The most interesting and surprising thing I took from the readings was the differences in ideology amongst urban planners. I hadn’t given much thought to the political beliefs of individuals within the profession and how it could affect its direction as a whole. This is perfectly illustrated by America’s rejection of European style welfare states after the conclusion of WWII.
One example of this political divide is zoning and whether it is justifiable or unconstitutional. The right argues that zoning constitutes as “an uncompensated taking and hence a violation of constitutionally guaranteed property rights”. While more rational minded people realize that ownership of property shouldn’t allow individuals to take actions with said property, that negatively impact the whole.
That being said, there are instances in which certain types of zoning are inappropriate and counter productive. One example being Mugler v. Kansas, an 1887 court case dealing with compensation of a business owner whose brewery was closed after a prohibition law had been passed. Compensation aside, the bigger picture was prohibition, which would later prove to be ineffective with increased alcohol consumption and the growth of a black market that allowed mob activity to proliferate. This can be compared to Marijuana prohibition currently, its failure to decrease consumption, and conflict south of the border fought by competing drug cartels.
From the late 1800’s until around the 1980’s, zoning rights of municipalities were on the rise, which changed with the election of Reagan. The property right’s “movement” has made it more difficult for meaningful environmental regulations to be enacted, thus allowing the interests of ultra wealthy oil companies to take precedence over the safety of the planet. 1987 saw a total of seven cases concerned with “the taking issue”, an unprecedented amount of cases when compared to only one case between 1926 and the 80’s. The construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline is an interesting example of the government’s inability to enact/enforce meaningful zoning regulations, but at the same time it’s willingness to condemn private property.
Another divided issue is whether or not eminent domain should be used to exchange property from one private owner to another. An example of this new take on eminent domain took place in Lakewood Ohio in 2003. The city wanted to seize fifty-six homes and four apartment buildings in order to have developers come in and construct a new mall in addition to expensive condos. The rational was that the development would lead to an increase in property taxes, thus helping the public good. The question is whether or not this usage of eminent domain is actually in the interest of the public, or the interest of big business manipulating the system to further its own agenda. Thankfully it was taken to a vote, and the homeowners won the right to keep their property.