How Demands for ‘Local Control’ Become an Excuse for NIMBYism

“These “get off my lawn” conservatives claim to be upholding the principle of local control by arguing that local government officials rather than bureaucrats in far-off Sacramento get to make development decisions. It sounds good in theory given the Jeffersonian concept that the government closest to the people governs best.

The better quotation (actually used by Henry David Thoreau but often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson) is “that government is best which governs the least.” The goal—for those of us who value freedom—isn’t to allow the right government functionary to control us, but to have less government control overall.

Local officials are easier to kick out of office than officials in Sacramento or Washington, D.C., but the locals can be extremely abusive. They know where we live, after all. I’ve reported extensively on California’s defunct redevelopment agencies, and local tyrants would routinely abuse eminent domain under the guise of local control.

“Under S.B. 9, cities are required to approve these lot splits ‘ministerially,’ without any reviews, hearings, conditions, fees or environmental impact reports,” complains my Southern California News Group colleague, Susan Shelley.

Oh, please.

Conservatives have for decades complained about the subjective nature of bureaucratic and public reviews, the evils of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and excessive fees. Now there’s a law that fixes that, albeit in a limited manner, and they are grabbing their pitchforks.

S.B. 9 and S.B. 10 do not put Sacramento bureaucrats in charge of the locals. Instead, they deregulate certain development decisions, by requiring officials to approve a project “by right” provided it meets all the normal regulations. It eliminates subjectivity and defangs CEQA. Yet this greatly upsets them.”

“If conservatives seriously believe local control is the trump card, then they should lobby for the repeal of Proposition 13, which is a state-imposed restriction on local governments’ authority to raise property taxes. I find Prop. 13 to be one of the best laws ever passed in this state. They should also oppose Republican efforts at the federal level to limit the ability of blue states to regulate the heck out of us.”

Chile’s Proposed Left-Wing Constitution Could Spell Chaos

“Chile’s draft constitution is even longer than Venezuela’s, which was redrafted by Hugo Chávez’ administration during his first year in office and set the stage for the country’s socialist revolution, descent into dictatorship, and ensuing economic collapse.

Venezuela has had 26 constitutions in a little over two centuries. In general, the practice of scrapping and rewriting constitutions helps to explain Latin America’s relentless political turmoil.

A constitution provides legal stability and predictability—like a computer operating system. Tampering with any foundational code creates security holes that are easily exploited by political opportunists looking to amplify their own power and overturn the established order.

Even if Chileans reject the new constitution—and, thankfully, polls indicate that they probably will—Boric can choose to start the process again with the election of yet another constitutional assembly to draft yet another version.

That could bring years of chaos, economic stagnation, and legal uncertainty. Now that Latin America’s free market experiment and “economic miracle” may be coming to an end, hopefully, the rest of the world can learn from the experience of Chile once again: Beware leftist pipe dreams.”

America’s Founders Raged Against Qualified Immunity, Trade Restrictions, and Anti-Immigrant Policies

“The Declaration of Independence is probably best known for the panache of its opening and closing stanzas. Those bits about “the course of human events” and the pledging of “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” suggest that the authors and signers understood the political and historical significance of the moment—and, after all, you can’t have a revolution without a little linguistic dancing.
But the bulk of the document—it’s just 1,330 words; take a moment to read it today—is dedicated not to grand statements about self-evident truths or sweeping philosophical claims.

Mostly, it’s a laundry list of complaints about how the government really sucks.”

Government Databases Invite Privacy Abuse in China and the U.S.

“In July 2020, the feds indicted more Chinese government hackers for their part in “a hacking campaign lasting more than 10 years to the present, targeting companies in countries with high technology industries, including the United States, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.” In September of the same year, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency announced that hackers with China’s Ministry of State Security used “commercially available information sources and open-source exploitation tools to target U.S. Government agency networks.”

In March of this year, Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm, revealed that hackers sponsored by the Chinese state were able to “successfully compromise at least six U.S. state government networks.”

Many reports about state-sponsored hacking note that this isn’t a one-sided affair. U.S. officials don’t advertise it, but there’s evidence they’re doing their part to steal sensitive data from Chinese companies and government agencies.”

The V.A. Bought 10,000 iPhones for Veterans. 8,544 of Them Were Never Used.

“The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) lost nearly $2.4 million on data plans for iPhones and iPads that were supposed to help homeless veterans connect to telehealth services. Ultimately, 85 percent of the iPhones meant to be loaned went unused and remained in storage one year after their purchase, according to a new inspector general’s report.

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the V.A. received $14.4 billion to be used on health services for homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless. A chunk of that money went to the department’s Office of Connected Care, which has loaned communications devices to veterans since 2014 so they can access telehealth services.

