Friday, February 13, 2009

Democrat job killers

I couldn't believe it. I was down at the Capitol yesterday and ducked into the House Land Use Committee hearing where they were voting on HB2375.

I heard the tail end of discussion, and watched the vote. The intent of the bill was basically to kill an existing fireworks business that had existed for almost two decades, employing ten people year round and hundreds during fireworks season. It had to be killed because the company was using land designated as "exclusive farm use."

The company was granted a formal exemption back in 2003. This bill removed the exemption. Bye bye jobs.

Unbelievable. In this economy, the Democrats swerve off the road to run over a small business because it didn't use its land as they thought it should be used. Never mind that the business had a legislatively granted exemption - they just changed the rules, revoked the exemption. Sorry!

Even better: Rep. Mitch Greenlick, one of the biggest socialists in the legislature, was a "yes" vote in the committee to kill the business. But in 2003, he actually voted to grant the exemption!

What a prick. I'm sorry - in this economy, you'd think the Democrats might want to avoid going out of their way to kill jobs. You'd think they would be looking to loosen the abstract land-use regulations that have mis-zoned so much land in Oregon.

And you'd think they might realize what their action says to other businesses that are already in Oregon or that might try to grow here. The Democrats might just change the rules in the middle of the game, and put you out of business.

Rep. Mary Nolan is the chair of the committee. An West Portland urban legislator in charge of the land use committee. God help us.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see it written, what I've thought of Greenlick for many years, the old SOB is indeed a "prick"!

There are a lot of "pricks" in Salem, too many to name here, but let's just say there are more "pricks" than decent men.

I'll stop here before I use another of Carlin's wonderful 7 to describe the other gender.

Charley B said...

Mark twain said it well...."The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities or citizens is likely to cause endless trouble, through the rivaly of schools and creeds that are anxious to obtain official recognition, and there is great danger that our people will lose our independence of thought and action which is the cause of much of our greatness, and sink into the helplessness of the Frenchman or German who expects his government to feed him when hungry, clothe him when naked, to prescribe when his child may be born and when he may die, and, in fine, to regulate every act of humanity from the cradle to the tomb, including the manner in which he may seek future admission to paradise."

Me said...

Oh Mark Twain, so what did he know?

We got Ted Kulongoski, Sam Adams, Rex Burholder, Earl Bluemenaur, David Wu,
and a whole bunch of other smart,,,
well ,,, what Rob said.

Anonymous said...

I say let the fools in Salem do what fools do. That is the only way the people with common sense will wake up and realize that they are sending too many fools to Salem, especially Portland area legislators. What a bunch of losers.

On second thought, I don't think Portland are voters will ever see the error of their ways, but there are other parts of the state that usually elect decent legisaltors but this time around chose numbskulls. Let them feel the pain. Perhaps they will reconsider in 2010.

Huck said...

Half the story? Not a single detail? It's your site, but man, you blame "the media" for biased reporting but turn around and do the same thing.

Seems the bill just says the exemption expires on any transfer or encumbrance of title or expiration of the permit. Just shows how flexible our land use statutes are - they let these people continue the nonconforming use for years - YEARS they had to find commercial property to engage in commercial activity. And it looks like they'll have even more time - they just can't transfer their existing use to a new buyer (or mortgage their property, or get a new permit - so it is pretty strict, but hey, it's a non-conforming use). If the jobs go away it looks like it isn't because of the state, but rather because the owner of the business doesn't want to find commercial property.

For every planning failure you point to Rob, other people can point to benefits from planning. There has always been conflict in farm use zones between people who think farming adversely affects their use of property, and people who think commercial, residential, and industrial uses adversely affect farm use. So we establish policies that attempt to deal with it, and it pisses some people off.

I'm not saying that the way we've done everything with regard to planning is perfect (trust me, my family was denied a building permit in Yamhill county many years ago when new regulations were enacted mere months after we purchased 80 acres - we ended up selling without ever building a thing, and the new rich people who bought it built a house right away!), but your argument here just doesn't seem to tell an accurate story.

Our land use laws have changed for the better over the years, and continue to evolve.

Anonymous said...

"Democracy must be more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

Or in this case...

"1,000 Wolves of Oregon" and one sheep...

Anonymous said...


Don't expect honesty or the full story from the right.

Look at Lars--he regularly makes things up on the air, and when it's brought to the attention of station management, they yawn.

So, don't expect Rob to correct the story here.

Anonymous said...

Yeah right, no problem with finding existing commercial property for a fireworks business.

Anarchy is only days away, so what the hell!

Anonymous said...

This exemption was originally pushed through the Legislature in 2003 by Wayne Scott, who owns a sister fireworks company. He wanted to give himself and his business partners an unfair leg up.

And now, surprise, Wayne Scott is gone. And the exemption will now be gone. No more unfair benefit for Wayne' buddies.

You reap what you sow.

R. L. said...

I sort of wondered if there was more to the story.

