High Country News on CI 154: Trojan Horse for right-wing extremists

High Country News has got the dirt on Montana’s initiative 1542 – which you’ll remember I called “anti-democratic.” Like blogger Hart Williams, HCN’s Ray Ring traced back the money backing the initiative through Americans for Limited Government to a single source: Howie Rich.

Americans for Limited Government has provided loans and expertise to the Montana initiative, plus $827,000 to the Arizona initiative, $200,000 to Washington initiative, and $107,000 to the one in Nevada, according to the Nevada initiative’s leader. Americans for Limited Government has also given $2.5 million to another libertarian group, America at its Best, based in the Washington, D.C., area, which has in turn funneled $100,000 to the Idaho initiative. One key figure is the chairman of the board of Americans for Limited Government, Howie Rich. A real estate mogul based in New York City, Rich is also on the board of the libertarian flagship Cato Institute in D.C., and heads his own Fund for Democracy….This year, Rich says he has funneled nearly $200,000 through a group called Montanans in Action to back the Montana initiative, along with two related initiatives aimed at setting state tax limits and making it easier to recall liberal judges. The head of Montanans in Action, Trevis Butcher, says he doesn’t know Rich, but he declines to say whether he is getting money from the Fund for Democracy; he won’t reveal any of his backers. Records in other states show that Rich has put $1.5 million into the California regulatory-takings initiative, $230,000 into the Idaho one, and $25,000 into the Arizona version.

Unlike Williams, Ring managed to track down Rich:

On the phone, Rich was confident of the rightness of his cause. “I believe in the American Dream. … I believe in free markets. I believe that … government has been growing at an excessive rate, at the federal level and in many states,” he said. “I’m happy to support local activists who are working to protect property rights in a whole bunch of states.”

[snip]

In my talk with Howie Rich, I told him that, despite the campaign’s sales pitch, I believed these initiatives are about a lot more than eminent domain. Nationwide, eminent domain is invoked on behalf of developers only a few thousand times a year. But the proposed regulatory-takings initiatives are likely to affect millions of property owners, day in and day out, year after year. “I agree with you,” Rich said, “the implications … on the regulatory extent are very far-reaching, very important.” In fact, he said, the originator of the regulatory takings idea, University of Chicago economist Richard Epstein, e-mailed him a while ago, saying that “trillions” of regulations can be cast as takings.

And how is Oregon’s regulatory-takings initiative – the dimwit half-stepbrother of Montana’s CI 1542 – working out?

But now that Measure 37 is taking effect, many Oregonians — including thousands of neighbors who have written official comment letters on the claims — say the new law is a disaster. “It creates indecision and unpredictability for everybody in the state — whether you’re a homeowner, a business(person), a farmer, or an urban dweller, you no longer have a clue what’s going to happen next door, because now there is a free pass to violate laws,” said Elon Hasson, a lobbyist for the state’s leading pro-planning group, 1000 Friends of Oregon.The most poignant stories come from people who voted for Measure 37, and now see negative impacts on their own neighborhoods and property values. “I voted for the measure because I believe in property rights,” Rose Straher, who lives in tiny Brookings on the southern Oregon coast, told me. The owner of a nearby 10-acre lily farm filed a Measure 37 claim to turn it into a 40-space mobile-home park, and got the Curry County government to waive its regulations. Straher and 46 other neighbors signed a petition opposing it. Measure 37 “has absolutely no protection for the neighborhood,” Straher told me. “You’re giving superior rights to one particular owner. That is a big flaw.”

Really, I can’t do this story enough justice. Read it. Discuss.

This initiative has nothing to do with protecting individual property from eminent domain. In reality, it’s an attempt to handcuff government from imposing regulation on development.

If you like billboards, by all means, vote for CI 1542.

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  1. Don’t forget. This isn’t just I-154. This is also TABOR and judicial recall. They’re all peas in a pod.

