• Light Rail in Pinellas County (FL)?

    Bay News 9 in Pinellas County reported on the Rail Forum that I participated in.  Joining me was Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute, who is also known as the Antiplanner.

    Sponsored by the Tea Party group South Pinellas 912, major kudos go to Barbara Haselden for organizing the event.  They have a great website – Rail Tax Facts – that is worth checking out.  Hopefully, the citizens will be well armed with the pro-rail PR kicks into overdrive.

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  • When Streetsblog Talks About Libertarians Talking About Transit

    I recently presented at the Mobility Choice Roundtable in Washington, D.C.  This is put on by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and moderated by the always impressive Anne Korin.  And the pro-transit, progressive Streetsblog D.C. covered the event.  The author of the piece, Ben Goldman, lets slip his bias right away:

    “There’s more than one way to approach transportation reform. One is to believe that an ideal transportation policy promotes the use of modes that are environmentally sustainable and which foster livable cities, while those that perpetuate overdependence on automobiles do neither.”

    There you have it.  The ideal policy pushes what Washington bureaucrats deem to be sustainable and “livable” and, by definition, “automobiles do neither.”  That is the policy environment into which I entered last Thursday.  There were some allies at the table and, of course, Ms. Korin was a skillful moderator, but the general assumption is that transit can and should be the catalyst to transform society into a high density, transit-oriented place.  I challenged that view.

    Read the article here.

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  • Saying Goodbye to a Friend & Ally

    Owen McShane passed away on March 6.  There’s a fine obituary of him at New Geography, where he was a contributor.  Here’s a part:

    “From Owen’s perspective, rational urban policy was not determined by remote or theoretical visions of the city that he was trained to plan. The success of a city was rather judged by the standard of living experienced by its residents. For example, his How Can Cities with Unaffordable Housing be Ranked Among the Most Livable Cities in the World? (, June 9, 2009) may have been the first to point out that popular indexes of the quality of life in international urban areas routinely ranked the most unaffordable at the top. This kind of analysis led Owen to postulate that ” genuine sustainable development” had to work from middle class people and families too” in The Disappearance of the Next Middle Class (, August 24, 2010).”

    Owen spoke at several of our Preserving the American Dream conferences, always providing a “heads up” assessment of planning excesses heading our way.  You see, he was the director of the Centre for Resource Management Studies in New Zealand, and New Zealand (like Australia and Great Britain) pioneered many of the stringent land use regulations we in America call Smart Growth.  The plannings fads that policy officials in your community think are trendy and cutting edge have already been put to the test in places like New Zealand, with devastating consequences for middle class people.

    Middle class people will miss the advocate they had in Owen McShane as will organizations like ours.

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  • When Persuasion Fails, Use Intimidation

    All elected and appointed officials in Maryland are supposed to march in lock-step with Governor O’Malley’s coercive statewide growth management plan known as PlanMaryland.

    If dissent is expressed, over-the-top measures will be taken to de-legitimize it.  Back in October 2011, I participated with several other speakers at a public forum organized by Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild.  “PlanMaryland: At the Crossroads” identified technical errors and faulty assumptions that undermine the plan’s viability.  It was widely publicized and about 150 people were in attendance from members of the Governor’s cabinet to state senators to county commissioners to local activists.  Additionally, the media was present and provided lots of coverage, even live-blogging the event.  All the presentations were posted on the County website (available here).  A nominal fee was proposed to cover costs, but only about 1/4 of the participants paid it proving that the fee was not an impediment to attendance.

    There was no call to order, no motion set before the board, no votes taken, no direction given to staff.  In other words, there was nothing at this forum that in any way could be confused with a meeting of an elected body set to take action.

    But the hypersensitive environmentalist community was offended that a forum would be organized that challenged their precious assumptions, so they sought a ruling from the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board who has issued an absurd ruling that the event was a “closed meeting,” thus violating the state’s open meetings law.  The Carroll County Board of Commissioners has posted a response on its website showing that there is at least some common sense left in Maryland.

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  • PlanMaryland – Epic Fail

    I’m back from Maryland where I participated in a forum on PlanMaryland – Maryland’s plan for statewide growth management.  Congrats to Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild for putting together an impressive panel and gathering so many impressive dignitaries, including members of the State Department of Planning, the Governor’s office, state delegates and senators, and dozens of local officials.

    CityBizList of Baltimore provides a nice summary, and here’s its comment on my remarks:

    Ed Braddy, executive director of the American Dream Coalition, brought up several problems he saw with the draft plan.

