Well, I grew up on the East Coast in suburban New Jersey, and I appreciate your giving me an opportunity today to escape the People's Republic of Oregon as well as the lousy weather out there. It was snowing at 6 a.m. yesterday when I left to come here.
I appreciate being back here to have a chance to talk about this intellectual disease that is sweeping our country called "Smart Growth" and the fact that it probably has its origination in the state of Oregon where we have had the nation's longest running commitment to state wide land-use planning in a 26-year-old program designed to limit urbanization to only one or two percent of the state's land mass. And I should say that the very fact that I am even here today despite spending 20 years in the environmental movement should be a good sign for you that the kinds of conferences and publications you are doing do make a difference.
When I first got out of college and I started working for EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) in New York City, it was a wonderful job for someone to have who was young and wanted to save the world and etc. But during the middle of the 'eighties I started seeing a lot of literature coming out of think tanks and research centers that I had never seen before, in part because those centers had not existed. With the whole development of the so-called "free market environmentalism" from groups like Political Economy Research Center, Reason Institute, Cato Institute, and the Center for Private Conservation at Competitive Enterprise Institute, there has been an explosion of very well-reasoned literature in the last ten years pointing out the problems with control. I think there are a lot of people like myself for whom, despite working in the environmental movement for a long time as that literature becomes available, as more and more publicity is generated, and there are more conferences like the very one you are having today, increasingly those things can make a difference. So while you may show up every year and feel that you are speaking in an echo chamberoh, here are my friends I saw last year, are we only speaking to ourselves? no, I think the more you disseminate information, there is a large mass of reasonable people out there who are sort of sensoriums who are amenable to the message, and you just need to keep getting the message out.
So one of the things I am going to do today, I have a slide show, we are going to darken the room in a minute. [Ed. Note: Selected key slides are reprinted herein.] I know it is always dangerous right after lunch. You risk that the lights come on twenty minutes later and half your audience is asleep. But we are going to do that, and I am going to try and show you how our board, which is arguably the most expensive and extensive regional land-use planning exercise ever undertaken in the United States history, now being implemented in Portland, is having exactly the opposite effect of what its proponents say they intendedalthough actually I think this may be their intent anyway. And I hope to give you some intellectual ammunition to beat back the forces of the Smart Growth movement.
Well, this is downtown Portland for those of you who have never been out to the West Coast on a day that it is not raining, and the red line going around, Portland is in the center of that. You have some highways there; they are black lines. The red line going around the Portland region, that is the infamous urban growth boundary, a creature of state law that was adopted about 22 years ago. Outside the red boundary virtually all the land is zoned for open space, farm or forest use, and it is almost impossible to build a dwelling of any kind even if it is simply a residential house outside that boundary. The goal, the simple goal of the Oregon program is one word, containment. Containment of the bad urbanites inside their little boundaries so they don't go out into the countryside.
This sort of picture [of the abrupt edge to buildings at the urban growth boundary] is what is near perfection for many Oregon planners. That is, you have the bad urbanites stopped in their tracks at the edge of a boundary, and then open area. Now, of course, the owners of the property on the left may have wished to do something with that property other than be a zoned viewshed for the people on the right and the people on the right may have wished to develop at a different density, but that is of no interest to the regulators in Oregon. Well, of course, if their goal was to increase densitywell, actually the stated goal in Oregon is to increase density in the urban areaswhat turns out is that the urban growth boundary actually hasn't had much effect anyway, because if you look since 1950, and urban growth boundaries that have been in effect since about the middle of the 'seventies, well the Portland/Vancouver area has actually become 33 percent less dense in that time as most cities have. But the icon of sprawl, Los Angeles, actually became 26 percent more dense. San Diego and San Jose also became more dense. So apparently, if your goal is to cram more people into an urban area, the urban growth boundary may not have much effect anyway, because people constantly find ways to escape it.