  2. Cr*p! have I been calling this thing 152?

  3. What a minute! There’s a 152, also! I’m thoroughly confused. Someone straighten me out.

  4. They filed multiple times, I believe. I-154 is what eventually qualified.

  5. Apparently Dave Budge still supports CI-154. If anybody had any question whether Budge was an out-of-touch extremist, now they know.

    For a guy who called me “chicken little” for wanting Net Neturality, saying we shouldn’t be “too hasty” to enact regulation, he’s sure keen on changing the foundations of government without giving it so much as a shrug.

    On every issue Budge has stood with big business against the interests of individuals like you and me.

    CI-154 doesn’t offer individuals protection from eminent domain as used in the Kelo case. Government can still nab your property and give it to a developer. This isn’t a bill to protect individuals, it’s intended to free business and developers to do whatever the h*ll they want.

    Why Budge feels big business needs special rights is beyond me. I’d accuse him of collecting grant money from corporations (like his buddies at FREE), if his website didn’t look like it fell off the back of a truck.

    So who knows? There are all sorts of people out there.

  6. …if his website didn’t look like it fell off the back of a truck.

    Cogent argumentation. How about adressing any of the points I’ve made in my writing as opposed to personal slurs?

  7. Please. I have. Over and over. I did in the comment you selectively cut from.

    I believe the burden is on you to explain why you justify support for the initiative, why you support regulatory takings. Your view is extremely short-sighted and overwhelmingly favors large developers and corporations over homeowners. You explain.

  8. You have not make a single case how it benefits corporate developers. all you, and your entire ilk has done is made the assertion that it does. It does impede the making of new rules, but how does that affect property owners who A) have already purchased land and b) those who will do so in the future? Give an example of your concerns. Give examples, as I have done, about potential problems with the takings part of the initiative and how it is fair to economically damage property owners. I can dispute every one of them, from growth planning to environmental concerns.

    All I’ve read is big nasty fear mongering and irrelevant comparisons to Oregon – which I have addressed. You haven’t made the case and you cast me as a shill for big business. I am not and your disingenuous by saying so if you’ve read my work.

    I am more concerned about the rights of small property owners and small businesses. And I ask you to prove that otherwise before you cast aspersions.

    Last, but not least, I am consistent with my overall position on regulations between this and net neutrality. In both cases I see a need to put the brakes on the ever increasing regulatory forces. Ergo, your assessment of me lack the requisite underpinnings of logic to make the claim you did.

    So take my work and enlighten me as to where I’m wrong besides using the cliche of the “big business” bogeyman” scare technique.

  9. I have read your work, and I stand by my statement. In almost every case, you prefer to let big business run rampant. To you, government is the problem, not corporate influence over government. That’s…well…idiotic. Regulation serves as a check to big business.

    I’m tired of always being challenged to reiterate my arguments over and over. It’s a waste of my time. If you don’t understand what I write or bother to read the articles I link to, that’s your problem not mine.

    But I will give you one example: the recent citizen’s initiative that forbade the use of cyanide leach mining in Montana. If 154 had passed before the cyanide intitiative, Montana would have had to either pay Canyon Resource Corp’s for lost profit or allow the cyanide leach process go on unhindered.

    (I wrote about it here.)Honestly, I don’t think the health of our communities should be subservant to big corporations’ profit lines. I’m sorry you do.

    In Oregon’s case — and it’s not irrelevant to compare them — developers have started projects on existing property that they knew in the past would have never made it past neighborhood groups or town councils. Building a mobile home park in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, for example, or erecting billboards on rural property.

    That is, there’s no disincentive to build wantonly and irresponsibly. If 154 is passed, what’s to prevent someone from buying up the property next to the Budge mansion and building a jackhammer testing ground? (Hyperbole, I know.) Good bye Budge property value; too bad you neutered your own ability to participate in defining the community around you.

    Don’t you think the zoning requirements of neighborhoods change over the years? Or do you think Montana’s needs will be frozen into perpetuity? Missoula is a fast-growing community. The neighborhoods on the far side of Reserve have little or no zoning regulations. If 154 is passed, they can never have meaningful zoning regulations there, and you can put dynamite factories next to elementary schools if you have some capital and a good lawyer.

    Meanwhile, 154 eases the regulations on government seizing private property for private industry. So much for “solving” Kelo.

  10. But I will give you one example: the recent citizen’s initiative that forbade the use of cyanide leach mining in Montana. If 154 had passed before the cyanide initiative, Montana would have had to either pay Canyon Resource Corp’s for lost profit or allow the cyanide leach process go on unhindered.

    No, this is summarily wrong. Montanans would have had to pay for depreciated value of the property, not the lost profits, But what if Canyon had invested $100 million in the project under a legal process. Should they eat the $100 million? Should we as citizens be able to say to property owners “though luck” when they operated inside the law? In the worst case, Canyon would have been able to develop the mine. But that does not leave them off the hook for environmental hazards. They would still have been liable for any toxins they put into the environment. They are still subject to the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Act among other regulations. Montanans may have had to live with that, but that wouldn’t have stopped them from passing the cyanide ban for future projects. (Just for the record, I voted for the cyanide ban.)

    But now that’s moot isn’t it?. They didn’t and their lawsuit was summarily thrown out because they didn’t even actually have the proper permits to continue at the time of the cyanide ban and could not prove actual future profits.

    Honestly, I don’t think the health of our communities should be subservant to big corporations’ profit lines. I’m sorry you do.

    The law specifically protects government action for health and safety. And if new hazards are discovered, the law is exempt from liability under this clause. As a matter of fact, if current regulations say that approval of any type of industrial project needs approval of government – that stays in tact. Nothing changes. Secondly, there is all of the civil tort implications as well. If a business open and makes a noise, dust or other type of nuisance the surrounding property owners have recourse – depending on the current state of the zoning.

    In Oregon’s case — and it’s not irrelevant to compare them — developers have started projects on existing property that they knew in the past would have never made it past neighborhood groups or town councils. Building a mobile home park in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, for example, or erecting billboards on rural property.

    The reason that Oregon is having so much trouble is that the law is retroactive to 1974. Montana law has no retroactive provisions and thus, what people are legally engaged in at the time of passing, they will be able to proceed or be paid for the economic damage the properly realizes by new regulation. Using Oregon, because of their badly written law, is a false comparison. That law set the clock back 30 years. I wouldn’t have voted for it.

    That is, there’s no disincentive to build wantonly and irresponsibly. If 154 is passed, what’s to prevent someone from buying up the property next to the Budge mansion and building a jackhammer testing ground? (Hyperbole, I know.) Good bye Budge property value; too bad you neutered your own ability to participate in defining the community around you.

    Hyperbole indeed, all of the current zoning restrictions that are in place today will stay in force thereby preventing such unbridled development. My property is protected as being zoned residential. Conversely, if I own a piece of property that is zoned “commercial” though I have a residence on it A) iI am duly informed legally that some industrial enterprise can develop it. Iif the city decides that the land should have a more restrictive usage, such as residential, that could reduce my property value significantly. The city needs to understand who they are hurting and by how much.

    Don’t you think the zoning requirements of neighborhoods change over the years? Or do you think Montana’s needs will be frozen into perpetuity? Missoula is a fast-growing community. The neighborhoods on the far side of Reserve have little or no zoning regulations. If 154 is passed, they can never have meaningful zoning regulations there, and you can put dynamite factories next to elementary schools if you have some capital and a good lawyer.

