Blogs > Liberty and Power > Property Rights in Small Town America

Apr 24, 2006 12:43 pm

Property Rights in Small Town America

Since the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Kelo vs. New London to permit the use of Eminent Domain to take private property for “development,” voters in two dozen states (including Colorado) have reacted by proposing new laws and amendments to their constitutions to protect their rights of ownership. Local governments have been put on notice by citizens who have suddenly woken up and recognized that slowly but surely they have lost control of their own property through government measures. These measures take different forms, from outright seizure to so-called “certificates of appropriateness” that local government uses to tell you what kind of house to build and what that house should look like. But they all boil down to the same thing: you as a property owner have less control and government officials have more.

Ouray is a small town in the mountains of southwestern Colorado. On May 2nd, Ouray voters have the chance to join the fight and protect their rights of private ownership before it’s too late. After lengthy debate, the Ouray City Council has bowed to public pressure and will permit the citizens to vote in two ballot measures that could decide if we remain a community of individuals with property rights or turn into socialist “people’s state” where central-planning bureaucrats call the shots. Unfortunately, the vote is non-binding – city officials aren’t giving up their power to make the final decision – but the people have a chance to send them an unambiguous message: We dare to defend our rights!

Of the two measures, “C” is the more straightforward of the two. It asks if people are in favor of mandatory regulations of exterior construction. I believe Ouray voters will reject this measure hands-down. They will recognize it for what it is – a power-grab that diminishes our rights to own and control our own property. Most folks still believe that they are better at managing our affairs that a room full of chattering bureaucrats.

Measure B is a bit more tricky. It asks people to approve “review” of exterior construction for conformity with historical preservation standards. Sounds innocuous, but don’t be fooled. This measure is a Trojan Horse. Once you agree to let government officials “review” your plans for “conformity,” you have handed them power over you – perhaps not directly, but indirectly by letting city officials decide on what constitutes “conformity.” There is a reason why the word “review” is so vague, and why the process itself is not described. The authors of the measure want it that way, so that if Measure C fails, Measure B can be used to accomplish the same ends through the backdoor. It is government control by stealth.

The people of Ouray take pride in their property rights, and have shown, again and again, that they are responsible citizens when it comes to management of their own property. They do not need, and do not want, the government to take this responsibility away from them. I hope they remember that when they vote against Measure B and C, they are voting for their freedom to make choices that in are in their own best interests, and (therefore) in the best interests of the community

I'll report on the results of the vote next week. Meanwhile, watch out and be prepared: the same issues are coming to a ballot box near you.

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More Comments:

Oscar Chamberlain - 4/27/2006

"a community of individuals with property rights or turn into socialist “people’s state” where central-planning bureaucrats call the shots."

Interesting dichotomy. Whichever way it comes out, the people--or more precisely the majority of the voters--still choose who is in the government (and therefore whether it is a "people's state" or not).

And unlike the state or national level, where money and political parties screen out many interested people, there is little at the local level to keep the majority from asserting itself in such matters. If the "socialists" take over it will not be against the will of the majority because either (a) the majority agreed or (b) the majority of people did not assert their will.

Max Schwing - 4/24/2006

In Germany, we have measure C and B in effect. The government may take property when it serves the Gemeinwohl (the betterment of society) and it also regulates the heigth of buildings (and all kind of exterior-extras)and their effect on the "art and history context of the city".

This is especially painfull for people living in cultural cities like Leipzig, Baden-Baden, Heidelberg and so on. They have to cope with a huge amount of restrictions. I hope you will not experience this kind of regulations in the US.

P.S.: Perhaps the government wants to retain at least the productivity of the tourism sector, since all other business levels seem to be on the run.