Trust Me G”NO”P, You Don’t Want to Go There
I don’t think I’ve mentioned the Obama Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities and its groundbreaking livability agenda on this blog, so I will now. It’s an interagency collaboration to better coordinate transportation, land use, housing and environmental policies in order to better incentivize healthier communities through smart growth and transit-oriented development.
Its six key livability principles are the following (click the link for more detail):
1. Provide more transportation choices.
2. Promote equitable, affordable housing.
3. Enhance economic competitiveness.
4. Support existing communities.
5. Coordinate policies and leverage investment.
6. Value communities and neighborhoods.
In my opinion, the livability agenda is one of the best things that’s come out of this administration so far in terms of unequivocally good policy. So naturally, Congressional Republicans are less than thrilled about it.
From late last week, via E&E Daily (subscription only):
President Obama’s push to reshape the nation’s transportation systems to focus on “livability” came under fire yesterday, as the top Republican on a House Science and Technology subcommittee complained the effort was poorly defined and could be construed as an “intrusion” into American lives.
“At a minimum, it represents an amorphous concept difficult to define and measure progress toward,” said Technology and Innovation ranking member Adrian Smith (R-Neb.). “More troubling, however, key aspects of the livability agenda appear to involve significant federal government intrusion into the manner in which Americans travel and live.“
Yes, Adrian Smith has a point. Let’s set aside the fact that I’d be shocked if he actually supported this initiative, considering he represents one of the nation’s most rural and low-density districts. The government should not be rudely intruding into the manner in which Americans travel and live and distorting market choices. If I were him, I’d be introducing legislation tomorrow to end:
- All federal highway subsidies
- Massive bureaucratic hoops that non-road transit projects have to jump through to be approved for construction
- All homowner subsidies that encourage sprawl
- All policies that discourage or even ban mixed-use development
- Subsidies for fossil fuel development, direct and indirect alike
- Agricultural subsidies that mostly allow for inefficient and unhealthy crops to remain competitive, thus artificially inflating demand for rural development
Right. Smith and his Republican colleagues don’t want to do any of that (with the possible exception of transit approval streamlining). So they really need to STFU about getting the government out of the way. The livability agenda isn’t about adding an extra layer of government involvement in the land use and planning process, it’s about balancing the incentives to correct for misguided policies of the past and match demand in an efficient manner.