Sunday, June 04, 2006

Planning Through Intimidation

Item: In a recent article in the Washington Post's Sunday magazine about the debate over global warming, writer Joel Achenbach (author, with a wry sense of humor, of Why Things Are, a great book that helps make science understandable) notes, "Let us be honest about the intellectual culture of America in general: It has become almost impossible to have an intelligent discussion about anything. Everything is a war now. This is the age of lethal verbal combat, where even scientific issues involving measurements and molecules are somehow supernaturally polarizing. ... Human beings may be large of brain, but they are social animals, too, like wolves, and are prone to behave in packs. So when something ... comes up, the first thing people want to know is, whose side are you on? ... Are you with us or against us?"

Item: A federal judge ruled Friday that there is no evidence that Summit County used its zoning ordinances to discriminate against minorities and the disabled. Anderson Development, with the support of groups like the Utah NAACP chapter, Utah Coalition of La Raza, and the Disabled Rights Action Committee, filed suit against the county last year accusing Summit County officials of using zoning laws to block the development of affordable housing, forcing many low-income workers who work in Park City to commute from Salt Lake County.

As noted in previous blog entries, the goal of such a move seems laudable, but it also appears self-serving for a particular developer who isn't getting what he wants from local officials.

The point of my linking these two stories together is, as Achenbach notes, there seems to be little middle ground in discussing real issues any longer -- there is often an immediate move to the extremes of positions, and the rock-throwing begins. In the Summit County case, instead of working with county officials to address a legitimate need, it becomes an immediate fight of extreme positions. It gets complicated, however, because of the involvement of an aggresive developer with a particular interest. At least the court recognized that in this case.

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