Thursday, May 31, 2007

CAFE Standard Increases: Here's Why Not

Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Hudson Institute has written a superlative op-ed on the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards, that were approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in May.

Among the CAFE facts Furchtgott-Roth shares with her readers:
1) The original CAFE standards resulted in needless deaths: 1,300-2,600 in just one year studied. The standards were first adopted 32 years ago. (Do the math.)

2) Excluding the people who would lose their lives if the new, tougher standards are adopted, the "biggest losers... would be Americans who prefer large vehicles to carry families, equipment, and pets on daily trips or long vacations."

3) Domestic U.S. auto manufacturers (Chrysler, GM, Ford) would be hurt. Says Furchtgott-Roth about Ford: "In the first four months of 2007, Ford sold 570,000 light trucks, but only 300,000 passenger cars. Each F-Series truck makes about $8,000 in profits for the company, whereas Ford loses money on passenger cars."

4) Foreign manufacturers supported by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers support increasing CAFE standards.
I especially love this part of her piece: "Neither global warming nor energy security require increased CAFE standards, which are both anti-economic and anti-intellectual. They are made for a political system where appearance trumps substance."


There's lot's more. Read the entire piece here.

Addendum, 6/1/07 Some of the same politicians who support raising CAFE standards also support ill-advised proposals to make so-called "gas gouging" (ill-defined in this post, because it is ill-defined in the legislation, criminal penalties for doing it notwithstanding) a federal crime (see here and here for one of many examples). Yet, high gas prices tend to reduce gas usage, which CAFE standard supporters think is so important, it is worth the loss of several thousand lives per year.

This is literally a life or death issue, but to many leading politicians, life or death isn't as important as getting good media coverage, or appeasing special interests.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:42 PM

Let Greenpeace Live Up to the Standard it Has Set

As we have not yet received an answer from Greenpeace about our challenge, husband David has sent a letter to Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando:
May 30, 2007

Mr. John Passacantando
Executive Director
Greenpeace, Inc.
702 H Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20001

Dear John:

Greenpeace recently made the outrageous and defamatory charge that my organization is “still on the payroll” of the ExxonMobil Corporation because it received a grant from the company in 2006 (

Perhaps you allow donations to influence your positions on public policy issues. We do not.

Since you’ve raised the issue of public disclosure of grants in a manner critical of others, we believe you should lead by example. That’s why I’m challenging you to a very high standard for transparency. If Greenpeace will publicly disclose its donations exceeding $50,000, we will do the same.

If $50,000 is too cumbersome for you, we can set the trigger at $100,000. If you think it’s too high, we can go down to $25,000.

Let me be clear on what I mean by transparency:

A complete list of donor names, gift amounts and purposes of all gifts (corporate, foundation and individual) received directly or indirectly and meeting the trigger criteria. Listing donors as “anonymous” is not acceptable as full disclosure.

All donations received by Greenpeace, Inc., the Greenpeace Fund, Inc., Greenpeace International, Greenpeace Vision Fund, Inc. and Greenpeace national offices worldwide. I note that in 2006, the Greenpeace Fund, for which you also work, contributed over $3.6 million to Greenpeace, Inc.– equal to about 23% of the group’s expenditures last year. Such transfers not only help obscure the true source and nature of contributions, but also the amount spent on fundraising, administration, and salaries, artificially raising the percentage of your budget spent on programs. This transfer alone would have raised your program spending by over 6% through smoke and mirrors. Not exactly trying to clear the high bar on public disclosure, are we, John?

All indirect donations. For example, Greenpeace, Inc. and the Greenpeace Fund, Inc. received a total of $343,000 through the Tides Center (an appropriately named institution as its principal function appears to be to launder money to hide the true source of funds).

As you know, information about ExxonMobil’s grants have been publicly available from multiple sources: the corporation’s annual World Giving Report, the ExxonMobil Foundation’s 990, and from disclosures from groups such as ours (for just one example, see revealing such funding.

Greenpeace, so far, has not met this standard of transparency.

Please let me know by close of business June 4 whether you accept our challenge. At that time we can discuss specific timelines, triggers, and other details.

This is an opportunity for you to show whether Greenpeace is green…

…or just yellow.

Thank you for your prompt reply.


David A. Ridenour
Vice President
I believe the letter speaks for itself. We'll see if Greenpeace is willing to live by the standards it seeks to set for others.

If any of the other major environmental organizations have made public a list of all their major donors, according to the standards set above, they should feel free to e-mail me about that fact. I would be happy to sing their praises for doing so here on the blog.

P.S. Apparently responding to our Greenpeace challenge, and the hyper-environmentalist DeSmogBlog's botched attempt to defend Greenpeace, a correspondent named Sasha has written me four times this past week, hoping I will post his/her comment.

Since it is so important to you, Sasha, here it is:
I just eye-balled Greenpeace's list, and they appear to list about 800 donors. It looks like about 100 (and 3 of the 14 big gifts) of those are anonymous. I'm no expert in NGO fundraising, but I think that's a pretty normal fraction of anonymous givers. As a point of comparison, what fraction of the National Center for Public Policy Research's donors are listed as anonymous? And, if there are anonymous donors, under what circumstances would the NCPPR disclose information about those donors?

I ask because I'd imagine that, for a minority of donors, anonymity is crucial to their giving process. If NGOs of all flavours required every donor to identify themself, I fear there would be a significant reduction in donations to charity.

Greenpeace has taken an aggressive public position that the mere acceptance of a contribution by a charity puts the charity "on the payroll" of the donor. Greenpeace further asserts -- falsely, in our experience, but Greenpeace's may be different -- that charities do the bidding of their donors.

Greenpeace is spending tax-exempt dollars "exposing" the names of donors to groups with which Greenpeace disagrees, yet Greenpeace hides the identity of some of its major donors. Since Greenpeace apparently perceives itself as being "on the payroll" of its donors, and believes in "exposing" (although what Greenpeace "exposed" had already been voluntarily and publicly disclosed in multiple venues) the names of the donors to other organizations, shouldn't it fullfill the disclosure standard it has set?

The National Center for Public Policy Research believes institutions should be judged on their quality of their work. Greenpeace believes groups should be judged by the names of their donors. Let Greenpeace live up to the standard it has set.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:09 PM

Blunt Talk

Mychal Massie opines:
...perhaps when Julian Bond, Harry Belafonte, and Danny Glover finish caressing the back and shoulders of maniacal dictators like Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro they too will find time to address the cries for mercy from Darfur.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:22 PM

Free Transportation Service Shut Down by Government

The Santa Barbara City Council drove pedicab operators out of business by requiring that they get a driver's license, undergo a criminal background check, obtain a business license and carry insurance.

City Council Shuts Down Free Transportation Service

Imagine a free public service that relieves the aching feet of tourists, gives kids a safe ride home from the movies at night or keeps someone who might have had one too many drinks at the local pub off the roads -- and is environmentally-friendly, too. Then imagine government regulations shutting the service down.

It happened in Santa Barbara, California.

Pedicabs - bicycle rickshaws able to carry up to six people per trip - were becoming increasingly popular in Santa Barbara. The young men who peddled people around town maintained an informal business, didn't keep regular hours and did not charge a fare for rides. While they accepted tips, drivers did not demand them. The Santa Barbara City Council effectively put them out of business, however, by passing a law in December of 2002 that required pedicabbers to jump through expensive bureaucratic hoops. These requirements included getting a driver's license, undergoing an FBI criminal background check and obtaining a business license and proof of insurance. All of this was to be paid for by the pedicabber. Insurance alone can cost more than $1,000.

Thanks to these imposed costs, pedicabbers were unable to continue operations. Most of Santa Barbara's pedicabbers are now out of business.

Sources: ABC News (August 28, 2003; August 29, 2003), Commuter Bicycles

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:35 AM

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sanctions on Sudan Applauded

Project 21 has a few things to say about the President's announcement of sanctions on Sudan.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:50 AM

Braiding Hair Requires a License?

photo credit: Tom Story

To practice her craft legally, Arizona regulators wanted Essence Farmer, an experienced African-style hair braider, to supposedly 'learn' her unique specialty by completing a $10,000, 1,600-hour cosmetology course that does not include African hair braiding techniques.

Braiding Hair Requires a License?

Essence Farmer first began braiding hair when she was ten years old. Specializing in African-style hair braiding, which is considered a form of natural hair care because it does not use chemicals or artificial hairstyling techniques, over the years Farmer refined her skills and developed a devoted and trusting list of clients. In 1999 and 2000, she was braiding five to six clients per week out of her parents' West Valley, Arizona home. Like other African hair braiders and natural hairstylists, Farmer operated her business "underground" because she was not a state-certified cosmetologist.