If you look at congestion, it turns out that on the Texas Transportation Institute on Congestion index, Portland is sandwiched between two other icons of sprawl, Houston and Phoenix. The urban planning elite of Portland are always dissing Houston because Houston is thought of as the city of no zoning, which is actually not correct, but it doesn't have the type of centralized zoning most cities have. Well, Houston is 12 and Portland is 13. Los Angeles, the most highly densely populated region of the country, is number 1. Frankly, no matter how many subways you build, no matter what you do, all those cities, they have lots of congestion for reasons I will get into a little later.
So if land-use control, if trying to densify your city, is all you want to reduce congestion, it hasn't worked in Portland. In fact, if you look at the public transit trend in market share, you will notice that in Portland between 1980 and 1990 transit use actually dropped by 33 percent, while in Phoenix and Houston it actually rose. It is dropping almost everywhere in the country for a logical reason, which is that the automobiles are arguably the most empowering technology of the 20th century, if not our entire history, and people like it.
Well, the planners in Portland around 1990 woke up to the fact that the mere existence of a boundary wasn't having its desired effect, so they decided to put it on steroids and go into a 50-year planning process called the Metro Region 2040 Plan which was actually enacted as a plan in 1996. So you had not only the red boundary going outside the city but now you have all these purple dots which indicate they are "regional centers" or town centers or some artifact of the regulatory state that if you are unlucky enough to live in a place that is now called a regional center, they are going to give you all kinds of job targets and housing targets and zoning overlays to manipulate your town or your city to fit some kind of master plan they have, regardless of whether you happen to like their plan. They have light rail lines going four different directions there, two of which are built. The others are merely fantasies, and this is their master vision for protecting all the raw areas, what they call protecting all the raw areas outside of cities.
This is, as Carol mentioned, called Smart Growth. It is also called the New Urbanization. It is also called Neotraditional Development. The elements are basically growth boundaries, traffic calming, (that is a phrase for a cultural war on automobiles trying to make automobile driving as impossible as you can make it), really wide sidewalks, trying to densify the cities the way they were a hundred years ago, transit (especially fixed rail transitthe more expensive the better), and delivery requirements such as zoning ordinances that will tell you in great detail where your windows should be, where your garage should be, make sure you have a little front porch on your house, etc., etc. That is what the New Urbanism is and it is sweeping the country.
So I will give you a quick tour through what it has meant in Portland and why it is not working. This has everything to do with New Urbanism life. It has your subsidized light rail line, your subsidized housing, what I call white row ghettos there. The hope is that you will come out in the morning, you get your Expresso, you hop on the train, and you live your life by going only in two directions at 19 miles per hour on the train. Not surprisingly, that does not appeal to a whole lot of people even though they keep building these. These are all subsidized by the way. These are wealth transfers from one class of citizens to the other. But in order to get ridership up they have to build up the park-and-rides outside the city, so that actually encourages driving, actually encourages sprawl. I say that, even though sprawl is kind of a meaningless word that is never defined.
They go through these open areas. (This is a grind I take four days a week to the city. I live 40 miles east of Portland at the base of the Cascade Mountains.) And so they are building this street here to densify what was previously an open area, they put some homes in there, and then of course only one or maybe five or ten percent of the people will take the train and the rest will drive, and congestion will be worse than it is today. They don't seem to figure that out. They deliberately picked a route through basically a bunch of cow pastures. Then they used zoning to mandate very high density around the lines, thinking they will get lots of ridership. They are constantly amazed that people who live there actually have cars and that they use the cars and that the area did not have a congestion problem before because it was a bunch of cow pastures. Now it has light rail and it is going to have a congestion problem, because they have all the cars packed in a small area.
Portland is constantly held up as one of the nation's most livable cities in part because of light rail, but it is called MAX. The fine print is Metropolitan Area Express. It is said that there is no express. Never has been and there is never going to be an express. It is all local about 18 miles per hour and they are proud of that. They don't want express. And that is an indicator of the "oh well" nature of the New Urbanist movement, which is, when they say they want to improve mobility, what they mean is they want to congestify the region. When they want to give you more choices, they mean less choices and on and on. That's what the New Urbanism is about. Transit, traffic calming and traffic circles to slow down the bad cars.
