June 3, 2006

Saturday Evening Afghan Sunset

Filed under: General — Tom @ 6:01 pm

(from Bill Roggio via Instapundit)

This Would Indeed Be a Beautiful Sunset

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:03 pm

A subscription-only editorial in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal brought up an idea that I have for years thought long overdue:

A Beautiful Sunset

Ronald Reagan used to quip that the closest thing to immortality in this life is a government program. We’d add one modern caveat, which is that under Beltway budget rules tax cuts automatically expire after five or 10 years, but spending programs and tax increases live forever.

The latter would change, however, if a group of House Republicans led by Texan Jeb Henserling and Mike Pence of Indiana succeed in pushing new rules to sunset out-of-date federal programs. Under their proposal that has been promised a vote this summer, Congress would have to reauthorize agency budgets every five years, or they would die. The legislation would also create a sunset commission to recommend program terminations, and Congress would vote up or down on the package. This procedure is modeled after the successful military base closing commissions.

Their new budget scrutiny would mean some taboo questions would suddenly get asked in Washington. To wit:
• Should the U.S. spend $300 million a year on bilingual education, when research shows that foreign language classes stunt English learning by immigrant children?
• Do we really need 15 different agencies to fund job training?
• Why give Amtrak nearly $1 billion a year in taxpayer handouts, when its financial performance deteriorates every year and as its share of the transportation market declines?
• Should farmers with incomes of more than $1 million a year be eligible for taxpayer subsidies?

In the private sector, worker productivity growth in 2005 hit its highest level in 50 years. What a contrast with government, where agency performance audits by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) have found enormous waste and financial mismanagement in every operation from the Pentagon to Medicare. (Here’s just one outrage GAO uncovered: One in six foodstamp dollars goes to an ineligible recipient.) The private sector operates under Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction.” Mr. Henserling quips that in Congress “we get a lot of creation, but never destruction.”

Mr. Henserling is absolutely correct.

I would go further and insist that any agency that doesn’t pass its audit will not get reauthorized, PERIOD.

That idea would require “a bit” of a transition period, though. You see, at the moment, the entire freaking government hasn’t been able to generate audited financial statements for the past nine years running.

Weekend Question 2: How Long Should It Take a Candidate to Remove Campaign Signs after an Election?

Filed under: Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 2:03 pm

Answer — Certainly less than a month; at that point it’s way past obvious that people with the campaign aren’t the ones who will have to do the removing:

(location: Warren County, Columbia Road Near Columbia School ballfield)

(location: Warren County, Columbia Road, east side, 1 mile south of Kings Island)


UPDATE, June 4: I “gambled” that the signs I have seen are not isolated. Some “gamble” — Here’s a non-surprise from an e-mailer — “Smith’s signs are still up all over Clermont and Brown counties, along Rt. 32.”

Kelo New London Update: The Beyers Settle; Positions Harden Ahead of Monday’s Council Meeting

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:02 am

Updated Status Map:

The image is from Google Earth. It is not current in that most of the properties except those of the holdouts have been razed. The placement and status of the holdout and recently settled properties is up to date.


Latest Developments: Beyer settles; Mayor and Holdouts/Governor at Odds over Family-Transferable Titles

From today’s New London Day, the party that settled but was not identified as of last night has come forward:

Another plaintiff in the Fort Trumbull eminent domain case reached a settlement with the city Friday, the third this week.

“We fought a very long, hard battle to preserve property rights for everybody,” said Richard Beyer, manager of Niantic-based Pataya Construction Limited Partnership. “There comes a time when you have to move forward.”

Beyer’s company is the former owner of investment properties at 41 and 49 Goshen St. Beyer did not live on the Fort Trumbull peninsula, though he said Friday he grew up in New London and had friends who grew up at Fort Trumbull.

He purchased the two investment properties at Fort Trumbull in 1994, he said.

“I wish the governor and all the political levels in this state will change the laws of eminent domain and prevent this from happening to any small business owner and any homeowner in the future, because I would not wish this upon anyone,” Beyer said.

Meanwhile, New London’s Mayor is resisting the final item that would settle things without contention once and for all:

….. Lead plaintiff Susette Kelo and plaintiffs Pasquale Cristofaro and William Von Winkle have yet to reach agreements with the city, which owns their former properties but has not secured possession.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Friday made her strongest statement to date in support of the remaining plaintiffs and their families, who have long demanded that the city return the property titles to them despite the decision by the high court upholding the city’s use of eminent domain.

“I believe strongly that the residents of Fort Trumbull have a right to hold property, to hold the title to that property and to pass that title on to their children, Rell said.

….. those who wish not to settle ought to be moved at the state’s expense onto Fort Trumbull Parcel 4A and be given title to their houses by the city, Rell said in a follow-up letter to Sabilia dated Friday.

Her proposal — a recommendation that would have to be approved by the City Council to take effect — would apply to “only those structures that have been used as familial residences for the past several years on the Fort Trumbull peninsula,” the governor wrote.

….. Under Rell’s relocation plan, she specified Friday, occupants would be given deeds to their new locations on Parcel 4A and would be able to transfer or sell the property titles to their immediate family members. Deed restrictions would give the city a right of first refusal to buy the properties if the occupants or their heirs decided to sell or transfer the property to someone other than an immediate family member.

Institute for Justice senior attorney Scott Bullock, who represents the three remaining plaintiffs, praised Rell’s proposal on Friday as a possible solution to the impasse at Fort Trumbull.

“We certainly consider this a major breakthrough that will go a long way in solving a major part of this controversy,” Bullock said.

