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Fiscal Policy &Junk Science Richard Falknor on 19 Apr 2010 03:06 pm

Maryland GOP State Senators Keep On Enabling Statists

Smart Growth is an ideology that restricts land-use thereby making homes less affordable, and tries to diminish our mobility by discouraging automobile use.  It is a kind of collectivization with a seemingly kinder American face. Smart growth did not start with the Obama administration, but this administration has ardently embraced the approach and given it a new lease on life. Maryland lawmakers remain right in step.

As Frederick, Maryland-based transportation expert Peter Samuel explains – –

Smart growth is the slogan driving most current central planning of land use and transportation in and around our cities. Like all central planning it claims for bureaucrats and elected officials a wisdom far superior to that of individuals interacting with one another in voluntary transactions.

But the trouble is, planning is never well-informed and generates unintended consequences. Moreover it is guided by fads and special interests.

The ‘sprawl’ that is so despised by Smart Growth advocates was a product of earlier planners’ single-minded focus on adequate off-street parking that prohibited higher densities by regulation. Maximum floor/space ratios and minimum car-parking places per thousand square feet forced developers to build the very Tysons Corner VA style of development that was the embodiment of an earlier planning ‘fad’ dictating never having to search nor pay for parking.

Smart Growth reflects a strong aesthetic distaste among planners and professional elites for two aspects of American life – travel by automobile and life in single-family houses. It wants to engineer a far greater use of public transit, especially rail transit and walking and biking, and to have a much higher proportion of the population in town houses, and apartments. The planners think a more ‘urban’ lifestyle is so obviously superior that people will come to like it and want it. Meanwhile they use their planning powers to limit the land available for single-family houses, and they obstruct automobile use by resisting building roads large enough to accommodate automobile traffic, while subsidizing supposed ‘alternative’ modes.

The inevitable result of the Smart Growth ideology is a planned scarcity of land zoned for single-family housing and a planned scarcity of road space, all of which means higher costs of family living and diminished mobility.”

“Smart, Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission”

The Maryland General Assembly just approved this policy panel which, according to the “MDP [Maryland Department of Planning] advises that the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission will provide the State with a broad representation of stakeholders who can continue to promote a smart and sustainable growth agenda,” the Fiscal and Policy Note explains.

Readers will also note that “Commission members who represent a region of the State must have knowledge of smart growth and planning issues [no dissenters allowed?].”

While 20 out of the 37 House of Delegates Republicans voted against this anti-consumer and anti-private-property panel, only two out of 14 Republican state senators voted against it:  Alex Mooney and Richard Colburn. Out of 51 nominal Republicans in the Maryland General Assembly, only 22 or 43 per cent voted “no.” The House of Delegates Republicans have sharpened up on many critical issues, but too many Maryland Senate Republicans remain content-light – – to put the matter charitably.

In the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, no Republican voted against the Commission.

The Heritage Foundation, and Randal O’Toole’s Anti-Planner  have written extensively on the goals and consequences of Smart Growth: here, here, and here for example, and shockingly – –

Ron Utt: “Obama Administration’s Plan to Coerce People out of Their Cars”

“Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood remarked in May [2009] that his livability initiative ‘is a way to coerce people out of their cars.’ When asked if this was government intrusion into people’s lives, LaHood responded that ‘about everything we do around here is government intrusion in people’s lives,’ a sentiment that would have certainly surprised the authors of the United States Constitution, a document whose major purpose was to restrain government.

LaHood’s endorsement of government coercion comes as no surprise to those who have been tracking the Obama Administration’s incremental endorsements of the environmentalists’ smart growth strategies to slow growth, crowd development, and deter automobile use. And with LaHood’s most recent presentation, the Administration has formally embarked on an unprecedented and costly exercise in social engineering to alter the way Americans live and travel.”

Here is Randal O’Toole’s October 1, 2009 Cato analysis “How Urban Planners Caused the Housing Bubble.” 

Many in the Maryland Senate GOP apparently have trouble getting their arms around personal-freedom and smaller-government concerns. In 2008, only five Maryland Republican state senators voted against the very dangerous “cultural diversity” legislation touching most Maryland universities and colleges.

But, Party stalwarts might say, aren’t these GOP state senators changing in response to the Old Line State’s fiscal excesses? They surely now “get it” on spending–don’t they?  Well, only if “get it” means just eight GOP senators out of 14 voting “no” on the state’s operating budget, and just four GOP senators voting “no” on the egregiously porcine capital budget. On the key tax and spending panel, here are the votes of GOP senators on the operating budget and here are their votes on the capital budget. No GOP senator voted “no” in the Budget and Taxation Committee on either budget bill. 

Our Maryland Republican state senators can do far better. 

Stay tuned for details on the budget bills.

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