    “It is unrepresentative of the people,” he said. “It uses inaccurate and skewed data, and it does not recognize trade-offs. It will lead to a diminished quality of life that is neither smart nor inevitable.”

    Braddy said that the plan puts too much emphasis on “smart growth” – building homes in a contiguous area with restaurants and shopping within walking distance and close to transit. Based on calculations Braddy did using guidelines presented in the report, he said that this could mean the plan calls for more than 16,000 people living per square mile. Currently, there are about 3,000 people living per square mile in Baltimore.

    He said that the report also makes vehicles appear to be much too expensive, and makes the benefits of mass transit seem much too great. The plan cites a AAA study for the costs of driving – about $8,600 per year – which Braddy said is only accurate for people leasing new cars and driving them 15,000 miles a year. People driving older cars at the average 11,000 miles that Marylanders drive each year, actually pay $2,566 to $5,300 per year to drive, Braddy said.

    Richard Hall, the state secretary of the Department of Planning acknowledged: “I’m sure people can find something in the plan [such as] data errors,” but he goes on to question whether it was ” a math issue, or a policy debate masking itself as a math issue.”

    He misses the point.  PlanMaryland uses data (mostly derived mathematically) to make claims on which policy is based.  If the math is wrong, then it’s fair to question the claims and related policies.

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  • Florida’s Growth Management …

    … is up in the air after a circuit judge struck down the statewide reforms enacted in 2009.  State Senator Mike Bennett had offered the legislation as a way to ease development and spur Florida out of the recession.  Opponents called it a giveaway to developers that “gutted” the Sunshine State’s 25 year commitment to growth management.

    Of course, before waxing nostalgic about state growth management, people should realize that since Florida’s 1985 landmark law pretty much all of the things growth management was supposed to prevent have come to pass – sprawling development and stifling traffic congestion.  Worse, we’ve empowered a state bureaucracy with the power to pick winners and losers on major projects by exploiting the complexities inherent in the system.

    The judge said the 2009 reforms imposed unconstitutional mandates on local governments.  Here’s hoping Senator Bennett introduces new legislation next session to address those narrow points while breaking the power hold of the Department of Community Affairs.

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  • The Livable Communities Act & Strategic Diminishment

    I want to thank the good folks at for publishing my guest column on the Obama administration’s “Livable Communities Act” – a federal effort to impose Smart Growth regulation on all of us.

    Is the American Dream getting smaller? Are we defining down the tools of opportunity and the pleasures of prosperity?

    President Obama’s flippant dismissal of American exceptionalism last year stirred a lot of criticism because it suggested he did not believe the United States held a special place in the world. It also suggested America’s unique history is, to the president, no big deal.

    Now, with fellow travelers exercising power at all levels of government, progressives can do more than just belittle the idea of American exceptionalism. They can enact policies to make America unexceptional — diminishing our quality of life and dampening opportunities for the next generation. Of course, progressives claim their vision is better and argue, with exquisite preening, that such changes are needed for our own good.
    While cap-and-trade grabs the most attention, equally threatening is the euphemistically clever “Livable Communities Act.” Masked with feel-good rhetoric and lofty concepts like “smart growth” and “sustainable development,” the Livable Communities Act is top-down central planning aimed at changing where we live and work and how we travel.
    Read the rest here.
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  • Standing Together – Defending Freedom

    Defending FreedomThe 8th Annual Preserving the American Dream Conference
    September 23-25, 2010
    | Doubletree Resort on International Drive | Orlando, Florida

    The upcoming Preserving the American Dream conference is the only national conference that presents you with a free-market approach to transportation and mobility, land use and homeownership, property rights and private enterprise and related issues affecting the 80 percent of Americans who live in cities and metropolitan areas.  These liberty values are under assault, so now more than ever we need to come together to fight these threats and promote freedom!

    {“One of the four best conferences I’ve ever attended.” — John Fund, Wall Street Journal}
    ** Register Now **

    Co-sponsored by the Reason Foundation, Washington Policy Center, Pacific Research Institute, Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute and others, this conference features dozens of distinguished speakers and tackles critical issues affecting you and your state.  Click here for the draft agenda.  The American Dream is still possible, and the cities of the future can be built on the foundation of freedom!  If you’re looking for market-oriented solutions to these and other urban problems, this is the conference for you!

    Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at or at 352.281.5817.

    Registration & Contact Information:
    The registration fee is just $259 and the optional Thursday bus tour is only $49.  The student/low-income rate is $175.  We’ve also secured a special room rate of $99 per night at the Doubletree Resort Orlando on the famous International Drive extending three days before and after the conference for those who want to take in the attractions.