I do have a couple of questions - how many people on the committee voted for it, and how many voted against it? Was the vote along party lines? Presumably, Mitch Greenlick was not the only one to vote in favor. Why is he singled out? Is everyone who voted "yes" a prick or just Greenlick?

R. L. said...

OK.. in part to answer my own question, I did a little research, and found that the measure was moved out of committee along party line. The three republicans on the committee voted no.

However, my question remains. Why pick on Greenlick? Mary Nolan, Chris Garrett, Brian Clem and Jean Cowan all voted yes as well. Are they all pricks too?

R. L. said...

Just in case people are curious... here is a little background.

Willamette Week

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. It is only part of the article, but it appears you can get the entire article if you have a Multnomah County Library Card.

Anonymous said...

It is really sad when a business has to go through so many hoops just to stay in business.

It is people who think (or don't) like like R.L. who are driving jobs out of Oregon.


R. L. said...



I simply asked a couple of questions of Rob. And posted three links with additional information. I'm not sure beyond that what your issue with me is. Or why you feel the need to make snide and petty remarks.

However, if you really feel that is necessary, I can give you my email so that you can make those directly to me instead of engaging in what is, effectively, walking into someone's home and wiping your muddy shoes on the carpet.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, no retraction from Rob.

I guess he just follows the same accuracy standards as his compatriot, Lars. None.

Rob Kremer said...

Sorry folks, been busy this weekend and haven't been to the blog til now.

Yes, Huck, you are correct about what the bill does. It seriously hinders the company, and lowers its value by a lot (can't be sold, essentially.)

Do you haved any idea how much land is zoned EFU in Oregon that has no productive farm use? Millions of acres.

Yet our "flexible" land use laws prohibit using that land for another commercial activity. Why?

Anonymous said...

We are one of the largest fireworks export company from Liuyang China(Liuyang is capital of fireworks ,and 75% of fireworks are exported from here in the world),We have been manufacture professional fireworks and consumer fireworks for over years.

Huck said...

Rob, the reason we prohibit residential, commercial, or industrial development in millions of acres of agricultural zones (beyond what is necessary to support agricultural use) is because conflicts arise that are inefficiently resolved under our then-existing legal and market structures. Unfortunately, the land use law just gave rise to a different set of conflicts, between the collective and the individual. I'll give you a few reasons, that I'm sure are old hat to you, but I'll try to couch them in legal and economic principles. At the end I sum up my idea about where we're going with this.

Residential and industrial uses are water intensive and deprive agricultural users by depleting resources, but our legal system is antiquated in addressing it. The uncertainty creates poor conditions for investing. Industrial uses regularly contaminate soil and water used by agriculture, but again, the mechanisms for market correction and efficient pricing just aren't in place. Agricultural uses generally are nuisances for residential and commercial users, so broad exemptions have been laid out - however, how to categorize evolving agricultural techniques has been difficult at best.

Also, residential, commercial, and industrial uses require vast amounts of public infrastructure and services. If we allowed literally any use of property, bounded only by the rights of people to hash out disputes in court, property taxes would have to increase dramatically (which, you could argue, would be feasible as many acres would be put to more efficient use), or else the government would have to establish lower expectations about provision of services (insert joke here, but seriously, if you just establish a huge business in the middle of nowhere, lots of activity results, requiring fire, police, sewer, etc. - there is at least SOME value to requiring these services accompany development).

Under a pure market, those conflicts would get resolved by payment from the higher-value users to those that suffer diminished value of their property. Unfortunately, transaction costs, undefined legal rights, and public costs and benefits were preventing market mechanisms from adequately addressing disputes, and many inefficient outcomes resulted, thus leading to a well-intentioned political movement, but clumsy and oppressive land use law. We've merely moved from one inefficient position, the pure market position, to a different inefficient position, the ill-fitted regulatory position.

However, land use law actually has become much more efficient since it was first intstituted. Market mechanisms have also greatly improved, and now may be a good time to go back. I just haven't seen that argument fleshed out - it tends to get emotional or purely theoretical advocacy, and poorly fitted analogies and illustrations. The right is behind, it seems to be, by about 10-20 years, in its development of intellectual doctrine, and we are all poorer for it. The cap-and-trade issue is a perfect example - it is pure market economics and rather than getting involved in shaping something that should be a winning issue for the right (say, if the legal rights were created and the market could operate purely, with only legal, not governmental, intervention), the right is busy arguing about whether it is even necessary (If it's unnecessary, then we can repeal it, or modify it later, but at least it is a market solution instead of a regulatory solution. My god, our tax code is already a disaster, we don't need to try any carbon taxes, that will be a nightmare). The issue is, much like land use, one of fear of the future. People were more afraid of rampant development, so they passed land use law. People are more afraid of global warming, so we're getting near warming law. Being dismissive of fear will ALWAYS be a political loser (Bush played it, so is Obama), so recognize that and try to get behind the wheel of the bus rather than being a back-seat driver (I'm not referring to you, specifically, just making an analogy).

A note on the law - courts commonly look at this issue as one of balancing tests, and these tend to please nobody, but are wise once understood. Society, not government, regulates behavior and provides property rights - our government merely enforces them through the limits of the constitution. Our freedoms are not limitless and society retains the right in the constitution to infringe on individuals so long as process is given, there is a public purpose, and, if necessary, compensation is paid - the burden shifting depending on the right at issue. Here, courts look to see whether the property value has been merely diminished, or destroyed (in which case compensation is required), and whether that person's right to operate a fireworks business has been unconstitutionally hampered by lack of due process.

Well, courts would likely say the property value has only been diminished because alternative agricultural uses exist, and that the owner can still operate a fireworks business, they just have to do it somewhere else (the value of the business is probably not substantially diminished, as it could be relocated and continued, or sold - I mean, if their location is that important to their business, then they would have a very, very good legal argument at getting the property re-zoned). That's it, super simple, and, of course, super frustrating for the individual, which leads me to...

One final note: economic theory suggests that as the population grows, the value of the collective "we" increases, while the value of the individual decreases. Our future lies in our ability as a society to simultaneously accept and struggle against that reality.

Rob Kremer said...

I don't disagree with much of what you say here about the market's difficulties in sorting out land use issues and conflicts between uses. But I do disagree with something I think you implied: that Oregon's land use system is an attempt to deal with these conflicts and issues.

I think it is primarily used as a social engineering tool to achieve certain goals that are important to the people who are in charge of the land use planning system.

rickyragg said...

One final note: economic theory suggests that as the population grows, the value of the collective "we" increases, while the value of the individual decreases. Our future lies in our ability as a society to simultaneously accept and struggle against that reality.

Which (whose) "economic theory" is that?

And how does a "theory" in one sentence become "reality" in the next?

Orwell would be so proud.

Your "zen-like" conclusion makes perfect sense (well, perfect nonsense) as long as we accept your premises and ignore your logical fallacies.

The only catch is that, in order to do that, we have to ignore our own knowledge and experience of reality.

Who says liberals are elitist?

Huck said...

Rob, you're actually dead right, Oregon's land use laws have been co-opted for social engineering purposes, but only in particular areas and for particular purposes. The bulk of the statutory and regulatory regime is pretty solid, but I won't deny that you are picking up on a real issue. I'm a liberal, but I'm not here to defend the undefendable. I'm here to defend solid policy theory, not poor or disingenuous implementation.

Rickyragg - what theory? Supply and demand, ever hear of it? It's not zen-like, it's economic theory applied to modern reality. And you're right, it is exactly what Orwell was talking about. Are you even disagreeing with me, or are you just so cynical you had to disagree before you understood what I said? And I'm dying to know what knowledge and experience I'm supposedly suggesting we deny. Here are examples of the theory. Reality backing it up is everywhere you look around in this world:

Example#1 - value of the individual: Take any job (demand), now increase the number of applicants (supply) due to population increase. There you have it, the applicant has less bargaining power, and their value decreases.

Example#2 - value of the collective "we": take any public vs. private conflict, say, an individual's right use his land in a particular way vs. the impact this use has on the surrounding area. Now, these parties go to court to hash out the issue. Long standing constitutional precedent and public policy criteria balances the value to the individual against the value to the people the individual affects. Now, increase the number of people affected due to population increase and the value of the collective "we" in the balancing test starts to tip toward the collective. It is simple mathematics - if the individual is harming 10 neighbors at 5$ a piece, what happens when the neighbors develop their property and now the individual is harming 100 neighbors at 5$ a piece? There is no "coming to the nuisance" rule that protects that individual, except the land use laws conservatives hate! Isn't that ironic.

rickyragg said...

Our future lies in our ability as a society to simultaneously accept and struggle against that reality

I guess that's not so much "Zen-like" as just meaningless. "That" referring to your "One final note..." bit above. Excuse me for mistaking that for your "conclusion" - mea culpa.

Re your example #2 above...

Your quantification of the "balancing" costs of rights ignores any prioritization of rights and reduces the question, as you say, to "simple mathematics". Too simple and too mathematical to my mind. The threshold for abridging individual rights should always be extraordinarily high. The constant pecking by the crows of collectivism is a back-door method of social(ist) engineers which diminishes us all - at least those of us who care.

The correct question should be "Which individual right prevails?" You use "public vs. private" to describe the dispute, but the actual disputes involve individuals.

Precedent notwithstanding, attempts to collectivize, simplify and codify resolutions of discrete disputes between individuals are necessarily blunt instruments. They usually create more problems than they solve while eroding individual rights in the bargain. Land use rules are a perfect example - if you don't believe me, look at M37, M49, etc., etc.

It seems to me that the enumerated rights of individuals should, almost always, take precedent over those of the "many".

Individual rights are the basis of our nation. I don't recall any bill of rights for groups or municipalities. The "many", in fact, is another way of describing the "majority" - and the tyranny thereof is something against which the founders specifically sought to guard.