Inside the Portland growth boundary in 1990, 92 percent of all trips were taken by cars. After they did some computer modeling at great public expense and after they built $7 million worth of light rail lines and did a lot of up-zoning and forced people to live close together, what they project is, gee, it will look just about the same. Now transit will go up. In fact it will more than double, but big deal. Most trips will still be by car.
What does this mean? Well, what it means is that, despite when they started this survey in 1990, when they started this planning exercise, they surveyed the population of Portland to find out what things the people care about the most, and the number one issue, either higher than education or public safety, was traffic congestion, and they said, thank you very much. We will go plan an increase of traffic congestion by 200 percent. Yes, Government working for you. They are going to do that by lots of zoning, high density housing like this and this is even better, you know, these are connected. You still can get some suburbia inside a growth boundary, but it will be a kinder and gentler suburbia now. No wasteful use of a front yard for an actual yard, you have all these little front porches so you can at the end of the day sit sublimely on the front porch and chat with your neighbors as they walk by because they, I guess, they won't drive. But if they do drive, all the garages are in the back, little alley ways, because garages are bad and cars are bad and people who drive cars are bad. But even though you won't have any side yard to toss a Frisbee with your kid, there will be really wide sidewalks because connectivity is the buzz word, you see. You need to have these areas all connect and if it means you have no yard left, well, that is just your problem.
This is the neighborhood that I live in, a rural neighborhood fortunately outside the urban growth boundary, and this is typical, you know, kind of a one-acre lot. If you are looking for this anywhere in the Portland area, forget it. Unless you already have it, forget it. This is bad; this is inefficient rural sprawl. This is what the top land use regulator of Oregon refers to as a "cancer on the landscape of Oregon." Obviously very threatening, as you can see. This [house and yard on the slide] is inside the urban growth boundary but it is a big yard only because it predates the current plan. The average square footage of all lots sold inside the growth boundary in 1996 was about 6,700 square feet which is pretty tiny.
Ironically, the flag they always wrap themselves in is farmland protection, as if farm owners somehow need government to protect them from their own choices. There is about 10,000 acres of farm land that is inside the urban growth boundary, but this is bad farmland, you see, because this is inside the urban growth boundary. The master plan is to pave all this over so you can have some theoretical benefit of farmland outside the urban growth boundary. Now, people who live around here who can peacefully co-exist with the farmer, they probably think this farm is just fine. But in the planning documents in Portland all this farmland inside the boundary is not referred to as farmland. It is referred to as "vacant land" waiting to be developed. If it is not all paved over with high density housing, the whole plan doesn't even work. A golf course inside the urban growth boundary is also slated literally that about 40 percent of it will be converted to a high density mixed-use project in the next couple years because, you know, golfing is for cultural low-lifes. That is a wasteful use of land as far as the planners are concerned.
So, interestingly enough, if they get their way in the year 2040, the Portland region, population-wise, will look a lot like Los Angeles does today, because Los Angeles, contrary to popular opinion, although it is big and you could say it is a sprawl city, it has the highest population density of any city in the country on a regional basis. And also, and despite what you would visually say are a lot of highways in LA, on a per capita basis LA has the fewest number of freeway miles per capita of any city in the country, which is one reason why it is so congested. It is well below the national average of 114 miles per capita. Well, if we do the 2040 plan like the Portland planners want, we will look a lot like Los Angeles even though Los Angeles is always dissed as the city we don't want to be. It turns out, however, in their own documents they are doing it so that with respect to those two parameters, Los Angeles displays a density and congestion pattern we desire to replicate in Portland.
So the New Urbanists, their basic problem is they suffer from Los Angeles envy. In fact, one reason LA has a lot of air pollution is because air pollution is strongly correlated with density. LA is the most populated region; well, it also has a lot of air pollution. Areas that have very low levels of population have no serious air pollution problems. So, again, the Portland planners want us to have more air pollution by shoving us all closer together, and that is a part of the New Urbanist dream.
