Friday, May 30, 2008

Eminently Domineering

There's another election coming very soon. It seems we have the rest of the primary to get done. How much did splitting up the primary cost? That was money well spent. We also have a couple of eminent domain laws to choose yea or nay on.

It seems that the Supreme Court has ruled that the government can take away your property and hand it over to some private developer to develop a private business so long that it is public in the sense that the public uses it, not in the sense that the public owns it, so long as it is "for the public good," which has an equally open definition. So malls and similar are better for the public (as a whole) than homes and can be built using eminent domain. What? Where's an honest strict constructionist when you need one?

So here we are finally trying to fix this one for the state. We've got two "fixes" to choose from, the one that doesn't really do enough and the one that gets in a sound blow to the chin renters in many places.

First there's prop 98. It does all sorts of things to protect property owners of any sort of property, but it also removes any rent control measures that have been enacted by local governments. The interesting supporter for this one is a guy who claims to be part of a "Protect Prop. 13 Committee." Prop 13 is, for the percentage of my four readers who does not actually live in California, the law that makes is so you pay taxes based on the value of the property when you bought it, not on the current value. It was designed to keep little old ladies on a fixed income from losing their homes just because their neighborhood became fashionable and the value of their home skyrocketed.

Most rent controls, on the other hand, are much like the ones in my area. They prevent the landlord from raising the rents far in excess of inflation until the tenant moves out. He wants to remove any very soft protections renters have against homelessness because the cost of their home raises to sharply while supporting much stronger protections that property owners have against the same thing.

And the rebuttal... Oh, but current renters continue to have the same rent controls until they move out! Renters are supposed to be placated because so long as they never, ever move, they will still have protections? Some people actually do care about their as yet unknown new next door neighbor. Some people actually do end up moving.

Second is prop 99 which just seems to protect owner-occupied residences. Again, renters are not protected, but at least this time it is through being ignored instead of malicious intent. The people arguing against it boohoo that such things as second homes are not protected. Well, second homes do not deserve the same protections as primary residences. It should extend to any dwelling legally used as a primary residence, but it is a start.

Hum... such an extension would leave a big loophole to protect your second home, just hire a live in grounds keeper. That's a loophole I could live with, though.

First rule, do no harm. The first purports to fix a harm, but does so by actions that could, in the long run, inflict greater harm. I've only noted the most immediately egregious problem with it, but it takes away all sorts of housing programs and laws along with the rent controls. The second quite possibly does too little, but it is a step in the right direction without adding a leap in the wrong direction.

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