As I’ve writtenbefore, voters in Alaska’s Mat-Su Borough are confronted with 2007’s only regulatory takings ballot initiative. Or rather, they were.
The initiative, Proposition 1, was a near carbon copy of Oregon’s Measure 37 and the raft of 2006 initiatives. It would have led to a development free-for-all. And I’m pleased to report that on Tuesday, voters handed out a stunning victory to sensible planning and public policy: the ballot measure was defeated by 71 to 29 percent.
The Mat-Su election comes on the heels of last year’s spate of so-called “property rights” measures. You remember? The ones that Western voters overwhelming shot down? (One did pass in Arizona, mostly because the ballot in that state was crowded and much the natural opposition was preoccupied with other issues.) The most surprising result at the time was conservative Idaho which delivered the most crushing defeat to a takings measure, trouncing it 76 to 24.
In a way, it’s not surprising that the public keeps rejecting these initiatives. Consider how the sponsor of the Mat-Su ballot measure described the outcome to the press: he called the vote “a stunning victory for socialism.”
This is not the sentiment of a guy who believes in community, or even the basic tenets of local democracy. It’s the ranting of an ideology that is wildly out of step with American life.
In light of the Mat-Su vote, it’s becoming abundantly clear that no matter what a handful of “property rights” activists like to believe, Americans really and truly like having a say in their communities. It’s not that local government is perfect, or that zoning is uncontroversial, or that everyone always gets what that want. It’s just this: Americans believe in democracy.
I am the campaign manager for the Mat Su Taxpayers Against Proposition 1, the group that built the coalition to defeat this Measure 37-clone in the Mat-Su. I think you summed it up perfectly. People want to have a say in their communities and how they grow. People want to know that when the community establishes a rule, it applies to everyone. People want to know that their homes and their property aren’t open to wild devaluation by their neighbor’s actions. People also want to know that when the community needs a new rule to deal with a new situation, the government can respond without fear of being sued by those who don’t want to follow the law. These aren’t Socialist ideas, they are fundamentally American ones. I’m proud of Mat-Su voters, and am proud to be a part of the great state of Alaska.