While attending Prince George's Community College in suburban Maryland in 2000, Farmer practiced her trade legally and without regulatory interference at the Blowouts Salon and Hairstons. She later returned to Arizona, intending to open her own legitimate hair-braiding business. Unfortunately, her plans went against a 1996 law requiring all hairstyling professionals to be licensed by the Arizona Board of Cosmetology. Acquiring this license is not an easy task for naturally-skilled stylists such as Farmer. To become a licensed cosmetologist in Arizona, one must attend a board-approved cosmetology school and pass an examination. Both criteria result in unnecessary hardships for prospective natural hairstylists. A one-year course at an approved institution can cost nearly $10,000. The training is also rigorous: 1,600 hours of study are required to master a variety of styling and beautifying techniques. Not a single hour is dedicated to natural hairstyling or to the African-style hair-braiding. The required examination is on matters unrelated to African hair-braiding.

Farmer filed a lawsuit in Superior Court of Maricopa County in December, 2003 challenging Arizona's cosmetology licensing statutes, claiming the occupational licensing laws inhibit viable employment opportunities. Relief proved to be at hand, however. Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano signed into law Senate Bill 1159, which exempts natural hairstylists from the onerous cosmetology requirements.

Commenting on her victory, Farmer said, "I've already begun the process of opening Rare Essence Braiding Studio. It is thrilling to be at the center of a movement that will allow entrepreneurs to take their first step on the road to self-employment."

Sources: The Institute for Justice, Tim Keller, Arizona Board of Cosmetology

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:31 AM

Sunday, May 27, 2007

An Ode to FDR?

After this, what next for the libertarians? An ode to FDR?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:08 PM

Friday, May 25, 2007

Senate Environment Committee Wrings Hands; Witnesses Warn Tougher CAFE Standards Would Harm Outdoor Recreation Industry

The National Center for Public Policy Research's Ryan Balis attended a hearing of the Senate and Environment and Public Works yesterday; one in a series of EPW hearings this year in which Chairman Barbara Boxer brings forth advocates of the "human beings are destroying the planet" climate theory for a public hand-wringing about the supposed problems that will come from global warming.

Interestingly, Senator Boxer has not been holding hearings on what she and her fellow worrywarts propose to do about the problem she would have us believe she is sincerely concerned about.

Hand-wringing is easier than productive work, I suppose. Or maybe limiting hearings to the emission of hot air about global warming is safer politically than pushing legislation that will kill jobs and raise energy prices -- as all the global warming proposals I've seen from Senator Boxer and her ilk tend to do.

After twelve years in the minority, the Democrats had plenty of time to develop a proposal to combat global warming. Where is it?

Maybe they aren't so worried about global warming after all...?

Enough editorializing from me. Here’s Ryan’s report:
Yesterday on Capitol Hill, a mostly stacked deck of representatives and other interested parties of the outdoor recreation industry testified before the full Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on "the potential impacts of global warming on recreation and the recreation industry."

As all too frequently occurs in discussions on climate change, a mostly one-sided, alarmist view was presented. "Outdoor recreation is perhaps one of the first and most obvious aspects of our lives that global warming will touch," claimed Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the committee.

Without offering much in the way of how affected businesses may adapt, as successful businesses must, to a changing environment, the vast majority of witnesses advanced the climate alarmists’ typical theme of fear.

"The economic losses in these industries [because of the impact of climate change] are likely to be in the order of billions of dollars," estimated Dr. Daniel Scott, Canada Research Chair at the University of Waterloo's Department of Geography.

Tom Campion, the founder of Zumiez, an outdoor clothing company, testified: "We need to acknowledge that global warming is here, and that it is bigger than any one business sector can handle and deal on their own. And as a country, we need to start dealing with global warming now."

Missing from most of the witnesses' testimonies was perspective. As ranking committee member Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) - who did not attend the hearing but prepared a written statement for the record - pointed out, the history of the Earth is one of continuously changing weather patterns.

"The fact that climate fluctuates - changes - is nothing new, and should not be feared," said Senator Inhofe. "It has always changed, and unless the processes of the planet suddenly stopped, it always will." Inhofe pointed out that the Rocky Mountain region experienced record snow levels this past winter, and, though June is approaching, the Colorado Mountains are currently under a snow advisory. "A healthy functioning planet means constant changes in our climate."

Furthermore, Inhofe cautioned that legislative "solutions" that attempt to blunt the impact of climate change are the true threat to the recreation and travel industries.

"[T]he most verifiable threat to the recreation and travel industry is the unintended consequences of misguided government policy and environmental activists. The chilling effect of guilt that the climate alarmists are attempting to instill in Americans for owning four wheel drive vehicles, flying in an airplane and enjoying travel is enough to harm the industry."

Also urging caution were Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition, and Barry McCahill, president of the SUV Owners of America.

Crandall testified: "The reality is that a reasonably fuel-efficient SUV - or even a large motorhome - gets more passenger miles per gallon when occupied by a family than does even the most fuel efficient car available today when occupied solely by a driver. And the benefits to the nation are large."

McCahill focused on SUV's important role for towing recreational vehicles such as boats, and warned of the harsh impact on recreationists if corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) mandates are further increased: "This lifestyle, along with boating, horse shows and many other forms of outdoor recreation, could disappear if fuel economy mandates are pushed to the extreme - or at minimum a luxury that only the wealthy could continue to enjoy."
To contact author Ryan Balis directly,
write him at [email protected]


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:23 PM

"Big Easy" Made Selling Books Not-So-Easy

photo credit: Institute for Justice

For two years, the City of New Orleans stalled the opening of a street book vending business because the booksellers did not have a required permit - a permit, however, that was non-existent and could not be issued by the city.

"Big Easy" Made Selling Books Not-So-Easy

Josh Wexler and Anne Jordan Blanton love books and have always dreamed of starting their own bookstore. After moving to New Orleans in August 2001, they decided to start a street vending business to sell books because they did not have enough money to open a storefront operation. The City of New Orleans, however, kept them from opening their business for nearly two years.

New Orleans requires that street vendors obtain specific permits to sell their goods, which Wexler and Blanton were willing to do. While street vendors in New Orleans can get permits to sell razor blades, flowers or food, nowhere in the city code does it mention permits to sell books. Their Catch-22 situation was that vending without a permit - something that was required yet didn't exist - is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to five months in jail.

City officials were steadfast in preventing Wexler and Blanton from selling books on the street. The couple sued the City of New Orleans in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Judge Stanwood Duval, Jr. ruled in their favor on June 17, 2003, determining that the city's restriction on selling books on streetcorners just because it had not created a permit to regulate the practice was unconstitutional.

Since the ruling Wexler and Blanton have opened their bookstand, successfully completing their personal "Battle of New Orleans."

Sources: Institute for Justice, Josh Wexler

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:29 AM

Thursday, May 24, 2007

On the Greenpeace Challenge

The ever-excitable DeSmogBlog crew continues to live up to its reputation for hyperbole with a post about The National Center for Public Policy Research's challenge to Greenpeace. We called upon Greenpeace to list all its $50,000 donors in 2006. If it does, we will.

DeSmogBlog's Kevin Grandia claimed in the post that Greenpeace annual reports contain "full disclosure" of Greenpeace donors.

Even if the reports Kevin references did contain a complete list of all the donors to Greenpeace's many projects, which it does not appear to do, Mr. Grandia's acceptance of the repeated use of the word "anonymous" on the donor list in place of proper names sets a new low standard for the word "disclosure."

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:19 AM

Jonathan's Law Update

I've updated a post from February about Jonathan's Law -- a law proposed to make the public records of disabled children more accessible to the children's parents.

The proposal has been adopted by the New York state legislature and was signed into law by New York Governor Elliot Spitzer.

Jonathan Carey, Rest in Peace.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:13 AM

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Child's Lemonade Stand Shut Down by Government Regulators

photo credit: NASA

The St. Paul, Minnesota government shut down a seven-year old's lemonade stand because she did not hold a $60 state beverage license.

Seven-Year-Old's Lemonade Stand Shut Down by Government Regulators

If an entrepreneurial child in St. Paul, Minnesota wants to set up a lemonade stand, he or she must first learn about the costly and overbearing world of government regulation. That's because before serving the first customer, the child will need to obtain a $60 license to sell beverages. That's what seven-year-old Mikaela Ziegler found out after the city's Office of Licenses, Inspections and Environmental Protection shut down her refreshment stand.

On August 27, 2003, Mikaela was in her fourth day of selling packaged lemonade, orange juice, water and soda pop. A woman identifying herself as a city inspector approached her stand and told her, "You can't sell pop without a license."

Mikaela was considered to be in violation of St. Paul's Legislative Code Chapter 331A.04(d)(24), which mandates a license for "a temporary establishment where food sales shall be restricted to pre-packaged nonpotentially hazardous foods or canned or bottled nonalcoholic beverages; operating no more than fourteen (14) days annually at any one location." Although no one had complained about Mikaela's stand, Licensing Director Janeen Rosas cited complaints about unlicensed vendors operating at the nearby state fair.

Mikaela's father, Richard, calls the situation "laughable" and "tragic." He rhetorically asked the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "Is there anything sacred anymore? We're not running a business here. This is fun and games for kids. I think [Mikaela] netted, after paying me, a whole $13."

Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (August 29, 2003)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:34 PM

Winkelman v. Parma City School District

I've updated a past post about the couple that was threatened with a fine because they went to court on behalf of their minor son without hiring a lawyer.

In short, the U.S. Supreme Court has now weighed in on behalf of the parents.

Says Tony Mauro, writing for Legal Times:
Parents do not need to hire lawyers to litigate public school special education disputes involving their children, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The 7-2 decision in Winkelman v. Parma City School District says parents have “independent, enforceable rights” in a free, appropriate education for their children under the Individuals With Disabilities Act. As a result, they can pursue those interests not just at the administrative appeal stage, but into federal court as well.

“It is not a novel proposition to say that parents have a recognized legal interest in the education and upbringing of their child,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority, adding that “a parent of a child with a disability has a particular and personal interest” in pursuing equal opportunities for the child.

The opinion did not disturb the longstanding rule that pro se litigants can only represent themselves, not others. Kennedy said there was no need to rule on that issue because the Court was saying that parents, in pursuing these claims, are enforcing their own rights, not just the rights of their children.

The ruling came in the case of Jeff and Sandee Winkelman, who were dissatisfied by the educational plan devised by the Parma, Ohio school district for their son Jacob, who has autism spectrum disorder. When administrative appeals ended, Sandee Winkelman, a nurse, schooled herself in legal procedure and took the case to federal court. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that parents could not litigate under IDEA, setting the stage for their high court appeal.

School districts, claiming that the cost of special ed litigation goes up when parents rather than lawyers are involved, fought against parental representation. In some cases, local bar groups have also complained that parents without lawyers were engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

But parents said the high cost of legal fees, as well as the dearth of lawyers willing to take on these often-complex lawsuits, made self-representation necessary...
There's more. Read the rest here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:29 PM

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fourteen-Year-Old Worker Fined $352 for Not Filing Tax Return on $3.16 Paid in Taxes

A Pennsylvania tax collection bureau fined a teenager $352 and threatened her with arrest for not filing a local income tax return on $316 of work.

Fourteen-Year-Old Worker Fined $352 for Not Filing Tax Return on $3.16 Paid in Taxes

Laurie Hanniford, a 17-year-old high school junior in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was mystified by the certified letter she picked up at the post office in May, 2003.

Was it her senior driver's license, or perhaps something from a college?

Unfortunately, no. It was a criminal complaint threatening her with arrest.

Hanniford called her parents from the post office. According to the Associated Press, Hanniford's mother said Laurie "couldn't drive, she was crying so hard."

When she was 14 years old, Hanniford had worked part-time as a swim instructor. That summer, she made $316. The $3.16 she owed in taxes was deducted from her paychecks. Three years later, the letter said, she was being fined $352 - more than she had made - for not filing a local tax return in conjunction with the $3.16 she had paid in taxes.

The Capital Tax Collection Bureau, which collects taxes from 75 localities and school districts, said it had sent her three notices informing her that she had to file a return. It took legal action when she did not respond. The Hannifords said they never received the letters, and the CTCB's own bureau director admitted that the notices are often mistaken for junk mail.

"It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of to fine her - she was 14 at the time - for taxes that have already been paid," said Hanniford's mother Sarah.

Even though Hanniford had paid her taxes on time, she still paid a heavy price for not filing the paperwork. The teenager was forced to appear in front of District Justice Susan Day to defend herself, where she pleaded no contest. Her fine was then reduced to $77.

According to the Associated Press, about two dozen other teens received letters similar to Laurie's.

Sources: Pittsburgh Post Gazette (June 6, 2003), CBS News (June 6, 2003), Associated Press (June 8, 2003)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:28 PM

The Health Care Conversation Continues

The health care conversation with Matthew Holt of the Health Care Blog (see here) continued over there Monday, with a new post in response by Matthew Holt and another by Eric Novack.

Mr. Novack, who does not appear to be of the "condemn America first" school of thought, says advocates of a single-payer system for the United States tend to "speak in broad generalities of fairness and justice and risk pools -- which sounds great to the public, but is short on actual policy implementation," while "limited government advocates have, thus far, been focused on actual concrete steps to improve the system." He provides more details to back up his view, and the conversation continues with others in the comments.

In his post, Matthew Holt says he's posting because he's grumpy, and in any case is just messing with me, so there's probably little need for me to get into the details (you can read it here if you want to). As has been the case in my conversation with Mr. Holt so far, he continued attributing opinions to me willy-nilly, and then attempted to mow them down. In such a situation, one hardly knows whether to note that one never said anything of the kind, or simply rebut his weak rebuttal.

Mr. Holt did, however, sort-of, slightly attempt just a little bit to explain his use of the term "rent-a-quote" when he complained about the AP quoting David Hogberg, affiliated with the National Center, in an article it ran last week. Unfortunately, Mr. Holt's explanation (as it does on many other matters) fell a bit short; he referred to an "obituary" as being the clue to the definition and then provided a dead link to a British newspaper.

Correspondents have informed me, however, that Mr. Holt is probably attempting to imply that some unseen (certainly not invisible) hand paid for the National Center's opinion as expressed by Dr. Hogberg. This would not surprise me. The left in general does tend to try to change the subject to sources of funding (at least, until one asks what theirs are), which we usually take as a sign that they are afraid to debate the real issues. I would be, too, if I were them.

If, however, Mr. Holt suspects that someone in particular is underwriting our health care work, I'd be grateful if he stopped dancing around the term "rent-a-quote" and laid his suspicions on the table. He'd be wrong, but we might learn the name of a new prospective donor to help us warn Americans of the pitfalls of government-run health care. (Speaking of which, donations to the National Center can be made online, and they are tax deductible!)

Meanwhile, Stuart Browning of On the Fence Films weighs in on his own blog and also in the comments. I admit I was surprised when I followed the last link in his post to read what Matthew Holt believes about spending money -- even private money? -- on health care procedures for the elderly. Mr. Holt, apparently, believes in a "duty to die" philosophy -- that funds spent on elderly people who need expensive procedures to stay alive might be better spent elsewhere.

And that, folks, explains the problem with government-run health care in a nutshell.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:31 AM

New York Requires City Tour Guides to Pass Stringent Tests

New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs required Jane Marx, a veteran New York City tour guide, and all 1,300 existing licensed guides to pass a stringent test of arcane information of little practical use. Because Marx refused to take the test, she is not considered one of the city's superior guides.

New York Requires City Tour Guides to Pass Stringent Tests

For 23 years, Jane Marx has led tours in New York City. She can tell visitors about the history and geography of the Big Apple, as well as humorous and informative anecdotes about the city, but she doesn't know exactly how big the Bronx is in proportion to cities in Europe. Because she is unaware of this bit of trivia, city officials do not consider her among New York City's best tour guides. She considers it insulting, but is nonetheless thankful it didn't rob her of her livelihood - as it once threatened to do.

In May 2003, Gretchen Dykstra, commissioner of New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), decided to replace the existing tour guide licensing exam, which all tour guides at the time had taken and passed when they were first licensed, with a much longer and more arcane version.

Many questions expected guides to know information that has little real use in their line of work. For example: "The physical size of the Bronx is approximately the equivalent to what European city? (a) Paris, France (b) Copenhagen, Denmark (c) London, England (d) Brussels, Belgium." One month after the new test was required, only 36 percent of those who took it were able to correctly answer the 120 questions out of 150 needed to pass.

A chief complaint among New York City's approximately 1,300 licensed tour guides at the time was the new testing requirement essentially revoked their licenses. According to the Guides Association of New York City, the test punished guides "without provocation, just cause, due process or misconduct." There were no complaints on record against the conduct of a tour guide to spur such a radical overhaul of the licensing system.

"You know what is not in the test? How do you get 8th graders interested in New York?" notes Marx. She maintains the qualities which make a good tour guide - humor, warmth, kindness, presentation of information - cannot be gauged by mini-essays and multiple choice questions. While knowing facts is certainly important, a test that quizzes minuscule dates and names cannot be an accurate arbiter of excellence in tour guiding. Marx asserts that tour guides' customers are on vacation and not "going for [a] Ph.D." She says they want to be entertained as much as they want to be educated.

After half-a-year of bureaucratic wrangling with the DCA and the New York City Council, the Guides Association succeeded in relaxing the requirements of the new test. In January 2004, threatened with yet another City Council hearing on the test, DCA commissioner Dykstra went along with Guides Association demands that tour guides who already have licenses not be required to take the new exam. In addition, the number of questions new applicants must get right to pass has been lowered from 120 to 97, the average score of applicants who took the exam in the first months it was administered. However, those who take the exam and score 120 or above are awarded a star on the DCA's online list of licensed tour guides. "I am starless," says Marx, who refuses to take the exam, "which leads the reader to interpret I took the test but got less than 120."

