Thursday, July 31, 2008

Planning to Fail

Thomas Sowell once wrote that the reason to have a planning department is to usurp other people's plans.

But we like to plan here in Racine. So when Emilio and Joanna Clarke purchased property on a dreadful stretch of vacant storefronts on State Street, they went to the city planning staff for approval of their plans to open a dance hall. And they got the approval.

But then they had to face the Racine Plan Commission and Alderman Greg Helding. Helding et al have their own plans for the area, preffering office and professional uses instead.

Helding apparently thinks that other areas of the city would be better for dance clubs. Like 6th Street. You might remember that the city had plans for 6th Street to be the "Heart of the Arts" area that now is being replanned for Uptown after artists didn't cooperate.

And Racine continues to send the message to business people: Your plans don't matter.

Fair Slavery?

Over the years I have sometimes made the mistake of buying and then selling "fair trade" products. It is a mistake insofar as it implies that my other products, not similarly labelled, are unfairly traded.

The Racine Post reports that a fair trade store and coffee shop will soon be opening in downtown Racine. To make a go of it, the owners, Racine Dominicans, will rely on volunteers to work the shop.

The irony here is that the same folks who are complaining about third world wages will be offering their own employees even less.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Solar Scamming

The village of Wind Point has recently installed solar panels, at a cost of $54,000. As a result, the village has saved $160 on last months electric bill. At that rate of savings, we will break even after 28 years, assuming zero inflation. And this "savings" is only possible because We Energies is buying the electricity and then selling it back to the village at half price. Note to would-be entrepreneurs: buying high and selling low is a risky business strategy.

Village Trustee Ann Brodek noted that the village received a grant from Focus on Energy, an organization that "helps install cost-effective energy efficient projects."

Install solar panels to save the world or to feel good about yourself or whatever, but please don't tell me that it is cost-effective.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Journal Times Bias

Some of you may remember a few years back when Racine County government was pushing for an indoor ice arena. The idea was contoversial and actively promoted by the Racine Journal Times.

Now fastforward a few years. Yesterday I read in the Milwaukee Journal that a huge indoor soccer complex has been approved by the Sturtevant Town Board. If this private project gets completed, the Racine area will be on its way to being the soccer capital of Wisconsin if not the midwest.

This is newsworthy IMHO. Yet I have found no mention of it in the Racine Journal Times. I don't conclude that JT prefers hockey or figure skating to soccer. I do conclude that they prefer public expenditures to private projects.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Scapegoating Landlords

"What we have is a concern that there are substandard conditions in a portion of our rental properties....It's not in the best interest of our city for the housing stock to be detiorating" said Alderman Greg Helding in response to those protesting an ordinance proposal which would allow or require city inspections of rental properties.

All righty then. Helding appears to be operating under the assumption that our housing stock is detiorating because city government has not been intrusive enough. If only government would step in and force the evil landlords to clean up, everything would be swell in the city of Racine.

The problem with scapegoating landlords is that it makes no sense. The problem is not landlords, it is politicians who espouse big government solutions to our problems.

Why would landlords want their investments to detiorate? Why don't landlords invest in their properties and make them beautiful?

Answer: Landlords don't want their properties to detiorate and they will only invest in their properties if they can recoup their investment with rent increases.

The problem is that in certain areas of Racine, people with the means to afford a nice home or a nice rental unit do not want to live there. Thus, a landlord that spends too much to update and improve his property will lose money because potential renters will not pay enough rent to recoup his investment.

Landlords operate under these conditions, they don't cause these conditions. Politicians have caused these conditions with excessive property tax rates. Over time, high taxes (and other factors) have caused residents to flee Racine, leaving a surplus of housing and a deficit of buyers. Landlords have stepped in to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

The answer to this downward spiral is not more government, it is less government. If you want to reverse this trend, offer incentives for people to fix their properties via tax credits, lower tax rates, etc... that are regularly offered to the well connected developers.

Or scapegoat landlords, chase them out of town, and make the situation even worse.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Thought of the Day

The problem with Republicans is that they fail to live up to their ideals. The problem with Democrats is that they do.

Mysterious Illness

I know several people who work for Midwest Express, and I am concerned for their well being. It seems that many employees, especially those who have accumulated many unused sick days, have been afflicted lately with unspecified symptoms that renders them unable to work. The illnesses have somehow spared newer employees that don't have any sick days. Quick, someone call the CDC.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Obama Questions

"How do we keep ourselves safe and secure while preserving our liberties? How do we restore trust in a government that seems increasingly removed from its people and dominated by special interests? How do we ensure that in an increasingly global economy, the winners maintain allegiance to the less fortunate? And how do we resolve our differences at a time of increasing diversity?"

Barack Obama asked these questions in a recent speech announcing his patriotism. I will take a shot at answering them.

#1. We keep ourselves safe by confronting/addressing threats to our safety. We do not negotiate with those who wish to undermine our safety and security. We don't worry excessively about the liberties of those who intend to harm us.

#2. We don't worry too much about whether or not we trust our government. A bit of mistrust has been earned by our government. We restore trust by reducing the potential gains sought by the special interests. We do so by reducing the size and influence of government, thereby increasing the freedoms formerly enjoyed by our citizens.

#3. While "having an allegience to the less fortunate" is a laudable sentiment, it is not the role of government to enforce any such allegiences.

#4. We resolve differences at this "time of increasing diversity" by not favoring one group over another. Rather than create favored groups and unfavored groups that would pit citizens against one another, we should treat all individuals equally under the law.

I think Obama would answer his own questions quite differently.