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Who are they?

Laird Maxwell, who’s coordinating the Proposition 2 effort in Idaho – the swipe at land use planning and exemptions therefrom – usually comes across as an amiable sort. That’s a point worth noting and bearing in mind as you consider a couple of quotes that appear to offer a useful insight into how he, and a lot of other people whose ally he is, look at the world.

The quotes appear in an interview in this week’s Boise Weekly, in which reporter Shea Anderson wrote a bit about the background of the initiative, which appears likely to turn up on the November ballot.

First, the obvious question: How did it come to be?

Shea said that Maxwell, who is well-connected in conservative anti-tax circles, approached Libertarian activist Howard Rich and others with this: “You got the money, I got the time. We’ll make this happen.”

Remember those innocent days when initiatives were supposed to be eruptions of local activism? This may be the most explicit statement we’ve seen yet – and wonderfully concise – demonstrating how ballot issues have been turned into cynical marketing ploys designed with the sub-goal in mind of filling the bank accounts of people who work on them.

The second quote was a little more specific to the topic at hand, which has to do with upending substantial work local governments have done on planning and zoning (not nearly as impactful, to be sure, in Idaho as in Oregon, the source of this measure’s core ideas).

Maxwell: “These planners and all that, they just get in the way. Most of that planning is futile anyway … It’s really kind of arrogant. Who do they think they are?”

Good question, if the presumption underlying his question were true: That a group of self-appointed bureaucrats just walked into government offices one days and started dictating what property owners can do with their property. To accept that, you have to ignore a whole lot: A Republican legislature that passed the land use planning act in 1975, the locally-elected county commissions and city councils which have been doing the P&Z work all these years, all the people active in all sorts of ways in trying to shape their communities.

Who do they think they are? Maybe, citizens and people elected by citizens, and people paid – by the taxpayers, on approval of elected officials – to do the technical work.

But then, too, there’s this: “These planners and all that, threy just get in the way. ” There’s a very big question underlying that: What exactly is Idaho’s modest planning and zoning getting in the way of?

Ponder that a bit, as you consider where best to assign the relevant instances of arrogance.

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