….. In a response to the governor dated Friday, Sabilia reaffirmed the longstanding position of the majority of the City Council that the city will not return transferable deeds. Lifetime occupancy on Parcel 4A or financial settlements remain available to the plaintiffs.

“The City Council’s position has been consistent. The deeds of anything more than lifetime possession will not return to the former property owner,” Sabilia said in her letter to Rell.

….. “The City of New London won. As far as I’m concerned, we’re going above and beyond,” Sabilia said after sending the letter. “There are people in the City of New London who are livid, absolutely livid, that this has gone on this long. It’s the majority I’ve been hearing. We are trying to do what is right for the 25,000 citizens of New London,” she said.

Lifetime tenancy in their former properties without ownership will not satisfy the remaining plaintiffs, Bullock said.

“That is essentially the equivalent of being a serf, when you are on your property as long as the government wants. That was given up in the Middle Ages,” Bullock said. “That is why it is so important to give them real ownership of their property and the right if they choose to pass it along to their heirs.”

On Tuesday, I expressed the following concern (go to “My Take” at the post):

The fact that New London’s City Council and the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) won’t even move the houses and return the titles tells me that this is, to them, about a lot more than the Fort Trumbull project. I believe that it has nothing to do with reason, or fairness, or equity. Instead I believe that it’s all about putting a win in the eminent domain tyrants’ column, and finishing the messy (and in their minds, mandated) job of property confiscation that the Kelo decision enabled. They don’t want to be seen as the group that couldn’t finish the job of eviction even with a landmark Supreme Court decision buttressing their cause.

If this out-of-control pride is all that is keeping Council and the NLDC from a entering into what from here seems to be a perfectly reasonable settlement, shame on them. If it is a legal option, I believe that Governor Rell needs to threaten to pull the state money earmarked for the project, and be willing to back up that threat, even if it holds up continuation of the NLDC’s development plan.

Fast-forward to today — Put the word “family-transferable” before “titles” in the first sentence, and it would appear that the bolded quote from Mayor Sabilia above proves the validity of my concern.

Her claim that the majority in New London support her is dubious in light of the poll cited Thursday (an online poll, but thanks to The Day’s limited exposure outside of New London, likely a reasonable reflection of local opinion) and the turnouts at past Council meetings that have consistently supported the holdouts.

Another point not to lose in all of this: Once the houses (either two or three at this point, assuming that there is no mind change on the issue of retaining investment properties) are moved to their appointed spots in Parcel 4A, they will not be in the way of any of the anticipated developments in the Fort Trumbull area. Since that’s the case, other than spite, what’s the point in withholding family-transferable titles from Kelo and Cristofaro (and possibly Von Winkle, if one of his three properties is deemed a primary residence, which is in dispute)? I believe Bullock, the Institute for Justice, and the remaining holdouts are correct to remain firm on this final point, and that Governor Rell is correct in supporting them.

The position of the mayor exposes her, and what hopefully will be a minority on Council on Monday, as the type of petty tyrants who would have been stopped before the Supreme Court’s odious Kelo ruling last year, and who need to be stopped now, not just by the states, but by Congress, from inflicting future harm.

Wizbang Weekend Carnival participant.

Selected previous Kelo New London Posts:

Weekend Question 1: When Is AP Going to Get a Kelo-New London Report Right?

Answer: Probably never.

Yesterday’s report makes typical errors of omission and commission that have become so commonplace:

(first paragraph)
Rell urges New London to give deeds to Fort Trumbull homeowners

The remaining homes in New London’s Fort Trumbull neighborhood should be relocated to make way for a controversial private development project, but homeowners should retain the deeds and be allowed to transfer ownership to their families, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Friday.

It doesn’t say that the relocations that would occur will keep the properties in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. The typical reader would assume from the above that they will be relocated elsewhere.

(8th paragraph)
Rell urged Sabilia to make allowances for people who own homes and use them as a primary residence. Her recommendation would not include investment properties, one of the issues that Sabilia said makes it untenable.

That’s just flat-out wrong. Rell’s recommendation indeed does not include investment properties, but both Sabilia and Rell agree on that. As noted in the previous post, The Institute for Justice and plaintiffs Beyer and Von Winkle, who both have rental properties, believe otherwise, but that’s not what’s at issue in the paragraph.

(11th paragraph)
Sabilia said the remaining properties are not next to each other, scattered around the peninsula in a pattern that a Superior Court decision once described as a “spotted leopard.” That makes it more difficult to continue with the project unless all the homes are removed, she said.

Sabilia’s actual letter to the governor uses some variation of the word “relocate” twice. No variation of the word “remove” is present in her letter, or for that matter either of Govenor Rell’s letters. Again, this conveys the impression that the homes will be carterd away from the Fort Trumbull area entirely, which is flat-out wrong.

This may seem like quibbling to some, but I don’t agree at all. A settlement that keeps homes in the original neighborhood and allows the development to take place will be seen as a near win-win situation if all of the parties involved pull it off. A settlement that would cart the homes off to some distant place would have to be seen as more of a loss for the plaintiffs, who for nine years been fighting to stay in their neighborhood (preferably on their homes’ original land, but they’ve bent on that). I have to wonder whether the AP writer fully understands that difference, but decided to write up the story in a misleading matter anyway to make it look like the plaintiffs are on the verge of not achieving their core goal of staying in Fort Trumbull.

Positivity: Iraq Marshlands Recovering

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:08 am

Challenges remain, but the news in three years is good.

From EurekAlert: