Zoning turns melting pot into sorting table
Our culture and society seems to be blessed with many very difficult problems, some of which, such as pollution and consumption of natural resources, may ultimately be terminal in nature. In reality, all the rhetoric and law-making are only dealing with the symptoms. We seem to be unable to go back and deal with the root cause.
To illustrate, let me deal with one group of related and serious problems – air pollution, increasing traffic, inordinate dependency on Arab oil and rapid depletion of natural resources. This group represents a seemingly irreversible problem. Building better roads, more efficient vehicles, increasing exploration and stabilizing political relationships all just prolong the agony. If we try to get just a little deeper in the problem and ask ourselves how we came to this point, one of the obvious answers is social engineering, or so-called planning and zoning.
I realize that I am kicking a sacred cow, but let’s examine some of the basic assumptions. In their wisdom, the social engineers have decided we must separate the different economic and social aspects of society. For instance, we have decreed that rich people should have separate areas, preferably behind a big fence or dirt berm, poor people must be grouped together in another area, businesses (jobs) must be grouped far away from housing, schools must be in special set-aside areas, churches must be kept away from everything else, multiple use is out (you can’t live in your business), large lots are mandated, and special areas are set aside for shopping only. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully will illustrate the point. And, here’s the point – you can’t live without a car. You can’t even live with only one car because family members are all going different places which, in most cases, are far apart.
Planning and zoning has some noble intents, and also some not so noble, such as maximizing property tax revenue and simplifying assessment, but the downside is dramatically increasing traffic problems, oil and gas consumption, and pollution.
There are many other moral and social implications of this social engineering that need to be looked at. Has our great American melting pot just become a sorting table? Are we dividing people into factions and setting them against each other? Are we trying to force racial integration while simultaneously mandating economic segregation? Are we demanding racial integration while forcing religious segregation?
We are destroying cropland, polluting the environment, wasting natural resources and imposing segregation, all in the name of “planning and zoning.”
Finally, I suggest that we eliminate the word “segregationist” from the English language and henceforth use the word “zoners.”
Ross L. Talbott
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