Connected Care launched a new program in the summer of 2020 that loans iPhones and iPads, equipped with prepaid 12-month data plans, to veterans. Officials spent $63 million on 80,930 iPads and $8.1 million on 10,000 iPhones during FY 2020 and the first two quarters of FY 2021.

“Connected Care’s procedures led to excessive wasted data plans while the iPads and iPhones remained in storage,” according to the report. In July 2021, one year after their initial purchase, “8,544 iPhones (85 percent) remained in storage.” In addition to the money lost on buying phones that went unused, the V.A. also wasted cash on unused data plans. Because contractors activated data plans before shipment to the V.A. and not upon delivery to veterans, the agency lost roughly $1.8 million on data for iPhones and $571,000 on data for iPads as the devices sat in storage.

“This occurred because Connected Care officials were not able to identify the quantity needed for the targeted veteran population because of uncertainties associated with COVID-19 and the lack of data on the quantity needed for a new initiative,” concluded the report. Ultimately, demand for iPhones “was much lower than anticipated”—but the V.A. failed to predict this prior to its purchases and did not take sufficient corrective actions along the way. Excess devices ended up getting shuffled to a separate office within the department for distribution to homeless veterans, but not before losing the V.A. millions of dollars simply by sitting on shelves.”

California’s Water Bureaucrats Are Making a Bad Drought Worse

“Nearly 50 percent of the state’s available water flows to the Pacific, 40 percent goes to farms and 10 percent goes to urban users. Residences use 5.7 percent of the state’s water, with half of that going to pools and landscaping. Conservation is a good idea during times of scarcity. But why are environmentalists and regulators fixated on squeezing more drops from those who use the least?

It’s almost as if they are more intent on punishing Californians for our lifestyles than funneling more water into our system to assure that everyone has the water that they need.”

“California needs to build appropriate water-storage facilities to capture more water during rainy years (and, yes, we’ll have rainy years again), improve water trading and pricing, and build recycling and desalination plants. We’re not going to do desalination now obviously, we’re not fixing the pricing situation and we’re not building water-storage facilities.
Again, the governor’s rhetoric has been good lately when it comes to water, but his action is lacking. He appoints members to the Coastal Commission and we see how that went. He touts his $5.1-billion water infrastructure package as the centerpiece of his efforts to boost water availability, but one need only look at the administration’s own press package to see it’s a fairly empty package.

The largest portion ($1.3 billion) goes toward drinking and wastewater infrastructure for disadvantaged communities—an important and long-neglected upgrade that nevertheless has little to do with boosting water supplies. The other main expenditures relate to environmental improvements, including fish corridors and water-efficiency subsidies.

As U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R–Roseville), has said, “Droughts are nature’s fault and they are beyond our control. Water shortages, on the other hand, are our fault.” Based on the commission’s decision, it’s sadly clear that California has made its choice to enter a stage of permanent rationing and endless crisis.”

The Restaurant Industry Doesn’t Need Another Bailout

“The argument for bailing out restaurants is thus morphing from a need to save the industry during the pandemic to a desire to relieve it from persistent challenges that have less and less to do with COVID-19.

That’s hard to justify when the industry itself is on a steady track toward recovery, and federal spending is driving inflation to record levels.”

The Department of Homeland Security Is Broken and Dangerous

“there’s little evidence that DHS has any interest or ability when it comes to admitting and correcting its flaws. Even the people specifically assigned to keep an eye on DHS seem more concerned with shielding the department from consequences for bad behavior than with tempering its malignancy.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general and his top aides directed staff members to remove damaging findings from investigative reports on domestic violence and sexual misconduct by officers in the department’s law enforcement agencies,” Chris Cameron of The New York Times reported earlier this month. Among the information suppressed were descriptions of cash payouts to settle sexual harassment claims without going through formal procedures. “The inspector general, Joseph V. Cuffari, also directed his staff to remove parts of another draft report showing internal investigations had found that dozens of officers working at the agencies had committed domestic violence, but that they had received ‘little to no discipline.'”

The documents were obtained and published by the Project on Government Oversight. Their existence was subsequently acknowledged by Mayorkas in an internal DHS memo. If history is any guide, don’t hold your breath waiting for big reforms. Charles K. Edwards, a former DHS acting inspector general, was charged with stealing proprietary software and confidential databases from the federal government. He pleaded guilty in January of this year.

Don’t harbor too much hope that DHS will improve its respect for people’s rights. A federal agency whose official watchdog hides details of abusive conduct by its employees against their colleagues and family members when it’s not pilfering property can’t be trusted to be diligent about addressing civil liberties violations against the general public. That’s especially true when those violations are seemingly a baked-in part of how the agency justifies its existence. To repeat the Brennan Center’s warning, DHS suffers from “a dangerous combination of broad authorities, weak safeguards, and insufficient oversight,” and it’s not at all obvious how to fix what’s so profoundly broken.”