As a very significant effect, the last couple of slides have to do with raw land prices. That concerns me because that translates into housing costs. At the edge of the Portland urban growth boundary, raw land zoned for single family housing goes for about $118,000 an acre, or did in 1996. Just outside the boundary, land goes for about $18,000 an acre. So there is a $100,000 differential, which means, if you are trying to build affordable housing inside the urban growth boundary actually near the job market, you are already starting at a $100,000 greater differential. The question is, why would you want to do that. Well, again, they are trying to save farmland.
Another artifact of this that you may find surprising, is Metro surveyed 54 other cities in the country. Their statistical analysis of them is included. These numbers are 1990 numbers, so elevate everything considerably, but the relationship stays the same. Numbers of roads, miles that you build is related to home prices. Road miles is sort of a surrogate for land developability. When you build more roads, you bring more developable land into the market. More land means more of a buyer's market if you are a home buyer, rather than a seller's market, and it helps keep home prices down. So when the New Urbanists, and they are very anti-car and anti-highway, when they say that they want to promote affordable housing and they are also going to restrict highway development, road development, they can't really make those two thoughts work together, because they don't work together. So Metro concluded about our whole plan, which has to do with increasing transit use, reduce vehicle miles traveled, etc., there is a down side of pursuing what appears to be higher housing prices and reduced housing output. Well, it concerns me and it concerns a lot of other people in Portland, but it doesn't seem to concern the planners, because today Portland has now become, where ten years ago it was one of the cheapest home markets in the country, one of the most expensive. The question is, in a state that is one of the most under-populated regions in the entire world, where there is no shortage of land except the shortage created by zoning, you ask, why? Why are we doing this?
Nationwide, developed land is about six percent. Some people say it is between four and six percent depending on data sources you use. But fly over the country. You all know there is not a shortage of land. As far as zoning farmers so they can never use their land for anything other than farming, again, they don't need to be protected from the consequences of their decision making. Acres of cropland has been declining. Generally, there is a pretty simple reason. Farm output is constantly going up. Farmers are pretty smart. They have a lot of people in the research field both in the public and private sectors. As productivity goes up, raw land is less important. You don't need to be zoning it to protect anybody. In fact, one would hypothesize that if there is such a shortage of farmland that it needs to be protected through zoning, the price of raw farmland would show as shortage, when in fact farmland is cheap everywhere in the country. Obviously, there is a glut of farmland in the country.
This (figure below) pretty much summarizes the new digital economy. There is a myth in Oregon and throughout other parts of the country that timber and agriculture in Oregon represent two of the top three sectors of the economy. Well, that is not even remotely true and it hasn't been true for a long time. This pie chart was put together by the Agribusiness Council of Oregon two years ago. If they had any reason to bias the numbers, their bias would be upward because their clients, the paying clients, were agribusiness folks who would like to make themselves look more important to the economy. I am not saying the numbers are biased, but the point is if you add all of agriculture, all of wood, and all the secondary factors related to those, you cannot even get twelve percent of the Oregon economy, the gross state product, from those two sectors. There is no dominant sector. Income is generated in lots of other areas. We are in the information era, and when you look at this the notion of zoning in itself and allocating people and businesses based on some master plan, it just becomes comically out of date.
It is also argued that we need government interventions because sprawl is sort of devouring the country. Well, the bar on the right (figure below) shows acres of developed lands in the entire country. Well, shoot, we have more than double that set aside for birds and wildlife refuges, so what's the problem here? Why do we need more government intervention?
The Smart Growth movement is also premised on the fact that when you have suburbanization and conversion of farmland, you will have more air pollution, congestion, and energy consumption. Well, since 1970 we have lots of suburbanization, lots of driving, people are driving big sports utility vehicles etc. and air pollution is going down, down, down. Okay, so you know what is the problem? Energy consumption, well, you know, there is a trend here for about the last 40 years of the economy getting more efficient all the time for reasons that have nothing to do with regulation. It has to do with surviving in the marketplace and the pressures of competition to use your resources more efficiently. So I don't think regulation is the answer. Despite the explosion of suburbanization in the country, the economy seems to get more efficient. We are driving a lot more but consuming less fuel per vehicle. Why? Well, because cars became more efficient. So again vehicle miles traveled seems to be an obsessive factor for the New Urbanists, but to me, I don't really care, frankly. The economy imposes its own discipline.
