Weekly Links

California’s Japanese-Style Takeover of Local Zoning Control

Water Wars

Georgia Attacks Tennessee (Again)

Tennessee River Map

Look at all the free water just sitting there north of our border

From WABEThe Water Wars is a battle between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama over access to regional water – so what does Tennessee have to do with this? Legislators introduced a resolution to explore re-drawing the Georgia-Tennessee border in an effort to make part of the Tennessee River flow through Georgia. This is Georgia’s third front in the war. Their reasoning is based on old maps showing the border to be slightly north of its current position; meaning in the eyes of some legislators, the Tennessee River should have always flowed through part of Georgia.

Re-drawing the border would alleviate the pressure put on Georgia by Florida and Alabama to reasonably use water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin (ACF Basin) since Georgia could now take water from Tennessee. This is a stupid plan for many reasons beyond Georgia’s legal ability to get the border re-drawn. The Supreme Court is set to make a ruling in the Florida v. Georgia case about Florida’s right to water in the ACF Basin as early as Monday.



California Attempts Japanese-Style Zoning to Increase Affordable Housing



From The New York Times. In an effort to provide more affordable housing, California legislators introduced a bill that would allow high-density affordable housing development near transit stations by-right. The law would supersede any local zoning regulations that prevent less development in those areas. We wrote an article in 2016 about solving NIMBYism (Not in My Backyard) problems by adopting the Japanese model of removing some land use decisions to a higher governmental levels. The theory being that when communities make land use decisions those decisions are often heavily influenced by small groups of activists, which often prevents sensible policymaking.

The need for more housing in San Francisco and other California cities is obvious. The problem is obvious as well: too many regulations prevent housing units from being built. Despite understanding the problem and the cause of the problem, a solution can’t be reached because local activists often prevent the solution from being enacted. Despite widespread support for more affordable housing, people organize against increased density near them even though basic supply and demand economics tells us that in order to reduce the price of housing we need more housing units. California has attempted to solve this problem by mimicking Japan’s model of having the state, not local communities, create basic zoning laws. Theoretically, this should reduce the influence of community activists. Of course, it hasn’t prevented the Sierra Club and others from protesting.


Tree Love

Trees Get Email Addresses, Receive Love Letters

Swanston Street, Melbourne

Beautiful Swanston Street in Melbourne. Credit: Alpha via Flickr

From The Atlantic. “As I was leaving St. Mary’s College today I was struck, not by a branch, but by your radiant beauty. You must get these messages all the time. You’re such an attractive tree.”

The City of Melbourne, Australia began assigning email addresses to trees in 2013. The purpose was to allow residents to report broken tree branches or other problems that required attention from the city. Instead, people began writing greetings, love letters, and other general day-to-day thoughts to the trees.



The Combustible River and Other Niceties of Pre-EPA America

Burning Barge Ohio River

Burning Barge on the Ohio River. Credit: EPA

From Popular Science. It’s hard to believe that rivers used to catch fire in America. The most famous example is the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, but rivers catching fire used to be a rather common occurrence in America. Popular Science has a photo gallery of the environmental disasters in the pre-EPA America. It’s rarely seen today, but entire towns that just happened to be located next to chemical dumping grounds used to come down with odd sicknesses and diseases. Congress was finally pressed in the 1970’s to pass sweeping bi-partisan legislation (over Nixon’s veto) to clean up our water, air, and land.

If you haven’t seen it, the 90’s movie A Civil Action (John Travolta, Tony Shaloub, William H. Macy, James Gandolfini) is a great portrayal of why tort law is not effective in addressing environmental issues and why federal laws and regulations are badly needed.



What Does the Term “Orwellian” Actually Mean?

From Ted-EdOrwellian is a term frequently used to describe authoritarianism. It’s also often used by someone to rebut an argument that they simply don’t like. While both aren’t really correct, the latter is closer to an example of someone acting in an Orwellian manner to dismiss something as being Orwellian.

As the Ted-Ed video below shows, Orwellian is more about the deceptive and manipulative use of information than it is about authoritarianism. A certain political figure has provided a fairly good lesson in this over the past 2 years, though politicians frequently act in Orwellian ways.



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