Thursday, April 7, 2005
IN MY OPINION (Column)
By RAY HAYNES
(The writer represents the 66th Assembly District, which includes portions of western Riverside County and northern San Diego County.)
One of the great myths of government since the 1960’s is that government bureaucrats and politicians “plan” growth. In response to that myth, government hired thousands of “planners” who now sit around in offices preparing large reports, and doing countless studies, planning how growth will take place, and trying to “manage” how development in their city, county or state will progress. Much like the Stalinist five year plans of the 1930’s, however, these growth “plans” usually fail.
The reason is that growth happens. It is not planned. It is not managed. It cannot be made smart. Anyone who talks about planned growth, managed growth or smart growth is simply fooling themselves.
People buy houses they can afford, work in the places they can find work, build their businesses in the places where they can make money, buy stuff they want in the places where it is the cheapest, and then drive to get to each of these places. Every single time government tries to “change” people’s behavior by planning for people to do things the way the government thinks is the “smart” way of doing things, government ends up turning everything into a mess. Growth happens, all government can do is try to ameliorate the effects of growth.
That is where the problems come in. People like growth, but they don’t like the effects of growth. Traffic, congestion, crowded schools, busy stores, delay, and aggravation are not caused by growth, and will not be stopped by stopping growth.
In fact, growth often pays for the government to fix the effects of growth, in the form of traffic mitigation fees, traffic light fees, street improvement fees, park fees, school construction fees, and the myriad of other fees assessed on new homes. When a fast growing community stops growing, the usual result is to freeze the misery everyone is experiencing at the point when growth stopped, because there are no more fees to build new streets, schools, traffic lights, or freeways.
The problem that California is having with growth is not the growth, or even the effects of growth, since everyone knew what those effects would be. California’s problem is that so many politicians and bureaucrats are spending so much time and money planning growth that they never do anything to ameliorate the effects of growth.
A lot of people like to blame developers for growth, and they like to blame city councils or county supervisors who approve growth, for the bad effects of that growth. Quite frankly, that is wrong. Developers only build what you and I will buy.
City Councils and County Supervisors are trying to keep the cost of housing from going out of control. These council members and supervisors are also hamstrung by laws that require them to study everything and plan for everything time and time again, to the point that all of their time and money is drained for planning and studying.
They spend years trying to build streets, freeways, schools, dams, traffic lights, electricity lines, and the like to solve the problems of growth, all the while government bureaucrats and laws stand in their way. Growth outstrips infrastructure only because the state does not allow the local government to meet demand as it arises, only to plan for it.
Growth happens. Government doesn’t have to plan for it. Government knows it will occur. Rather than study it, plan for it, worry about it, prepare lots of reports about it, and draw lots of maps about where the bureaucrats want growth to go, these bureaucrats should spend their time making sure they are building roads, schools, and water and electrical facilities, so that people aren’t miserable when they get new neighbors. Planning doesn’t help. Building does.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company