Well, I want to move to the three ideas, some of which may sound very strange for you at a land-use conference, but the reason that I am going to go over the first two is because in the New Urbanist movement, the Smart Growth movement, the language they always talk about is, and the reason you have to zone people into dense cities and leave everything a viewshed for the rest of the country is, because of the allegation that you have to do that to control congestion and promote transit use in travel. And the point of transit deregulation is to show you that they are trying to use land-use planning to solve problems that have very little to do with land-use planning. If you want to solve transportation problems, use transportation strategies and don't zone people. So I am going to go through these pretty quickly and hopefully give you some intellectual ammunition for folks when they raise this.
What is differential pricing? Well, if you are in traffic, you are wasting time, you are bartering your time with each other. With differential pricing you convert time to money. Use transponders; toll gates are out of date. In another ten years you probably won't find another toll gate anywhere in the world. Electronic tolling devices is the wave of the future. Spend the toll revenue only where you collect it and lower state gas taxes so you don't double-charge people. I mean, that is the vision. We know differential pricing works. As long as there is telephone calling and airlines and matinee theater pricing and restaurants and resorts, everywhere where people who actually run their own business and deal with markets use differential pricing all the time to flatten out the peaks and maximize the output of their facility.
We already have one. It is a privately built, privately run twelve-mile toll road in Orange County California, SR 91. It has been running for several years. That is a transponder; it goes on the windshields of your cars. The only people who drive on SR 91 are people with transponders. You voluntarily get one. If you don't want one, you just don't drive on their private toll road. You drive under an overhead gantry and it collects while you travel. It is as painless as making a long distance call and paying the charge at the end of the month. It says $2.50 for peak hour drive. That's outdated; it is up to $2.95 now but it is 50 cents at the off-peak. So if you drive at the off-peak, you get to go cheap. When they instituted it, the headlines said, "Tollway gets two thumbs up." It is counter-intuitive to many people, especially people who have grown up on the East Coast as I did and experienced toll roads as a real pain because of toll gates and because of the flat rate pricing that doesn't help flatten out the peaks. It is counter-intuitive to say that congestion pricing is good for you, but if you do it correctly, if you go way beyond traditional tolling that we have done on the East Coast, it turns out you give people what they want, which is the ability to go really fast any time of the day. And when they can do that, they are happy.
Peak period pricing is being studied in multiple jurisdictions around the country including Portland, one of the few good things our planning agency is doing. I have been very involved with it. As one of our possible projects, we may actually do a demo project this year on the most heavily traveled highway in the state of Oregon, on the east side of Portland. You have a morning inbound toll and then an outbound toll that could be 20 or 25 cents per mile. Then presumably some group of people would pick the transit, some would cancel a trip, some would change the time of their trip, and the mechanics of projection are that if the road is really heavily traveled, you only need to change the behavior of a few people. You don't need to change the behavior of everyone. And this is something we may experiment with.
We already know from the experience elsewhere that it works. In fact, in South Korea two tunnels were tolled in 1996 with peak period pricing and several months later auto traffic decreased 14 percent, speeds increased 65 percent, and car pooling went up 300 percent. Now, I will just tell you there is no strategy being advocated by the Smart Growth people that will come anywhere close to these results, not in seven months, not in seven years. They will give you the reverse results. They will increase congestion. So if you want to solve congestion, peak period pricing is a solution. Zoning has nothing to do with it.
The second point I want to make has to do with deregulated transit, competitive contracting of transit, getting the government out of it is growing all over the country. Las Vegas, I believe, now is one of the few, maybe the only jurisdiction in the country, that has gone to 100 percent contracting out of transit, and partly as a result their transit ridership is increasing because when you contract out, you get way better results. Between 1980 and 1990, only the public transit sector actually showed a decline in productivity. Even the pathetic entity known as Amtrak managed to get a little more productivity. But in the public sector when you have a monopoly on service and a monopoly on subsidies, what do you get? A decline in productivity.
What we know as Tri-Met is our regional transit monopoly in Portland. They did some contracting out until it was deleted out of the union contract so they can't do it anymore. When they contracted it out, their costs fell 50 percent. And that experience is typical all over the country. [We have studied local revenues and ridership.] We do not even include the capital grants we have ripped off from Congress to build light rail, but just local subsidies. What happens is you throw lots of money in public transit. What do you get? You just get lots of wasted money. Not surprisingly. Light rail, the choice, the number one choice of the New Urbanists, is the most expensive form of transit, because this is all based on pork and in pork it is all about stealing as much money from some other jurisdiction as you can. (See figure below.)
The saddest thing to me is that the environmentalists are in bed here promoting light rail even though it is the most energy-intensive of the transit options. If you really want efficiency, cost effectiveness, and low energy use, you have got to go with a van strategy. (See figure below.) If there is a future in public transit or in transit, and I think there is, this represents the future. This is small scale, road based, privately run transit used in conjunction with peak period pricing of roads so that these vehicles are not stuck in traffic. Unfortunately, this gentleman [in the slide] and the people like him all over the country can't get into business because things like jitneys and shuttle vans are outlawed by the local transit monopoly. And Dana from the Institute for Justice can tell you a lot more than I can, in fact, about that problem, because IJ has represented people who can't get into what otherwise would be a very low cost market for entrepreneurs.
Another type of road-based transit is a cab company or buses. Except in a few cases where you have massively high densities, the future of transit is going to be road-based.
The final part of my presentation is what I am just choosing to call private sector zoning. You can call it lots of things. But basically I simply see no reason for zoning of any type. It is impossible for government planners to figure out where everyone should be and how they should live their lives. They should stop trying. You all know private sector zoning, which is things like deed restrictions and governance operating in competitive markets. They simply give you what you want and if you don't want it, you can go somewhere else and get it. What you need are clearly defined property rights, you need strong enforcement of deed restrictions, and you need to allow these things to happen. It is not a new idea.
One development in east side Portland just across the one river took 20 years to pull off. It was in 1891. It was a conversion of prime farmland to a community that has all the artifacts today's Smart Growthers want. It has the little front porches, very bicycle and pedestrian oriented, and it has six, five transit lines going in six different directions which is way better than having six rails go through there, and all of this happened before the nation's first zoning ordinance had ever even come about in New York City, before there was a thing called the Portland Planning Bureau. This was, I guess, in the 1890s, this was bad urban sprawl that is today considered one of the most desirable places in all Portland to live, and it happened without any government planners.
Another more contemporary example is the Kentlands project near Gaithersburg, although well outside of Gaithersburg, Maryland, so frankly you have to own a car to get there. This is probably the most commonly sited example of New Urbanism But this has all the doo-dads people like, and it shows what happens when you get government out of the way. What you have here is a building with a granny flat above the garage. You see, lots of zoning boards have specifically prohibited people from putting a little accessory dwelling unit in their basement or their garage for elitist purposes, for other self-serving purposes. In this particular New Urbanist development, which I happen to like and I have friends who live there, as long as you have got government zoning out of the way, this kind of thing can flourish and there is a niche market for it. You have a little front porch (I don't have any objection to it if that is what people want), you have some high density housing with some open space, you have the garages in back with the little alley ways, you have some open space, and the nice thing about this is because it is an example of privatized zoning where there is about a half inch of deed restrictions attached to each deed, when you buy into this, you know that that open space is always going to be there. Your local planning board of the municipality is not going to change it on you because this is all mine by private homeowners association. This slide also shows that although it is commonly said that these urbanism developments are a more efficient use of land, frankly, there isn't that much density here. What they are doing is exchanging privately owned back yards for lots of common space, and if that is what you want, fine, but it is not like it is a really high density development. You have a playground nicely used and again you control access. Your kids can go there and probably not get kidnapped because basically it is a private playground. The name, The Rachel Carson Elementary School, is a bit much for me, but as far as the subsidy, the sprawl argument that you constantly hear about, well there is no subsidy here. You build your development; people can build their own school and absorb the cost.
But the notions that the Smart Growth people make that if you build a community or you mandate these communities through zoning, you will get reductions in driving and congestion is hilarious. I guess they have never gone to one because what you find is even in Kentlands the commercial areas are a separate area from residences. Although many people can walk to these, few do; they have a parking lot with lots of cars, the streets have lots of cars, and the developer understands that even people in a Smart Growth community want drive-up ATMs because they are car-oriented just like people are everywhere else.
So the advantages if you go this route, if you could just tell your local zoning board just go out of business and there never was a purpose for you anyway, well, private sector zoning is predictable. It is run by deeds and by homeowner associations, it is market-driven, developers don't build them unless they think someone wants them, they are easily enforced because of the contract, and it enhances property value so people will choose to live there because as you know when you sell ten years later or five years later what you sell will be what you bought today. The neighborhood is going to look the same because it is all laid out in contracts.
When I say to people in Oregon that we really don't need state-wide planning, in fact we don't need zoning at all, and they seem stunned by that thought, well, how would life work? I say well, frankly, all you really need is trespass and nuisance law. Hold people accountable for their own behavior. Tell them, do what you want, just don't cause a nuisance for someone else, don't let pollution migrate from your property to your neighbor's property, and all government needs to do is referee the game, call the fouls, and get out of the way, and require compensation. Certain types of nuisances could be negotiated by one property owner literally paying another property owner each year for certain nuisances that are unavoidable and some people who complain about that would suddenly become real quiet if they are getting a check every year.
I think my whole talk could probably be summarized with this one slide which is for all kinds of infrastructure and there is a lot of bogus claims made about the so-called cost of sprawl and we have to limit it and attack suburbia because they don't pay their fair share. It is a real simple answer. Privatize the infrastructurehighways, roads, water systems, sewer systems, and, yes, government schools were all run by the private sector very successfully before the government ever got involved, and we could do it again and it would be a lot better. And then you would concurrently see lower taxes and pay only through a user fee.
Mayor Goldsmith of Annapolis, who is one of the few politicians in the country that I have a lot of respect for, has raised the market values of the infrastructure. He successfully showed in more than 60 city services that he has marketized and is described in his wonderful new book, Twenty-first Century Cities, that you can lower taxes consistently, which he has done. There is competition into all kinds of mundane services like sewage treatment facilities, with better service at lower cost. You do all that and the whole cost-of-growth argument just begins to go away.
I kind of hate to even look at this slide but I put it in here. This is what we do in Portland all the time. We go to public meetings and we negotiate the tragedy of the commons. Here you are sitting around and of course you have a cottage industry of planners and public involvement specialists who go around and you have little flow charts and a bunch of paper and you talk about your vision, etc., etc. This is what you don't want. I go to Safeway all the time and there is about 30,000 products in there and they magically appear through the market. I have never once been asked to go to a public hearing of my local food board and explain what products should be on the Safeway shelf. The more government you have, the more of these you get sucked into, and it is a big waste of time as most of you already know.
So yes, I am drawing to a close finally. My last two slides again show the humor of planners who constantly think they know more than anybody else about the future. Plan your courthouse in downtown Portland. This was the first federal building in Portland built in about 1867. Oregon had only become a state in 1859. Well, this is built about a quarter of a mile from the river, and when it was finished, the 5,000 farmers at the time vigorously protested building this courthouse so far out of town. This was the common phrase because downtown was right on the water front, little shelters and businesses right on the waterfront, and this was probably Oregon's first example of federally subsidized urban sprawl. But today the courthouse is in the background, this square is in the foreground. The square is called "Pioneer Courthouse Square" frequently referred to as Portland's Living Room. You see. But the sprawl busters of 1867 could not possibly have predicted that the pioneer courthouse so far out of town in 1867 would be in the heart of downtown Portland today. So when the Smart Growthers talk about the problems of sprawl, you have to remind them that you don't know the future and today's bad urban sprawl may be tomorrow's dense, urbanized, livable community. We don't know, and you should stop trying to dictate our lives. Thank you very much.