BUREAUCRACY RULES PEOPLE INTERESTS
One of the big issues of the current presidential election year is how much government intervention and control should we have. This is evidenced by the extreme popularity of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They condemn “big brother” interference with progress.
I have selected four case studies that affect California with strong-arm tactics by various government agencies. Many bureaucratic decisions prevent private citizens from achieving their goals with ridiculous rules and regulations.
It isn’t always the central state government in Sacramento that creates these conflicts of interest, but usually a government agency that has the power to over throw even the good intentions of an enterprise that falls under its jurisdiction, sometimes without due process, These are the selected four case studies I use as examples.
I had already commented on how the National Park Service caved in to the demands of a former lessee of the property in Yosemite National Park in a previous blog. The departing tenant, Delaware North Corporation, claims it has copyrights to prominent locations and their names in the park. This has progressed to a court case where the National Park Service is willing to reimburse Delaware $3.5 million for intangibles, but Delaware demands $53 million.
If the administration of the National Park Service had any guts they would wait for the court to make a decision how much the so-called “trademarks” are worth. Much to the shock of citizens who revere Yosemite National Park, Delaware claims it “owns” the names Ahwhanee Hotel, Wawona Hotel and Camp Curry, among others.
Why? Delaware claims it promoted these names and sites during its 15 year lease term by selling souvenirs and gee-gaws in their gift shops that carried a logo depicting the historic hotels and displaying their names. To change all the direction signs in the park is costing millions of dollars and will no doubt completely confuse the visitor when they see a direction signed to the Majestic Hotel (the Ahwhanee) and Half Dome Village (Camp Curry), historic sites for a hundred years.
The federal government agency administering national parks did not represent the general public and the millions of dedicated Yosemite fans when it originally failed to define what a departing lessee is due for the intangibles they leave behind. That oversight will cost dearly in the settlement and the potential loss of historic site names.
Visitors to Yosemite will wonder where the famous Ahwhanee Hotel went.
Closer to home in San Diego, our city government claims that the portion of Balboa Park occupied by San Diego High School under a 50-year lease will not be renewed. The school has a long history of serving the central area of San Diego and occupies many buildings that were replaced to meet seismic requirements. The school occupies 34 acres bordering on the Cabrillo Freeway entrance, next to City College and in the shadow of a multitude of high-rise buildings across the freeway.
Those who believe the city has no right to allow a public high school on dedicated parkland for general use of the public do not consider that this location is not exactly idyllic for park use. The proximity of City College and the freeway would limit the options to convert to open space. Even worse, the destruction of useful buildings and the necessity to move the central location high school away to an affordable area.
Generations of alumni are up in arms.
Not everyone is pleased how the Coastal Commission regulates new development in the area under their jurisdiction. The choice coast property is always a target for development of luxury homes, or for commercial development not meeting the standards of the Coastal Commission administration.
However, the California Coastal Act of 1976 did keep the scenic California coastline from being exploited for profit by developers. City leaders have always claim they didn’t want San Diego to be another Miami Beach. Over the years, the Coastal Commission staff has been embolden to dictate control over new development that the local communities would support.
This classic conflict of interest between developers and government bureaucracy trying to represent the people interests is a very fertile ground for legions of lobbyists to promote the override of Coastal Commission decisions. Typical of today’s political scene, the elected officials all the way up to the governor of the state have often gone against the policies and decisions made by the administration of the Coastal Commission.
This recently led to the sudden and unexplained dismissal of the Coastal Commission director, Charles Lester, creating a tsunami of protest from many environmental organizations and individual activists who support protecting the coast. There are hints that powerful lobbyists anxious to dispose of Lester have reached into the higher levels of Sacramento to bring pressure on the commissioners.
Coastal development might accelerate without such a strong advocate protecting the coast.
Another situation right in the heart of Little Italy was a winner for free enterprise in a dispute with the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. A proposed major renovation of a building into an upscale restaurant was denied a building permit to accommodate 130 diners. The site on India Street has several dozen restaurants in both directions that have no such restrictions, but the airport authority determined that only 79 diners would be allowed in this specific spot as a safety precaution in the event of an aircraft coming down on Little Italy.
Apparently the bureaucrats’ case disregarded that there were hundreds if not thousands of other diners that would be “at risk” in the adjacent area. The city Council voted 8 to 1 to override the airport authority and issue the building permit.
Chalk up one for the people.
Briefly, there was one other victory for the people against a government agency settled on March 1 when the citizens of Carlsbad voted a resounding no for the development of (yet another) shopping center on the Strawberry Fields adjacent to Aqua Hedionda Lagoon. The big-time Los Angeles developer spent $10 million promoting the referendum that in effect skirted around many of the environmental issues for that site, particularly not addressing the potential impact of traffic. The Carlsbad City Council had voted to support the project because it would increase revenues for the city.
Fresh-picked strawberries are better than more traffic congestion,
Citations of government agency interference would be endless if extended beyond the state of California. With so many environmental activist groups attending public hearings and voting on local initiatives, perhaps more of these transgressions by government agencies can be overcome.