    ** Register for Conference ** Agenda || Speakers || Brochure

    {“Attending the Preserving the American Dream Conference provided me and my association many tools and helped us have our most successful legislative year to date.” — Mark Nix, South Carolina Home Builders Association}

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  • Will Tampa Follow Charlotte & Seattle?

    The political elites in Tampa-Hillsborough County are urging citizens to vote in favor of a new sales tax this November, the majority of which will go to fund a new light rail system.  Advocates are trotting out the same tired arguments used elsewhere to sell the initiatve – downtown revitalization, economic development, reduced congestion, etc.  The problem, of course, is that light rail does NOT accomplish those things.  Still, advocates are unmoved.  We’ll be like Charlotte, they say.  Or Seattle.

    Recently, the Antiplanner took up the case of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Rail enthusiasts often cite Charlotte as a success, yet massive cost overruns prove otherwise.  Meanwhile, Michael Ennis writing for the Washington Policy Blog uncovers the details showing that Seattle’s light rail will be carrying just half of the ridership that planners and advocates cited to sell the project to voters.

    Voters wanting to get beyond the spin and cheerleading of rail advocates should check out the NoTaxForTracks website.  Put together by some Tampa Tea Party activists and other citizens concerned about out-of-control spending and long term debt, this site is a great resource of information that can help voters make an informed decision at the polls.

    So if Tampa area voters are eager to blow their budget and move a negligible amount of people by 19th century technology, then I’m sure you’ll rally ’round rail!  If you want more responsible spending and truly effective transportation alternatives, then you should come to the ADC’s upcoming Preserving the American Dream conference in Orlando on September 23-25.

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  • Defining Freedom – Defending Freedom

    The American Dream is under attack!  Liberty is not simply an abstract ideal but represents the actions we take as free people.  Personal mobilitiy, property rights, homeownership and private enterprise are threatened from both incremental … from local governments and sweeping assaults at the federal level.  The Secretary of Transportation says the goal of the Obama administration is to “coerce people out of their cars.”  The House Transportation Committee wants to impose land-use planning on rural areas to prevent “sprawl” — and make single-family housing unaffordable to most people.

    Governments at all levels are imposing expensive regulations on how we live, work and travel and using buzzwords like “sustainability,” “livability,” and “Smart Growth” to mask their command-and-control ambitions.  Now more than ever, it is time to come together to fight these threats to the American Dream. The 8th Annual Preserving the American Dream conference in Orlando on September 23-25 is your opportunity to meet dozens of experts and compare notes with activists from all over the world.  This conference will give you greater insight into how government functions and how you can defend freedom in your community!

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    8:00 am – 4:00 pm: Optional tour of significant housing, land use and transportation projects between Orlando and Tampa that are defining the famous I-4 corridor, including Baldwin Park, Celebration, and Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

    4:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Registration & Reception

    7:00 pm – 9:00 pm: The Great Debate – How Should Our Cities Grow? Amendment 4 & the Future of Florida

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    8:00 am – 10:15 am: First Plenary Session – Freedom & Homeownership in the Balance: Federal Plans to Regulate Away Your Choices

    10:30 am – 12:00 pm: Land-Use Workshops on Property Rights & Private Enterprise, Suburbia, Smart Growth & Sustainable Development

    12:15 pm – 1:15 pm: Lunch & Keynote Address – Florida’s Dysfunctional Growth Management Policies

    1:30 pm – 3:30 pm: Second Plenary Session – Tomorrow’s Transportation: Personal Mobility & the Road to Prosperity

    3:45 pm – 4:15 pm: Mobility Workshops on Transit Transparency, Transportation Funding, and How Mobility Impacts the Environment

    5:00 pm – 6:45 pm: Networking Opportunities

    7:00 pm – 9:00 pm: Dinner & Keynote Speaker

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    8:00 am – 10:15 am: Third Plenary Session – Framing the Debate & Defining Victory

    10:30 am – 11:45 am: Fourth Plenary Session – Fighting for Freedom at the Local Level

    Click here for an up-to-date list of our distinguished speakers and here for more information about the conference.  A downloadable version of the conference brochure can be found here.

    Click here to register.  Conference registration is just $259.  We also offer a student and low-income rate of $175. The optional Thursday tour of Tampa and Orlando transportation and land-use projects is $49.

    The conference will take place at the Orlando Doubletree Resort on International Drive, a beautiful hotel just minutes away from SeaWorld, Universal Resort, and Walt Disney World. To make reservations at the conference rate of $99 (including free WiFi for conference goers), good for any time between September 19 and September 27, call 1-800-327-0363 and ask for the American Dream Coalition rate.

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