Sources: The Gotham Gazette (July 7, 2003), Fox News (June 30, 2003), National Public Radio (June 2, 2003), Jane Marx

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:28 AM

Monday, May 21, 2007

Standing Up for Whistleblowers

Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen stands up for whistleblowers in a McClatchy Newspapers story.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:53 AM

Bicycle Carriages Outlawed After Taxi Drivers Find Them Threatening to Business

photo credit: Ryan Balis

The survival of the Las Vegas pedicab industry has been threatened since the Nevada Transportation Services Authority passed regulations that mandate pedicab drivers must carry insurance and ban pedicabs altogether along the busiest - and, thus, most lucrative - sections of the Las Vegas Strip.

Bicycle Carriages Outlawed After Taxi Drivers Find Them Threatening to Business

Bill Jones is used to maneuvering around roadblocks. As pedicab driver on the Las Vegas Strip, Jones would maneuver his half-bicycle, half open-air carriage through congested streets where locals and tourists alike flock.

Now Jones and other employees of Silver State Pedicabs must contend with a potentially monumental barrier in the form of the Nevada Transportation Services Authority (NTSA), which wants to eliminate pedicabs altogether.

Clark County pedicabbers say they provide a valuable and unique service for this bustling area. The NTSA, created in 1997 to regulate limousines, tour buses, moving companies and tow-trucks, argues that pedicabs are a threat to pedestrian safety.

The Clark County taxi industry also considers pedicabs a threat - to its own business.

In an effort to eliminate the pedicabs, Clark County officials began creating obstacles that threatened the pedicabs' survival. Pedicabbies are already prohibited from charging a fare for their services. To counter this, pedicabs often display "not for hire" signs, so driver's earn their pay solely on tips. Drivers like Jones say they can earn between $100 and $300 for rides on the five-mile Las Vegas Strip, making the pedicab industry a viable and lucrative form of employment.

However, in March 2004, Clark County commissioners voted to ban pedicabs on the busiest thoroughfares of the Strip, from Russell Road (South end) to Sahara Avenue (North end), and 200 feet east of the Strip. Pedicabs may operate outside the restricted area where far fewer pedestrian and tourist traffic are present, but operators must carry insurance. The regulations follow an example initiated by the city council in Santa Barbara, California, where bureaucratic requirements resulted in the extinction of the pedicab industry.

Sources: Associated Press (November 13, 2003), Nevada Transportation Services Authority, Las Vegas Review-Journal (March 3, 2004), Business Week (February 8, 2005)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:35 AM

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Kelo v. New London Update

Tom Blumer at BizzyBlog provides a recap and and update to the events behind one of the most reviled U.S. Supreme Court decisions of recent years.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 8:59 PM

Universal Health Care: Universally Bad

Speaking of the pitfalls of socialized, universal, single-payer government-run health care (its advocates keep trying out new names), I recommend the On the Fence Films website to anyone flirting with the notion of supporting the adoption of such a system here.

Over the last month, On the Fence Films has documented a few examples of socialized medicine at work (or, more accurately, not working).

On the Fence covers:
* The sad story of a British man who can't see because the British National Health care system hasn't gotten around to removing his cataracts -- for three years. (He has a kidney stone, too, and Britain's "universal" health care system won't fix that, either.)

* A fellow in Canada who has been waiting eight months (so far) for heart surgery.

* A Canadian with a malignant brain tumor who fled to New York for medical treatment, rather than (most likely) die on a Canadian waiting list. His best friend had died on a waiting list for heart surgery.

* A South African man who dies after "elective" surgery he needed to save his life was cancelled seven times (socialized medicine systems artifically manipulate waiting list statistics to meet bureaucratic benchmarks by scheduling more surgeries than they can accomodate, and then cancel the surgeries at the last minute -- at incalulable personal cost to patients). Read the family diary to which On the Fence Films links for a fuller story of what this man and his family suffered.

* Three stories: A Canadian girl whose heart surgery was cancelled; an Australian man who has been on a 90-day waiting list for two years; a couple who had to schedule care for three disabled family members in order for the man to have surgery -- which then was cancelled.
I also recommend a short film, "Two Women," available for viewing on the On the Fence Films website. See who gets treatment when it is up to politicians to decide who gets surgeries -- and who does not. One hint: Political correctness plays a role.

Addendum, 5/22/07: A letter from Chris, a doctor and the proprietor of the Single-Payer Blog, where he also posted his letter:
I think trying to bring the most horror stories to the table is not a fruitful way to move the debate on single-payer vs. the status quo forward. Besides, the horror stories attributed to other nation's systems are trivial compared to the stories about our own. On top of this, once you add the population based problems with our system, there really is no comparison.

I say this as a physician who has always looked favorably on single-payer after a medical school experience in England. Yes, that system had lots of problems, but nowhere near as pervasive nor unfair as our own. As the years have gone by, I have seen so many heart breaking (and infuriating!) situations with our own system, my view has gone from simply favorable to my current view: it is really not acceptable to maintain the status quo.

I am not alone. I am involved in organized medicine on the state level. When I started in 2002 in this capacity, I think the current was then 10-1 (or 2) against single payer. i think that is now perhaps 10 to 3 or 4. Now, mind you, these are leading physicians in my state. These are those who used to be very reliably against anything that smacked of single payer.

I think there are many currents that are drawing physicians along. The injustice of the system that we see every day wears us down. The waste in a system managed by not-for-profit-in-name-only insurers and the true for-profit health plans, pharmaceutical and equipment companies and on and on is unconscionable. The loss of control over the patient-physician relationship could not possibly be worse under the most draconian socialized system, let alone a simple single-payer system. The pay differential among specialists is causing strain. The cost of the system is clearly becoming unsustainable.

There are more, but you get the idea.


I appreciate the letter, but (obviously) disagree about the value of sharing stories about real-life problems government-run health care with an American audience. Americans quite naturally are more familar with problems in our own system than we are with those abroad. Even if we haven't faced problems ourselves, we see them covered in the domestic press, and railed against by domestic politicians and interst groups. The problems with an often-proposed alternative -- government-run care -- receive little attention here. What we do is add balance.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:59 AM

Friday, May 18, 2007

Casket Salesmen Required to Have Embalming Expertise

The Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors ordered closed a casket business offering 30 to 50 percent discounts off competitors' prices because its owner - a Baptist pastor - was not a licensed funeral director, as is mandated under Tennessee law.

Casket Salesmen Required to Have Embalming Expertise

After his mother-in-law's funeral, Nathaniel Craigmiles saw the exact casket that had cost him $3,200 in Tennessee selling for only $800 in a New York City store.

Craigmiles, pastor of Marble Top Missionary Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, saw a good business opportunity. He opened his own casket store and set his prices 30 to 50 percent below what other Tennessee casket dealers were charging.

After the business was open one week, however, the Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors ordered Craigmiles to stop selling caskets. If he refused to stop, Craigmiles risked having his business shut down, the imposition of fines and, possibly, a jail sentence. That's because Tennessee law states that anyone who sells a casket must also be a licensed funeral director. To accomplish this, one must go through two years of training (which costs thousands of dollars), embalm 25 bodies and pass a license exam.

Craigmiles filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, arguing that Tennessee's regulation violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Chief Judge R. Allan Edgar agreed, saying consumers should have a choice when purchasing caskets and ruling that the requirement of a license to sell a casket was illegal. Edgar also said caskets sold by funeral directors are marked up between 250 and 400 percent, with some examples as high as a 600 percent markup.

The state of Tennessee appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio. That court found the only difference between caskets sold by individual retailers and the Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors was the cost. The court ruled unanimously in favor of Craigmiles, and he was allowed to re-open his business.

"The government's good old boy network drove me into bankruptcy, but now I'll finally be able to help my parishioners and others cut their funeral costs," said Craigmiles.

Source: Institute for Justice

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:32 PM

Health Care Blog Loses It, Part II

Matthew Holt of the Health Care Blog has responded to my response to his letter on health care.

Briefly, he thinks a government-run "universal" health care system, financed by taxes and run by bureaucrats, would improve health care for the American people. I believe government-run health care would kill people.

In the latest round, Matthew changes the subject to inheritance taxes. It bothers him that some call them "death taxes."

What does that have to do with health care? Beats me.

One can only hope that all the advocates of socialized medicine prove to be no more articulate than Mr. Holt.

Could save a lot of lives that way.

Addendum: A correspondent chimes in: "Maybe he's not changing the subject."



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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:30 PM

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Health Care Blog Loses It After U.S. Health System is Defended in AP Article

Q: When is a think-tank not a think tank?

A: When it's a conservative one.

Or so implies Matthew Holt, proprietor of the not very objective, but certainly quite emotional Health Care Blog.

Mr. Holt appears to be incensed that the Associated Press quoted David Hogberg in a story about the U.S. health care system.

