POSTED ON MARCH 6, 2013:
Urban Gardens and Café
The Use and Abuse of the Police Power
Most non-lawyers have no idea what is being referred to when they hear the term "police power." All city governments exercise police powers, when, for example, they mandate or prohibit certain activities. For example, in 2004, the City Council adopted a new version of the International Fire Code. A few months after its adoption, I learned that the new code mandated that I spend a lot of money to cause my new 40 year old home to comply with it. I ran for City Council in response, and, as a result, the mandated installation of a sprinkler system in my home was repealed. Other provision mandated other changes to my home at my expense. The fire code is an example of the exercise of the police power.
Other examples include the zoning code, traffic code, sign ordinances, etc. Most of us most of the time probably think that the city's exercise of the police power is a good thing. There are, however, times when all of us will say "WTF" in response to the exercise of the police power.
As a result of the adverse economic impact of the Baseball Stadium Assessment District assessments levied upon numerous downtown buildings, the owners have elected to demolish them. The demolition of some of the buildings was probably a good thing in the opinions of others, but not all. One person who got upset was Councilor Blake Ewing, who apparently thinks that old buildings are cool and wants them preserved and fixed up rather than torn down.
Last July, Council Ewing got the City Council to place a six-month moratorium on the issuance demolition permits for the demolition of buildings located inside the IDL. Councilor Ewing is not finished with his crusade to save old downtown buildings. He now wants to prohibit the demolition of buildings if the use of the property thereafter is for surface level parking. Under a proposed zoning code change, the owners of property located inside the IDL will not be allowed to tear their buildings down and use their properties for surface level parking lots.
In my opinion, this exercise of the police power violates the constitutional rights of the owners of such properties. The owners of many downtown properties, especially properties with vacant multi-story buildings located on them, might conclude that it would be better to demolish them because they have no current economically productive use, e.g., the building owned by the Tulsa World located at 4th and Main. Tearing down an 80 to 100,000 square foot building is not an insignificant act. It costs a lot of money and all you get is an empty lot.
The highest and best use of a lot of downtown properties is, in fact, for surfaced parking lots. Paving the empty space created by the demolition of a building can produce a significant return on the investment in the paving and the owner is partially absolved of the cost of paying the annual Baseball Stadium District annual assessment. Such owners win both ways.
The Tulsa World tore down the Skelly Building at 4th and Boulder and put in a parking lot. What it will do with the building that it owns at 4th and Main remains to be seen. If Councilor Ewing has his way the resulting vacant lot will not be a parking lot. It may just be a hole in the ground unless the city's police power prohibits holes in the ground downtown.
The city may be able to prevent the use of empty lots created by the demolition of derelict buildings for parking, but it probably cannot prevent the demolition of the buildings. It is almost certain that more downtown buildings will be torn down, e.g. Nordam buildings. The 2004 fire code mandates that almost all of the downtown buildings be fully fire suppressed (sprinkled). It is almost certain that some building owners will elect to demolish their buildings rather than pay assessments on them and fire-suppress them also. The city may be able to prevent the demolition of building to create surface level parking lots but the laws of economics may still dictate the demolition of more downtown buildings.
Don't Hate on the Wealthy
(re: Rant 'n' Rall, Feb. 7-13, 2013)
Petty name calling and inflammatory language are not a substitute for supporting evidence and do not prove an argument. The volume of words in Ted Rall's "Against Philanthropy" serves only to mask the weakness of the position that is hidden nearly halfway into the editorial. It is appalling to refer to philanthropy as "evil."
Michael Bloomberg and Mitt Romney (and other "rich" people) have their wealth taxed twice -- once at the corporate level and a second time at the personal level. They also choose to give generously to charity: Romney at least 10 percent of his earnings. The average American gives far less a percentage his or her income to charity.
(Jesus was no commie. Reference the parable of the talents. He also taught that greed, not wealth, is the thing that is evil, and that generosity -- read philanthropy -- is a noble and desirable character trait.)
In Turkey several years ago, I watched people walk long distances to draw and carry water from wells to their open-pit cook fires to boil it for cooking and drinking. The poorest in America has wealth beyond the imagining of most people in the rest of the world. No one is forced to purchase a Microsoft product. People are free to purchase alternatives and direct their money to a poorer company. Through personal choice, each person adds to the wealth of the "rich," or not. Our world isn't perfect. Hating the rich and confiscating and redistributing what we gave them through our own choices will not create the perfect world.
(re: Cover Story, Jan. 24-30, 2013)
Nice story. I love learning about other faiths. Once I spent an hour in my front yard telling two young men about my Catholic faith and they told me about their Mormon faith. Always interesting!
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