At Reason, Baylen Linnekin has a year-end survey asking “a handful of food law and policy cognoscenti” (thanks!) what they would pick as the story of the year in that area, and also the story to watch next year. (Others surveyed include Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Ron Bailey, and Jeff Stier.) As a significant story in the past year, I nominated the flare-up of social media resistance to changes to the federal school lunch program (“#ThanksMichelleObama“), noting that while purveyors of “food policy” could barely contain their disdain at the insolence of the students spreading the tag, the protest did make an impression in Washington: “of all the ways to irritate the political class, making fun of them is among their least favorite.”
So far as a sleeper issue to look for in 2015, my nomination was:
Have you heard of “Health in All Policies”? It’s a buzz-phrase for inserting public health dogma into everything from land use to taxation. Imagine if sticking up for your taste in milkshakes and margaritas meant you had to attend zoning meetings. It might come to that.
At “The Pulse”, a series on health based at Philadelphia’s public radio station WHYY, reporter Taunya English describes “Health in All Policies” at more length and quotes me providing a voice of skepticism about the idea.
Can New York City really support an army of an estimated 8,300 “expediters” who run paperwork around to city offices, wait in line, haggle with officials, and generally navigate the bureaucracy on behalf of those who need permits, licenses and other municipal decisions? It’s a testimony to the dysfunction of the city’s governance [Kanner, Renn/Urbanophile]
Is a cemetery an objectionable land use, and does it matter if the neighbors’ objections are religious? [Gideon Kanner]
The panel is packed with big names and many of them offer suggestions with a law or regulation angle, including Philip K. Howard (“Radically Simplify Law”), Derek Khanna (rethink patent and copyright law; related, Ramesh Ponnuru), Morris Kleiner (reform occupational licensure; related, Steven Teles), Arnold Kling (“Sidestep the FCC and the FDA”), Robert Litan (admit more high-skill immigrants and reform employment of teachers; similarly on immigration, Alex Nowrasteh), Adam Thierer (emphasize “permissionless innovation”), and Peter Van Doren (relax zoning so to ease movement of workers to high-wage cities).
Picking up on some provocative observations by Prof. Kenneth Stahl at Concurring Opinions, I’ve got a new post at Cato arguing that “libertarian analysis better explains what actually goes on in local government than does the standard progressive faith in the competence of government to correct supposed market failure.” Ilya Somin goes on to tackle the same question at Volokh Conspiracy. In a second post, Prof. Stahl explains why he thinks nuisance law, often cited by libertarians as a superior way of handling conflicts between adjoining land uses, doesn’t live up to such hopes in practice. Update: A third post by Stahl.
Or so a California Court of Appeals “proudly announced …because it took only 20 years from a developer’s application to build a housing tract under existing zoning, to the court’s EIR [environmental impact review] approval.” [Gideon Kanner, citing Clover Valley Foundation v. City of Rocklin, 197 Cal. App.4th 200 (2011), as well as a September 2014 land use roundtable in California Lawyer]
We’ve tracked (especially by way of the Westchester County, N.Y. controversy) the ambitious efforts of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to grab more control over local governments’ zoning and project building decisions, in part through a proposed new “AFFH” rule (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing). Now the House has voted an appropriations rider cutting off funds for implementation of the new rule. [sponsor Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Paul Mirengoff/PowerLine, Sara Rankin/Legislation Prof (opposed), National Low-Income Housing Coalition, earlier on AFFH and on housing discrimination law generally]
It squeezes some New Yorkers hard in order to provide what can be a $90,000-a-year windfall for a few [Josh Barro, New York Times] How has the policy worked in Washington, D.C. and nearby Montgomery County, Maryland? [Emily Washington, Market Urbanism]
More: Lots of goodies financed by taxpayers get thrown into the subsidy mix too, says Jim Epstein at Reason.
“There’s plenty of money. The problem is interminable environmental review.” That’s Philip K. Howard in the Wall Street Journal [summarized here; related Common Good forum with Regional Plan Association] Excerpt:
Canada requires full environmental review, with state and local input, but it has recently put a maximum of two years on major projects. Germany allocates decision-making authority to a particular state or federal agency: Getting approval for a large electrical platform in the North Sea, built this year, took 20 months; approval for the City Tunnel in Leipzig, scheduled to open next year, took 18 months. Neither country waits for years for a final decision to emerge out of endless red tape.
Some reasons to think Bill de Blasio’s schemes for “mandatory inclusionary zoning” are likely to fall short. [Jim Epstein, New York Daily News]
The Supreme Court had already ruled that disproportionate “exactions” levied on property owners in exchange for the right to develop are an unconstitutional taking if they consist of demands for land. Now, in Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District, the Court confirms that the rule also applies to exactions of money and effort — in this case, a demand that a landowner develop a government property miles away from his own holdings. It also confirms that the principle applies to denials of permits as well as approvals. [Roger Pilon, Tejinder Singh/SCOTUSBlog, Ilya Somin, Damon Root/Reason] Background: Cato brief and summary, Timothy Sandefur and Ilya Shapiro. More: Richard Epstein, Gideon Kanner, Randal O’Toole, Rick Hills, Ilya Somin.
A highly placed Democrat in Sacramento is acknowledging the problems with the state’s environmental-review law, which empowers complainants to stop, slow down or drive up the cost of new development projects. Among those who’ve learned to turn CEQA to their own uses: NIMBY-minded neighbors, business competitors seeking to hobble rivals, and unions looking for a shakedown tool. [Los Angeles Times]
Check-cashing businesses are perfectly legal, but the Long Island town of Hempstead doesn’t like them, so it’s used zoning to try to force them out of areas convenient to their clientele. New York’s highest court is considering the companies’ appeal. [Newsday]