Holt says:
...the AP found a rent-a-quote to make the article fair and balanced:
David Hogberg, senior policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research, said a strong case can be made that the U.S. health care system is the best. “It depends on what measures you use,” Hogberg said. Life expectancy is influenced by many factors other than health care, he said, and nations measure infant death rates inconsistently. Other measures show the United States performing well, he said.
Just in case you wondered the National Center for Public Policy Research may sound like its some official well respected non-partisan body but its header title describes it as a “A Conservative Think Tank” (an oxymoron perhaps). Yeah, those guys know all about health care, I’m sure...
"Rent-a-quote"? What does that even mean?

As for the rest of it, if calling The National Center for Public Policy Research "conservative" is Holt's best response to The National Center's contention that the U.S. health care system performs well overall when compared to the systems of other nations, we'll take that as a compliment. We assume that if there had been a fault in our actual logic as applied to the question, as opposed to our political philosophy, Holt would have pointed it out.

P.S. David Hogberg and Matthew Holt continued their debate in the comments to the Health Care Blog post. David Hogberg notes briefly, on his own blog, and in more detail, in this in this National Center paper, why he has been critical of those who claim the U.S. has an inferior health care system based on the statistics of life expectancy and infant mortality.

Holt heatedly replies that Hogberg's "argument... is illogical crap" and claims to have "dealt with it" in this post at another blog. However, the post Holt references does not even address life expectancy and infant mortality, and is actually kind of a disjointed rant, so it is safe to say Holt hasn't dealt with the issue at all.

It is amazing how angry some idealogues can get, and for what little provocation.

Addendum, 5/16/07: Matthew Holt writes:

Thanks for writing about me. But I must say that if you were brave you'd a) allow comments on your post, and b) answer the two specific questions I raise in my "rant".

If you'd bothered to follow the long debates about this topic you'd know that I too consider the life expectancy and infant mortality rates irrelevant....the problem is the BS about "which disease gets treated better where" is all equally irrelevant. It's all cultural and got little to do with the structure of the health care system. But the joke is, that it's clear that we do a much worse job in many disease categories here than many other countries. It baffles me as to why so many on the right want to talk about it so much. Hence the questions in my rant.

Meanwhile your rent a quote colleague David is apparently going to take me up on my offer. Brave lad.

As for the rent a quote and "fair and balanced"....if you can find me more than 5 top CEOs, academic or physician leaders -- or any other serious observer of the system not making millions from it-- who believes that the US system isn't screwed up to the core, then I'll be very surprised. You may not travel in their circles but I do. There's a reason that American business is so pissed off with the health care system. The point is that there's a very very wide consensus that things are badly wrong here. Emmanuel is absolutely in the mainstream of thinking about this. Your man Hoggy is not. But yet the AP presented them as two equals. It's like the global warming "crossfire style" debate all over again.

I assure that I am not emotional at all about this topic. Unlike many of your friends on the free-market right in health, where libertarianism works (drug policy or your post about real estate brokers) I'm all for it. Where in cases of market failure it doesn't I advocate sensible solutions that reform the market so that the best outcomes happen.

And frankly the quality of thinking from even the sensible libertarians in health care (Michael Cannon et al) is poor. By their OWN admissions their solutions don't work for sick people. Go read up on the Cato debate I & Jon Cohn had with Arnold Kling, and/or try to find the solutions to provide insurance for the chronically ill in Cannon's book. You'll be looking for a long time!

Meanwhile if you're a conservative think tank...why call yourselves "National". You wouldn't possibly be trying to fool people into thinking that you're somehow nationally representative of anything, would you?



Matthew Holt Consulting
Research, forecasting & strategy
for the health care marketplace
Quick response to these points:
1) I would be stupid to allow comments on this blog, as it is supported by a 501(c)(3) non-profit institution. As such, there are topics it is not allowed to cover. The only way to prevent commenters from violating this would be to censor comments, which seems to me worse than not allowing comments in the first place. If I write critically about someone and they send me a letter, I do publish it, unless they ask me not to do so.

2) I still don't know what is meant by "rent a quote."

3) If Matthew Holt also considers "the life expectancy and infant mortality rates irrelevant," then I wonder why he objected so emotionally to the short quotation of David Hogberg in the AP article. Perhaps because David also said that a strong case can be made that the U.S. health system is the best? I think it is the best also, but that doesn't mean we are arguing that it is perfect. Our health care system does have massive problems -- I just don't agree with folks who advocate "solutions" (such as government-run "universal" care) that would make the system worse.

4) "Screwed up to the core" is not a precise description of a health care system's outcomes, but it does sound similar to what people in Canada and Britain tend to say about their health care system. No country has a perfect system, but I prefer ours to theirs and -- important -- we do not object to improving ours.

5) The AP gave nearly all the ink to Ezekiel Emanuel, who supports a universal coverage system for the USA and a new value-added tax on the American people, and gave no ink whatsoever to anyone skeptical of the wisdom of Emanuel's recommendation. Some balance. David Hogberg was merely given a few sentences at the very end and then only on the narrow question of whether the U.S. system is the world's best. Yet Matthew Holt is indignant, calling this a case of AP presenting Emanuel and Hoigberg as "two equals." If they were presented as two equals, one was presented with tape over his mouth.

6) In 25 years of operation, I think Matthew Holt is the first person to express the thought that The National Center for Public Policy Research has the word "national" in our name as a way to fool people. No, it is there to indicate that The National Center for Public Policy Research was set up to work on issues of national concern, as opposed to issues affecting only a certain region, state or locality. No fooling.

6) As for the two questions in Matthew Holt's "rant" he wants me to answer: Re-reading it, I see four questions, no two, mostly phrased in a "when did you stop beating your wife" vernacular. A quick response
"Why are you so happy to have a health care system that kills so many more people who have heart attacks, and amputates the feet of so many more diabetics?" I don't accept either of the two premises of the question.

"Ask the free marketeers to explain why they feel comfortable with a financing system that causes at least 25% of all the nation's bankruptcies." Same answer as above.

"Why [do free marketeers] espouse even greater cost sharing even though it's been shown yet again this week that increased payment at the point of care reduces people's likelihood of following their doctor's advice? One argument for "letting" people control more of their own health care spending is that the people who earned the dollars have the highest moral right to decide how they are spent. Another argument, which Matthew Holt presumably knows already, is the theory that folks who are spending their own money will shop around for the lowest prices, thereby adding incentive for health care providers to keep prices competitively low.

"Why do you want to raise taxes in order to transfer money from the poor and sick to people who are already richer and healthier than average?" I don't. Nor during my working lifetime have I seen many examples of tax increases afflicting primarily the poor and the sick (though perhaps tobacco tax increases could be considered an exception; those of us who opposed those, however, were considered to be puppets of Big Tobacco). My primary health care concerns are these: I oppose a U.S. adoption of a government-run, so-called "single payer" or "universal" health care system because I believe it would lead to needless misery, pain and death. I also am extremely concerned about Medicare's poor financial prognosis (which I also believe will lead to an ever-worsening standard of care under Medicare). I do not believe that my position on either of these means I "want to raise taxes in order to transfer money from the poor and sick to people who are already richer and healthier than average."
My answers here are intentionally brief (nor should they be perceived as representative of the views of libertarians, since I'm not one). David Hogberg already agreed to address Matthew Holt's questions, and Matthew Holt agreed to post what David writes on the Health Care Blog. I see no reason at this point to believe they need my help in arguing this out.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:53 PM

Seattle Nixes Competition

With a nod to economic favoritism, Seattle hands exclusive rights for removal of commercial and residential waste to two politically-connected corporations, while forbidding small local trash haulers the chance to compete legally.

Seattle Eliminates Businesses for the Long Haul

Ron Haider of Haider Construction in Seattle, Washington could rely on Joe Ventenbergs' Kendall Trucking to haul construction-related debris from his work sites more quickly, less expensively and, he said, more reliably than competitors Rabanco, Ltd., and Waste Management of Washington (WMW). Haider said, "Joe provided better service at a better price and worked in a timely fashion. He was more environmentally conscious, too." But Haider's ability to work with Ventenbergs began to be curtailed in April 2001 when the Seattle City Council entered into a seven-year contract with the two other companies for the removal of the city's commercial and residential waste.

An ordinance in Seattle's municipal code mandated that all hauling of commercial and residential waste was exclusively delegated to Rabanco and WMW, affiliates of the national companies Allied Waste Industries and Waste Management Incorporated, respectively. Each company was awarded a territorial monopoly (Rabanco in the northern part of the city, WMW in the southern). No other companies were legally allowed to collect or remove these types of debris. Initially, smaller local haulers like Kendall could still legally haul construction waste - but that soon changed.

In October 2002, largely as a result of successful lobbying efforts by Rabanco and WMW, Seattle's municipal code was amended to expand the scope of its contract with the two companies to include construction waste. For Ventenbergs, the City Council's action was a drastic blow to his business, as the removal of construction waste is Kendall's main service. In February 2003, city officials informed small business haulers that most of their work would be eliminated. Privately-owned businesses like Haider's would be required to use the services of either Rabanco or WMW. Jeanette Peterson, an attorney representing both Ventenbergs and Haider, commented that, "with the stroke of a pen, the city of Seattle [had] transformed a legal business into an illegal business."

Based on the assertion that the municipal code constricts economic liberty, Haider and Ventenbergs filed a lawsuit against the city in May 2003, claiming that the change in the municipal code creates territorial monopolies and is therefore unconstitutional. Haider also asserts he has the right to hire the hauling company of his own choice. In addition, the suit argues, the city is engaging in economic favoritism by creating an oligopoly over the waste-hauling industry that benefits Rabanco, WMW and their parent companies. City Councilwoman Margaret Pageler disagrees with Haider and Ventenbergs, saying, "We'd like to be kind to small-business people, but in fact we have a contract that's consistent with state law, and the ordinance simply brought the city law in compliance with the contract and the state law that precedes it."

On February 23, 2004 the King County Superior Court in Seattle ruled that Haider and Ventenbergs were not entitled to relief under the privileges and immunities clause in Washington's state constitution. The Washington State Court of Appeals Division I upheld the ruling in February 2005, and the territorial monopolies over hauling construction waste in Seattle continue.

Sources: The Seattle Times (February 25, 2004; February 15, 2005), Seattle Post-Intelligencer (May 16, 2003), Cascade Policy Institute, The Institute for Justice, Ron Haider, Seattle City Council, Jeanette Petersen

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:30 AM

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Advertising a Home Sale Requires a Broker's License, California Claimed

California regulators nearly shut down a company for offering homeowners the opportunity to advertise their own homes for sale on the Internet.

California Tries to Require Broker's Licenses for Web Sites Carrying Real Estate Ads

Some homeowners choose to forgo the high cost of real estate sales commissions by selling their homes themselves.

In 1997, Damon Giglio opened up a whole new world for independent sellers with the creation of the website. For up to $700 a listing, sellers can make their homes available to a nationwide market of prospective buyers. Regulators in California, however, tried to force Giglio and the owners of similar sites to become licensed brokers. This would have ruined Giglio's business in California and may have led to new restrictions in other states.

In 2001, Giglio received notice from the California Department of Real Estate advising him that anyone advertising property listings in the state must be a licensed broker. In collecting a fee to "list," "advertise" or "offer" properties for sale without state certification, one runs the risk of individual penalties of up to a $10,000 in fines and six months in jail and up to $50,000 in fines for businesses.

Getting a broker's license is a costly endeavor. Giglio contends the two-year, college- level process is unnecessary for his service - essentially posting on-line classified ads. Even though for-sale-by-owner classified ads have appeared in California newspapers for years without newspapers being penalized, state regulators have forced at least one of Giglio's Internet competitors out of the California market.

With the assistance of the Institute for Justice, Giglio won a lawsuit against California regulators in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. Federal District Judge Morrison England found the distinction that requires independent websites to obtain a broker's license while exempting newspapers that print real estate advertisements was "wholly arbitrary" on First Amendment grounds. The court ruled that "there appears to be no justification whatsoever for any distinction between the two mediums."

In 2004, the State of California decided not to appeal the decision.

Sources: Institute for Justice, USA Today (May 19, 2003)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:22 PM

More Journey Through Hallowed Ground Conflicts of Interest

From Peyton Knight:
A local Virginia newspaper, the Loudoun Times-Mirror, recently wrote a rather one-sided "news" piece promoting Rep. Frank Wolf's Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.

Biased reporting is nothing unusual, however, there is more to this story than meets the eye.

When the writer from the Times-Mirror spoke with me before writing her story, she implied that the National Center had written the pro-private property rights alternative to the Wolf bill that was introduced by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). I informed her that we did not write Congressman Bartlett's bill. She apologized for the mistaken inference and continued her interview. Unfortunately, this did not prevent her from writing what she wanted to write (or perhaps was directed to write, as you'll see later), as her published piece stated that the National Center had "written a substitute" bill for Rep. Bartlett.

When I called the Times-Mirror office, the reporter apologized, and I was assured that a retraction and correction was in the works. In the next week's edition, the retraction did not appear on the paper's website, but one of the paper's editors called to assure me that a correction appears in the print edition. The editor also informed me that they do not publish such retractions on their website, however, they correct the online version of the story itself. The corrected piece can be found here. (We would direct you to the incorrect piece, but it no longer exists on the paper's website.)

The Times-Mirror hit-job awas not lost on Congressman Bartlett, either. His rebuttal to what he called "unprofessional and inaccurate reporting" can be found on the paper's website here. Congressman Bartlett sets the facts straight, and also reveals that the Times-Mirror did not even bother to contact him or his office prior to running their original, incorrect story.

Now the interesting part. The Loudoun Times-Mirror is owned by Arthur Arundel, who also sits on the board of directors of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. The Partnership is the federally funded special interest group that helped write Wolf's Heritage Area bill, and is currently lobbying Congress for its passage, as the group acknowledges here.

It appears that the Times-Mirror may have put its self-described "devotion to high quality community news" on the back burner so that it can more readily pursue its owner's devotion to his pet special interest project. Should the Wolf Heritage Area bill pass, the Partnership, which Mr. Arundel serves as a board member, would stand to receive a minimum of one million dollars per year in federal funding.

As they say, don't let the truth to get in the way of a good story - or in the way of a million-dollar-a-year, taxpayer subsidized, joy ride for you and your friends.

I wonder if the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership counts the Times-Mirror's devotion to its anti-property rights agenda as an example of "local support"?
To contact author Peyton Knight directly,
write him at [email protected]


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:14 PM

JPMorgan Chase Slavery Apology Criticized

Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli, acting on behalf of the National Legal and Policy Center, will present a shareholder proposal (pdf) at the company's annual meeting Tuesday that is critical of JPMorgan Chase’s apology for slavery.

A National Legal and Policy Center press release explains:
A shareholder proposal critical of the JPMorgan Chase's slavery apology will be considered at the company's annual meeting on Tuesday, May 15, 2007. The event will take place at 10 a.m. at the company's offices at One Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York City.

The company unsuccessfully sought to exclude the resolution by appealing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which ruled in favor of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), the proponent.

The resolution will be presented by Deneen Borelli, a Fellow of Project 21, on behalf of NLPC.

Deneen Borelli said today, "It's absurd for someone to apologize for the transgressions of others committed hundreds of years ago. Slavery was an abomination and blemish on our Nation's history. JPMorgan Chase's apology for slavery, along with a $5 million donation for a scholarship fund, are the fruits of a shakedown. It is the looting of shareholder assets and sets a terrible precedent."

Peter Flaherty, NLPC President, said today, "If JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon were alive 200 years ago and owned slaves, the apology would be appropriate. Otherwise it is about as cynical and as hollow as you can get."

In a 2005 letter, then-Chairman & CEO William B. Harrison Jr. and then-President & COO Jamie Dimon stated, "We apologize to the African-American community, particularly those who are descendants of slaves, and to the rest of the American public..." This apology was accompanied by a Company pledge to establish a $5 million scholarship fund for African-Americans. Dimon now serves as Executive Chairman and CEO.

The apology and monetary pledge were apparently prompted by a Company-commissioned report produced in response to a municipal ordinance in Chicago, requiring firms doing business with the city to disclose their links to slavery. The report found only the most tenuous connections to slavery over 200 years ago by two banks whose successor banks had been acquired by the Company.

The supporting statement for the resolution points out that JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is currently being sued by plaintiffs seeking damages that they characterize as "slave reparations." The statement argues that the bank may be opening itself to lawsuits by the descendents of Irish, Chinese and Native Americans, whose ancestors also suffered injustice. For the complete proposal, supporting statement, and company response, go to

Slavery "apologies" or other expressions of regret have been recently adopted or are being considered by Congress, a number of state legislatures and several cities. Banks that have apologized for alleged links to slavery also include the Bank of America, Wachovia and Lehman Brothers.

NLPC promotes ethics in public life, and sponsors the Corporate Integrity Project. The group has published a monograph titled The Case Against Slave Reparations that may be downloaded as a pdf file at

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Frank Wolf's Journey Through Hallowed Ground Proposal Draws Criticism from Heritage Foundation; Lashes Out at Principled Critics

From Peyton Knight:
The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, a taxpayer-supported gang of preservation interest groups that apparently exists primarily to lobby for Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-VA) "Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act" (H.R. 319), put out a press release a couple weeks ago calling us names.

According to the Partnership's release:
The [Hallowed Ground Heritage Area legislation] has recently been tagged by The National Center for Public Policy Research, a right-wing ultra conservative lobbying organization as being a federal assault on property rights.
Several points:
1. While we can't say exactly what the Partnership means by "right-wing ultra conservative," within the context of this issue, it seems to mean "in favor of private property rights and limited, local government." If so, we're guilty as charged.

2. The National Center is not a "lobbying organization," but rather a non-profit educational foundation. As such, we seek to educate the public about the dangers of initiatives like National Heritage Areas, and how they harm property rights and local government. Unlike the National Center for Public Policy Research, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership has acquired lawyers and land-use planning agencies to help them write legislation and lobby for it on Capitol Hill, as the Partnership has bragged of doing (and some thought Rep. Wolf wrote the bill!). It does so although its coalition receives significant funding from federal tax dollars.

3. Finally, while we certainly consider Rep. Wolf's National Heritage Area to be a "federal assault on property rights," we've never actually used that catchy phrase. However, Dr. Ronald Utt of the venerable Heritage Foundation recently dubbed Wolf's boondoggle exactly that in an excellent paper entitled, " Another Federal Assault on Property Rights: The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act."
Dr. Utt writes:
H.R. 319 would significantly threaten the rights of many private property owners living in the designated area while providing a financial windfall to a select group of landowners who have already developed their properties. At risk would be the housing and homeownership opportunities for middle-income and moderate-income families through exclusionary zoning and other legal mechanisms that are used to upgrade a community's demographic profile.

The private organizers of the [Journey Through Hallowed Ground] partnership have also acknowledged that they are contemplating additional wealth-enhancing opportunities through the creation of a privately owned, for-profit real estate investment trust (REIT) to acquire properties in the heritage area and presumably develop them for the benefit of the REIT's shareholders in a way that shelters their profits from the state and federal corporate income tax.
Some might say such cogent analysis smacks of "right-wing ultra conservatism." Perhaps even double-secret right-wing ultra conservatism.

Such folks are advised to sit down while reading Dr. Utt's paper.
To contact author Peyton Knight directly,
write him at [email protected]


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:29 AM

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Flower Arranging Requires Government Approval

photo credit: Institute for Justice

The dream of becoming professional florists is on hold for three accomplished floral arrangers in Louisiana because the state mandates they pass a $150 two-part flower exam partly judged by arbitrary and selective criteria.

A Rose, a Tulip, and a Carnation: May I See Your License?

Sandy Meadows, Shamille Peters and Barbara Peacock all consider themselves blessed with a knack for designing floral arrangements. Their keen sense of blending color schemes, foliage types and other design aspects was developed through years of experience in the floral industry. Meadows spent a combined nine years as both a floral clerk and supervisor. Shamille boasts a similar resume while Barbara has worked with flowers and designed floral arrangements for her church, friends and relatives since she was a child. But their goal of becoming florists turned out to be a much more difficult goal to accomplish than the women expected. Each woman's individual quest to become a professional florist was severely inhibited by Louisiana's mandatory florist-licensing exam.

As preposterous as a state-mandated flower exam might sound, the success rate of perspective applicants is even harder to believe. Over the past three years, passage rates for the exam peaked in 2003 at a mere 46 percent. The year before, the success rate was only 43 percent. Legal experts argue the reason for the low rate of success among applicants is not a viable one. The Louisiana Horticulture Commission (LHC) assumed the responsibility for administering the Retail Florist Exam in 1939, authorizing only those people who successfully pass a two-part exam. This $150 exam consists of a written component and a practical, hands-on design test in which applicants create four different floral arrangements. The latter half of the exam is especially prone to subjectivity. Instead of using impartial judges to grade the Commission's exams, the LHC employs state-licensed florists with whom prospective florists will compete in the marketplace if they pass the test. Thus, legal experts note, a situation is created where the judges can effectively control development and competition within their own industry.

LHC judges are asked to determine whether an applicant's four floral arrangements meet indeterminable and subjective criteria such as a proper focal point, whether the arrangement was constructed in a size proportional to its container, if and how the flowers were effectively spread and whether or not the flowers and greens were properly picked. Many applicants have complained to the LHC that they believe the judges' discretion and subjectivity obstruct the opportunity for applicants to obtain florist licenses.

One example that aptly demonstrates the arbitrary and subjective nature of judging occurred when one aspect of an applicant's wedding arrangement received three perfect scores on the appropriate size of wire on her greenery (five out of five) and two failing scores (zero out of five) from the five-judge panel. These wide-ranging and inconsistent scores exhibit how the guidelines for grading and potential bias on the part of the judges toward future competition can contribute to the exam's exceptionally low rate of success.

Meadows, Peters and Peacock are only three of many victims of this licensing program. Combined, the three women have already flunked the exam ten times despite their many years of experience. After their initial failures, Peters and Peacock enrolled in floral design courses at local community colleges in hopes of bolstering their chances to pass the exam. These efforts have so far proved only to be both fruitless and costly.

All three women have dedicated innumerable hours in their quests to become licensed florists in Louisiana. While all three are currently employed in other fields, the extremely subjective nature of the state's licensing exam presents them from practicing their desired vocation. In December 2003, Meadows, Peters and Peacock filed a lawsuit against the LHC in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, claiming that the requirements to become a licensed florist are anti-competitive and monopolistic. However, in March 2005, Judge Frank Polozola upheld Louisiana's florist licensing law, citing public health and safety concerns.

Despite the ruling, the women continue to fight for the opportunity to become professional florists in Louisiana.

Sources: The Institute for Justice, The Louisiana Horticulture Commission

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:08 PM

Friday, May 04, 2007

Government Puts Rat Control Business Out of Business

photo credit: Institute for Justice

The Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission (ASPCC) halted a teenager's innovative - and popular - rat control business because he failed to hold a $78 state-regulated commercial pest control license and pass an exam covering over 40 pages of laws and rules unrelated to his mesh wire rat prevention devices.

Rat Prevention, Prevented

When 17-year-old Christian Alf's grandmother had a problem with rats entering her home through exposed roof vents, she turned to her grandson for help. Using easily- obtainable diamond stucco mesh wire, Alf created a makeshift, yet very effective, way to prevent the rats from entering.

Talk of Alf's good work spread from his grandmother to her Bible study group and elsewhere in the family's Tempe, Arizona community. Alf soon began equipping other homes with similar rat-deterrence devices. Making $30 per home, Alf was able to save money for college.

The Arizona Republic ran a story about Alf's part-time job in February, 2004.
Approximately 250 callers inquired about his services. Not all of the calls, however, were requests for rat control. One caller was an inspection officer for the Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission (ASPCC). He informed Alf that a state-regulated license would be required for Alf to continue performing what was considered by the state to be commercial pest control.

The following day, the inspector arrived at Alf's home to tell him that he was in violation of state law and could face fines up to $1,000 for performing pest control without an appropriate permit. To obtain a license, Alf would need to pay $78 and pass an exam covering over 40 pages of laws and rules that are unrelated to his mesh wire rat prevention devices. Furthermore, even if Alf obtained a license, he would be required to work for a licensed pest control company as an apprentice to someone holding a Qualifying Party license. The time, energy and loss of income that would be required to meet these requirements brought the popular business to an immediate halt.

Legal experts contend Alf's business is not subject to ASPCC authority. Since Alf does not use pesticides or chemicals - he is only placing a mesh wire construction over roof openings - they argue he should not be subject to the regulatory policies. Lisa Gervase, executive director of the ASPCC, counters, "There is no discretion as to what method he is using to control the pest. If he's doing pest control work, it requires a license, both in terms of health concerns and financial concerns."

Alf appealed his case to the ASPCC, inquiring as to whether or not he can resume his work. Responding to the threat of legal action, Gervase and the ASPCC "determined that the limited, specific facts of this matter do not constitute the business of structural pest control." With the case ruled in his favor, Alf commented, "I'm glad that the Commission has now said I can go back to work. There are a lot of people who need my help."

Sources: The Arizona Republic (February 28, 2004), The East Valley Tribune (March 16, 2004), The Goldwater Institute, The Institute for Justice, The Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:04 AM

Regulatory Burdens Hamper Free Enterprise

Senior Fellow Tom Borelli explains why all those who believe in freedom and prosperity should oppose Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and other liberals who want to regulate executive compensation:
...Like many Left-wing positions, "excessive" compensation is selectively applied to business leaders while sports stars and Hollywood entertainers are immune from attack. For example, in baseball, salaries are exploding with 11 contracts paying over $100 million. Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is the highest paid player with a 10-year $252 million deal. In Hollywood, Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire and makes an estimated $225 million annually.

In the liberal mind, CEOs making multi-million salaries is greed and company's making record profits is evil and suitable for populist looting. Recall Hillary Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting "The other day the oil companies recorded the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits."

Clearly, corporate executives are well compensated and some are overpaid. However, the best way to address this issue is through existing free-market mechanisms on a case-by-case basis and not thorough the one size fits all federal regulation.

The boards of directors of public companies are accountable to shareholders - they have specific knowledge of the company, the industry and the business skills required to enhance growth and profitability. If shareholders feel executive compensation is exorbitant, they can file a shareholder proposal on compensation and/or vote against the board of directors. In fact, many shareholders already use this process to challenge executive compensation. According to Institutional Shareholder Services this year union pension funds filed over 60 "say on pay" proposals.

