With just a week to go before the election I don’t have much to add to the defeaning chorus of “No on Measure 63” editorials from Oregon’s newspapers. (I could be mistaken, but I don’t think there’s been even a single “yes” editorial in the state.) But let’s take a look at what newspapers are saying.
First, my favorite (for selfish reasons), the Oregonian gives it a thumbs down while also giving nice props to Sightline:
The measure would allow Oregonians to make up to $35,000 worth of home improvements without obtaining, or worrying about their failure to obtain, building permits. Which sounds swell. The glitch, pointed out recently by the perspicacious Seattle-based environmental nonprofit the Sightline Institute,is this: We Americans hop around a bit. In any given year, roughly 15 percent of us move.
That means our castles change hands frequently, sometimes even twice in a single decade. The remodeling experiments you bravely undertake, in the privacy of your own home, ultimately become your bequests to the next person who purchases your, um, laboratory.
Freelance construction projects don’t always lead to disasters, collapses and tragedies, of course. But they do frequently saddle new homeowners with unpleasant surprises and defective workmanship that’s expensive to fix. That’s why so many skilled construction trade groups in Oregon have united in opposition to Measure 63.
I’m giving bonus points for use of the word “perspicacious.”
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The Hilsboro Argusisn’t too keen on Measure 63 either:
The $35,000 figure he plucked out of thin air, and according to some in the business, you can create some god-awful nightmares with considerably less.
Frontline emergency workers, firefighters, construction workers and local governments are not on Sizemore’s side. Safety and environmental laws have their attention. Revenue has something to do with it too. Their arguments favor building permits because they maintain a standard for quality – read “safe” – construction.
And finally, the Corvallis-Gazette Times recommends taking a pass:
It’s true, as proponents of Measure 63 say, that governments collect money from permit and inspection fees. But the potential safety hazards from hundreds and eventually thousands of buildings that have had unapproved and uninspected work done to them is too great to ignore: We recommend a “no” vote.
I haven’t seen polling on this measure, so I’m not sure what I expect for an outcome. But in a way I’m disappointed that it didn’t cut a higher profile. If it had (and if I hadn’t been so busy with cap and trade lately) I might have spent more time dissecting it than I was able to with this short series. As is often the way with these measures, Measure 63 is terribly written. I mean it’s awful. There are any number of possible loopholes and oddities that deserved illumination.
Still, despite all that—and my profound desire to see Oregon voters reject it—the measure does, at some level, raise a point that’s worth considering. Local land-use regulations can be opaque, confusing, time-consuming, costly, and plain irritating. I’m sympathetic to the frustrations and I continue to worry that excessive property regulation can actually be counterproductive, especially when poorly implemented. If local officials aren’t careful, the simmering resentment can give rise to the land-use atom-bomb of regulatory takings laws, as western states saw a couple of years ago. There are some real issues of fairness to sort out for individual property owners; it’s just that the initiative process is generally a pretty bad way to go about it.