    You completely lack any meaningful understanding of the law. Zoning changes can and will happen. But if someone is damaged by local zoning changes, the community needs to pay for that. This law does not allow for a free-for-all as you imply. It basically says that with regulatory change there are economic consequences. You want open space? Fine, do like Ravalli County and get the plebiscite to pay for it with an open space bond. You want to protect habitat? Go ahead, buy it from the fee simple land owners. You want to restrict housing development? Do it, but don’t expect private land owners to eat dirt at the will of the majority. This law protect my house from the economic damgages that I would suffer if a cabal of city councelmen ran rough-shod over my rights and changed my zoning to industrial. This issue is not about big business, it’s about the need to consider in depth the consequences of regualtion. And if the majority wants that regualtion they need to pay for it.

    I conclude that you’ve not done your homework and are falling in line with those who demagogue about “big business” given what you’ve written. I have given cogent arguments about your two (rather lame) examples. What say you?

  11. You are overly optimistic, believing your ideology is the cure-all for communities…however, as Oregon shows, local and state governments can’t adequately compensate the claims, thus the regulations are invariably waived for development…

    By the way, your example of an individual homeowner getting protection from a zoning board that suddenly changes an area into an industrial zone is somewhat misleading: so far in Oregon the overwhelming number of claims are made by developers to pursue their projects.

    Who protects the individual landowners from developers who build projects that the community deemed unacceptable? This legislation subverts the rights of many for the right of a few.

    You tout an individual’s right to property in this case, but what about the other individuals who have their property values damaged by those that will prosper under this bill? Shouldn’t their property rights be respected, too?

  12. You keep referring to Oregon and I wonder why. The Oregon law is retroactive to 1976 – which opens up all sorts of problems for claims against past actions. The proposed Montana law does no such thing.

    How is it misleading that individual homeowners get protection from exiting zoning laws under I-154? My house is zoned R-1, if the city decides to change that by, say, making it high density R-IV, and it has a negative effect on my land value, I have a complaint. The city zoning board will have to take into account my economic loss. Accordingly, developers will have little chance building apartments or condos that my neighbors and I find objectionable unless the public decides that value of the change is worth paying for. This works against what you portend for developers in that case.

    You have still not given me an example of what can happen that will “hurt” anyone’s land values under I-154. I cannot think of a single scenario where individuals get hurt by this, but perhaps I’ve missed something. Give me a plausible example and I’ll listen.

    Last, but certainly not least, how inconsistent is it of you to say that the rights of the majority should usurp the rights of the individual? Majority rule is no better than mob rule when taken to its extreme. You obviously don’t think majority rule is the best answer for highly charged issues like gay marriage, abortion, racial equality, and freedom of speech. You seem to differentiate between those liberties and economic protections. On those issues I find both liberals and conservatives to be strikingly inconsistent to the point of intellectual dishonesty. Are economic liberties a lower form of liberty for the left? Are personal liberties of lesser value to the right? It seems so and I take issue with both.

    You’ve climbed on a bandwagon that makes the false comparison with the Oregon law and you have not supported that assertion. I only ask that you do.

  13. The reason I refer to Oregon is that the basic problem still holds despite Oregon’s retroactive provision. I gave you an example about regulation here in Missoula, which you conveniently ignored — the neighborhoods across Reserve, which are largely free of regulations…what happens when (as is inevitable) they’re incorporated? Lawsuits galore.

    Also, your example of turning a residential neighborhood into an industrial zone is misleading: most (if not all) the lawsuits concern industrial or business development. And you also know, from experience I hope, that many regulations are passed after someone proposes development not foreseen by regulators.

    I do value protecting individual liberty from the mob. However, I do not think one individual’s property should be held in higher regard than the rest of the community. What we’re talking about is regulating development. No one’s suggesting taking away a person’s property, just ensuring they act responsibly and in accord with the community when developing.

    Money already has too many advantages in this society. Why should I support an initiative that values property value over my rights as a citizen?

  14. Well, your continued use of the Oregon example is a non sequitur and a shill for demagoguery. From the great deal I’ve read I find no examples of claims being made for property that was acquired after Measure 37 was passed. Show me just one.