The problem with "say on pay" is it mandates a vote on executive compensation in every public company thereby transforming shareholder meetings into annual campaigns on executive pay packages. By doing so, it provides a yearly ritual for the agents of socialism - union pension funds, liberal media and activist groups - to plant the seeds of public resentment. Further erosion of public sentiment of business leaders will provide a breeding ground for statist and collectivist solutions that favor wealth redistribution and regulation over free-markets.

Then there are the unintended consequences. Company response to pressure on compensation could result in driving business talent to private companies where pay is not subject to popular opinion. In addition, CEOs may increase their attention to short-term profits to justify pay rather than investing long-term business strategies...

...There is much more at stake here than executive compensation. In a global economy, jobs, economic growth and prosperity depend on a business climate that encourages risk taking and innovation free from unnecessary regulatory burdens that hamper free enterprise. To meet that challenge we need business leaders willing to defend the overriding principles of capitalism including their own compensation from the agents of the Left.
Read it all here.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:28 AM

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Green Hypocrites of Vanity Fair

Our Peyton Knight took on the green hypocrites at Vanity Fair magazine in the Examiner this week:
Eco-hypocrisy is all the rage.

From Al Gore’s carbon-spewing mansion to John Travolta’s backyard air force, do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do elites are putting dinosaur-sized carbon feet in their mouths. And so it is with the magazine that caters to them, Vanity Fair, whose self-titled “green issue” gives a finger-wagging lecture on living green — yet while it does so, its editors are too busy kissing up to luxury merchants to hug any trees.

In a hysterical eight-page spread, Vanity Fair editorial assistant Adam Spangler takes America to task for just about anything we can conceivably use or touch throughout the course of a normal day. He derides toilet paper use, nightstand lights, battery-powered toothbrushes, anti-perspirants, razors, showers, newspapers, non-organic milk, corn, coffee, sugar, automobiles and SUVs, fish, beef, computers, printers, bottled water, grocery bags, handbags, plasma TVs, excess square feet in our houses, and anything made of plastic, to name a few.

“You answer the cell phone, not realizing that the popularity of this device is helping kill some of the last wild gorillas on Earth,” says Spangler, before embarking on some six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon-like explanation that finally links saying hi to mom to gunning down apes — with Kalashnikov rifles, no less...

...Give Spangler credit for having nerve, because his meal ticket is contributing more than its fair share to this sucking.

The “green issue” is just over 300 pages of slick, glossy, un-recycled paper. But that’s not all. The magazine devotes almost half (149 and 1/3 pages to be precise) of its arboreous cadaver flesh to — you guessed it — ad space.

And these aren’t ads for common everyday necessities that average Joes might buy. These are ads aimed at hypnotizing readers into dropping cash on unessential luxuries such as designer clothing, handbags, sunglasses, jewelry, luxury SUVs, resort hotels, alcohol, cigarettes, and, just in case we can’t afford it all, credit cards.

Incredibly, Spangler even picks on The New York Times because its Sunday edition alone “eats up 62,860 trees.” He then preaches about paper consumption and the need to recycle. But how many trees had to die so Vanity Fair could seduce Americans to buy Cadillac Escalades, Louis Vuitton handbags and Prada sunglasses?

A phone call to a representative at Vanity Fair’s New York office revealed that the magazine is not printed on recycled paper because it’s “too expensive.” Guess 149-plus pages of ad space for the likes of Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Cartier doesn’t buy what it used to. Heck, it doesn’t even buy a token, and one would think obvious, gesture for the annual green issue...
Read it all here.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:39 PM

Addition Request Leads to Extortion Demands

As conditions for granting a building permit, the Washington County, Oregon government demanded that Grimm's Fuel Company pay it $1,200 up front, build concrete sidewalks and make various other public works improvements.

Addition Request Leads to Extortion Demands

Grimm's Fuel Company specializes in landscaping, heating and yard debris recycling services in and around Washington County, Oregon. In May of 2000, owner Jeff Grimm applied to the City of Tualatin for a building permit to add a 7,200 square-foot extension to house an additional three employees and store extra office supplies. The permit was readily approved by city officials, but officials from Washington County intervened before Grimm received the permit. The County made additional demands for an extraordinary number of conditions they said had to be met before Grimm could begin construction.

County demands included the payment of a $1,200 administrative deposit, installing concrete sidewalks along the business' property, eliminating one of three accesses to the county-owned Cipole Road (accesses Grimm had maintained for decades) and dedicating an additional right-of-way for "adequate corner radius" at the intersection of Cipole Road and Highway 99.

Grimm contended that all of the demands were expenses the county should pay for, and that he should not be required to incur the costs of the changes just to receive a building permit.

Tualatin officials reviewed the county demands, but refused to impose them. City officials argued that the addition to Grimm's property in no way required such radical changes.

The architectural review of Grimm's proposed addition, prepared by Tualatin officials, said: "The county has also required that right-of-way be dedicated along SW Cipole Road and that a sidewalk be installed along the property's frontage... The county has not submitted any findings supporting their requirements. Therefore, [Tualatin officials] are not recommending that these requirements be included as conditions of approval for this development." The city government, however, did not aggressively challenge county officials' continued assertion that the permit fell under their jurisdiction due to Grimm's county road access. This left Grimm at the mercy of county government and hostage to their demands.

After two years of negotiations with Washington County officials failed to reach an agreement, Grimm decided to officially apply for a county building permit. Since the problems revolved around the county's demands regarding the city permit, Grimm thought that applying directly to the county might force a resolution. But county officials refused to let him apply for a permit, creating legal standing for Grimm to file a lawsuit to force the county to take action. This led to a settlement before the case went to trial. The settlement allowed Tualatin officials to grant Grimm his building permit by waiving the condition for him to obtain an access permit from the County. Grimm's addition was finally completed as initially approved - without the county's conditions.

Sources: Oregonians in Action Legal Center, Dave Hunnicutt,
Jeff Grimm, City of Tualatin Planning Department

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:42 AM

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

HUAC Returns!

Brendan O’Neill asks: "What next, a House Committee on Un-Scientific Activities?"

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:11 AM

Historic Home -- or Run-Down Shack?

photo credit: Ryan Balis

For over two decades, a developer battled Washington, D.C. officials for permission to replace a so-called "historic" run-down shack - which the developer owned - with commercial and residential units for the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Tiny "Historic" Shack Prevents Development of Valuable Land

Capitol Hill is home to some of the most valuable real estate in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Since the 1970s, however, militant preservationists have prevented the development of a number of very valuable plots under the guise of protecting a form of run-down shack they call a "shotgun house."

Larry Quillian purchased ten adjacent, mostly-vacant lots on the 1200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast more than 25 years ago. He planned to remove the remaining structures and construct two-story buildings for retail tenants and residents. Quillian found his dreams for the land destroyed by a 1978 law - passed after he bought the land but before construction had started - that declared the entire Capitol Hill neighborhood a historic district.

Historic district rules dictate that new projects involving demolition of existing buildings must be beneficial to the neighborhood. To meet this requirement, Quillian planned a mixed-use development that would consist of ground-floor retail and second-floor residential units - exactly the type of structures city planning officials have urged developers to build for the last 30 years.

But the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS) took issue with Quillian's plan because it necessitated the demolition of a so-called "shotgun house," a tiny one-story residence so-named because a single shotgun blast through the front door would easily exit through the back window. Insisting that the ramshackle structure was an important piece of the "historic fabric of the community," the CHRS brought Quillian's project to the attention of the city's Historic Preservation Review Board in 1987, which shot down his proposal to build the commercial and residential units.

Quillian then offered to give the shotgun house to the CHRS for free two years later. He proposed a deal in which the CHRS would be able to restore and use the house as it saw fit while Quillian retained control of the lot. CHRS officials rejected Quillian's offer on the grounds that the deal was bad for the CHRS from an investment standpoint, but they continued to insist that Quillian restore and maintain the shotgun house, doing so with his own money.

Quillian refused to pay the estimated $300,000 that would be needed to preserve the run-down shotgun house. Since he was unable to remove it and develop the property, its condition gradually worsened. Quillian hoped the city would demolish the shack due to sanitation concerns. The Washington, D.C. City Council, however, passed a law in 2001 specifically aimed at preventing "demolition by neglect." Under the new law, the city is given the ability to use taxpayer dollars to restore and refurbish broken-down properties and then bill the properties' owners. The Historic Preservation Review Board decided to use Quillian's property as a test case for the previously unenforced law.

Quillian, who had no intention of paying for the restoration of the shotgun house, did not plan on giving in to the demands of the CHRS or the Review Board. "I don't really care anymore," he explained. "I don't have to develop the site. I can always give it to my grandchildren and let them battle the Restoration Society for the next 30 years."

Although Quillian had been waiting to see if the District of Columbia would try to restore the shack and bill him for the repairs, it appears this will not be necessary. A Texas development company decided to purchase the house from him. It plans to include the old structure among new apartments it is constructing in the area.

Sources: Washington City Paper (November 1, 2002), The Hill (September 11, 2002; November 13, 2002; May 18, 2005), JPI Development Co.

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:42 AM

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