany of regulations that threaten its very existence.

In each instance the victims have sanctioned the city's actions. While you, Spec's, and the sign industry have challenged the details of the city's controls, you have not challenged the city's right to enact such controls. You have ceded the premise that you may use your property only with the city's permission, rather than by right. You have ceded the moral high ground to the city, and can only complain when those controls go "too far".

You--as well as Spec's and the sign industry--must withdraw your sanction. You must declare that you have a moral right to use your property as you choose, so long as you respect the mutual rights of others. You must state the fundamental issue--the sanctity of individual rights, including property rights--clearly, openly, and explicitly. You must demand that your opponents justify the violation of your rights. They can't.

While the city has been erecting barriers in your path, it is only acting as a proxy for the Southamptom and Boulevard Oaks civic clubs. The home owners in these neighborhoods have exerted political pressure on city officials, who have responded by declaring your proposed project illegal. They have depended on your sanction for their success. They have depended on you accepting their premises.

Fundamentally, they believe that might makes right. They believe that the majority has a right to determine what actions others may take. They believe that they have a right to determine how you use your property. They believe that you must sacrifice your interests and values for the "common good", and they will determine what constitutes that "good". And if you do not do so "voluntarily" they believe that they have a right to use force to compel your compliance.

If you think that this is an exaggeration, consider what will happen if you--or Spec's or the sign industry--defy the city's orders. You will face fines, jail, or both. Sooner or later someone with a gun will show up to demand that you act as the city--i.e., the home owners--demands.

So long as you accept the premise that you must comply with the dictates of others, that the city has a right to control your business and your life, such threats will always loom over you.

The leading candidates for mayor have all endorsed more restrictive controls over land-use. All have stated opposition to your project. They will seek more control over you and your business. And they will be successful so long as you continue to sanction their right to do so.

You have built your business by acting on your own judgment, which is your moral right. Nobody--including government--has a right to force you to act contrary to that judgment. Indeed, government's proper purpose is the protection of your freedom to act according to your own rational conclusions.

You must do more than challenge the city's edicts. You must challenge the principle that says that they may even make such edicts. You are not chattel, whose dreams, business, and life can be disposed of by others, no matter their number. When you can state that openly and proudly, you will disarm your opponents. Morality is your most powerful weapon. Use it.


Harold said...

This is good. Have you ever contacted these guys, and if so did you get a response?

Brian Phillips said...

I actually met with them at their office last spring. I was on a panel discussing their project, and met with them to get some background information and explain my reason for defending them.

They seemed appreciative of my efforts, but that was as far as it went.