    Secondly, your “example” is not only specious but factually incorrect. In 2002 Missoula County adopted its Comprehensive Growth Plan and in doing so defined rigorously land use provisions for land going all the way to Blue Mountain. You can see the map here.

    Besides the fact that you haven’t provided any credible hypothetical examples, except the fear of litigation, I don’t find a cogent argument – except your admission that you think private property rights are subservient to mob rule. If that’s your argument, that the rights of the majority usurp the rights of the individual, then we can paint you as the “collectivist” that you appear to be. And since your convinced of the Rosseauian notion of Greater Good, one can only hope that it’s you, and not some poor schlub whose worked his life to cobble together a modicum of property, gets the rewards that you embrace by your assets being damaged by a majority with a different world view than yours.

  15. Okay, was wrong about the plan. But say you bought property in 2001 there and were planning on turning it into an industry or land-use that didn’t adhere to the growth plan — that’s what I’m talking about.

    Second, I never said property rights should be subserviant to mob rule. I said the “mob” shouldn’t be subserviant to property rights — esp. of the rights of property that’s not yet developed. It’s like you’re saying if some guy breaks his bat over my head, I should pay for it because it’s his property. Well…it may be his property, but he shouldn’t have the right to use it to beat me.

    And by the way, the burden is all on you to show that (a) there’s a real problem that this initiative solves, and (b) definitive proof that it works.

    The only problem you can find is a tear-jerk dream scenario about some hard-working schlub who loses his property because of…well you don’t really explain. That’s not a real danger. Give me some facts, evidence that the current system doesn’t work. It ain’t perfect, but fundamentally changing the relationship between government and property seems rash, especially when the only exampe we have — Oregon — is a mess.

    BTW, stop with this “Oregon doesn’t count” b.s. It’s obvious it’s an embarassment to your ideology. All the caveats in the world don’t make it vanish. It’s the only real-world application of this particular bit of money-is-all belief, and it’s legitimate to use it as a measuring stick. So fess up. The idea stinks.

    Oh and stop with this “collectivist” nonsense. That’s disingenuous. I can’t help it if your argument has neither merit nor value; it’s plain rude to stoop to name calling.

  16. Stop calling names? You’re one to talk – calling me “an out-of-touch extremist” then adding more garbage about the looks of my website. Don’t be a hypocrite.

    First, if I bought property in 2001 and the comprehensive plan killed my designs for the property I purchased, I would have been out of luck then, now and post I-154. Any current regulations will stay in place in I-154 and I would have no recourse. So I don’t get your point unless you materially misunderstand I-154.

    Secondly, I’ve provided a real world example of regulatory takings here. Which I assume you haven’t read. But the Lucas case is instructive for the power of government over the rights of the individual. You should study it.

    I’m done with you on this issue and I’m going to work to actively campaign for I-154. But I would debate you in public on the issue – or anywhere else. It appears to me that you haven’t studied either the philosophical underpinnings of regulatory takings or the moral basis for questioning the governments right to do use them. This is not an argument about the majorities relationship with property. It’s about the governments right to regulate without consideration of whom it hurts. It’s personal to guys like Lucas. This isn’t an issue of big business, protecting developers or hurting the environment. It’s about fairness. If you can’t even acknowledge that the current system makes it possible for the majority to hurt the minority than I figure you’re not even a worthy debating partner.

  17. Ooo, that sounds like a challenge…hm…let me think about it.

    This could be fun! Maybe a good old-fashioned pub debate in front of a small, but interested crowd…

  1. 1 Dave Budge .com » Hey!

    […] Apparently I’m a right-wing extremist. […]

  2. 2 “Oregonian” traces funding for initiatives back to Howard Rich « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] The story eked out a quote from Rich — nearly identical to that found in the High Country News article. Now the article doesn’t mention Montana specifically, but it does say it found evidence the Rich funded spending caps initiatives in 12 states, among which, one assumes, is Montana. […]




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