This page includes posts from
February 29-March 6, 2004 in the usual reverse
order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these
March 6, 2004
It’s not at all unusual for city officials to decide that prior administrations have failed to plan ahead properly for its citizens’ needs.
It’s far more unusual for those city officials to attempt to make the state pay for those mistakes.
With any luck, the state will decline the honor.
Rehoboth Beach is booming. Real estate in town has been appreciating at greater than 20% per year, and the pressure to find new places to build homes near the ocean is enormous.
Thanks to the realty transfer tax, the city’s doing quite well financially during this burst of sales activity. Property taxes remain low, and the valuations remain skewed (the city hasn’t done a reassessment since 1968).
In compliance with state law, Rehoboth is now updating its comprehensive plan. During that planning process, the city officially recognized what it’s known for years—except for the ocean beaches that form its eastern boundary and a small park on its western border, Rehoboth failed to preserve any significant open space.
One large open tract remains, a 25-acre piece on the south edge of town that is currently zoned residential. The City’s current plan is to downzone the acreage to a special new category. The downzoning would effectively prevent this land from being sold for housing.
The only problem is that this land is owned by the State and the School District. It’s where the two Rehoboth Elementary School buildings sit, and the property owners are not pleased.
The school’s been there for decades, and the current buildings are old. Thanks to all the upscale gentrification taking place, hardly any students live in the town anymore (The local phrase is that Rehoboth is now mostly “gay and gray”, and during the off-season it’s easy to see the truth of that statement).
The District’s long-range capital plan, on which I assisted as a citizen committee member, is to eventually replace these schools with new buildings. To accomplish that task, one option is to sell this property and use the profits to build the new elementary school on cheaper property that is also much closer to where the kids now live, west of the City. If the property is sold, 60% of the proceeds go to the State and 40% goes to the District.
The downzoning would effectively eliminate that option, and the District and the State have made their feelings known.
Some City officials recognize the problem, but still don’t seem to realize the potential downside risk to trying to downzone land that the State itself owns:
Rehoboth may actually need the property, but the City has also shown a decided reluctance to actually pay for the property. From a political perspective, some officials seem to forget that the State has ways to react to being downzoned that private property owners don’t have available to them.
In my own conversations with the mayor and city manager on this subject, I’ve suggested that they find ways to set aside funds to pay the state and the district for the difference in value created by downzoning.
The City has the money and/or the legal means to obtain it. A reassessment that includes a limited buy-out fund for this purpose is one potential solution, for example. The fund proceeds could be invested until needed for the buy-out, when the District is ready to build the new schools and move off the property.
The State Planning Office is also developing another solution. It would permit the adaptive reuse of the parcel for housing, while retaining much of the current open space on the property.
Some City officials seem to recognize that there’s a political hierarchy among governments, and that Rehoboth Beach is not really on the top of the pile. It would be a big help if the rest of the City government realized that fact.
March 5, 2004
Last night we went with several friends to watch Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.
I’m still a bit stunned, nine hours after the event, but here are some random thoughts about it.
It seemed perfectly fitting.
March 3, 2004
John Ellis took a look at the numbers and noticed that the voter turnout in yesterday’s Super Tuesday primaries was anything but super:
The low vote totals tracked the Delaware experience a month ago, during its first-ever presidential primary. I thought the historic nature of the voting opportunity and the (then) crowded field might bring out the voters, but that didn’t happen. Instead, a blistering total of 7% of all registered Delaware Democrats voted for Kerry, as noted in a prior post.
Not such a ringing endorsement, when you put it that way.
Considering how low the vote totals have been thus far, Democrat and Republican campaign staffers and the media folks who cover presidential politics for a living should try to remember one thing:
March 3, 2004
This is a column night, so in lieu of a longer post here are some recommended links.
Michael Totten and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on policy issues, but we both agree on what’s the most important issue in deciding whom to support in the upcoming Presidential election. This post expresses that agreement very well:
Glenn Reynolds posted a long piece, filled with interesting reader email updates, on Bush’s prospects for political support from those who agree with him on the War on Terror.
In addition, Reynolds linked to an essay Steven Den Beste wrote a while ago about the war, which Den Beste’s been tweaking. As with most of his writings, this post is long, well-organized, and compelling.
March 2, 2004
One fine afternoon in June 2002, Orlando Martinez drove his tractor trailer east on Interstate 44 in Phelps County, Missouri. As he approached the Sugar Tree Road exit on a remote stretch of that highway, Martinez noticed two signs facing the eastbound traffic, helpfully printed in English and Spanish:
Martinez quickly took the exit ramp. He rolled his rig through the stop sign, and turned left. He drove across the interstate on the overpass, and turned left again to use the on-ramp heading west.
Unfortunately for him, however, representatives of the county sheriff’s department observed Martinez during the entire maneuver. Two of them pulled the trucker over for the traffic violation.
When the officers interviewed Martinez, they noticed his hands shaking uncontrollably. The nervous driver quickly agreed to a search of his trailer. A drug-sniffing dog eventually alerted to a hefty pile of Bolivian marching powder—17 kilograms, in fact.
The arrest soon followed.
That’s when things became interesting.
On appeal, Martinez suggested to the Eighth Circuit that his situation was no different from a recent sting operation decision from the 8th Circuit that the very same Sugar Tree Road exit and the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department. In that case the court ruled that the sting operation violated the Fourth Amendment.
In the prior prosecution, however, the sheriff’s deputies were under orders to stop everyone who took the exit ramp. There was no particularized basis for searching every vehicle under those conditions, and that fact proved fatal to the prosecution.
Nonetheless, the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department showed it could learn from its prior mistakes. When they ran the sting that caught Martinez, the deputies were limited to going after the drivers who violated traffic laws.
That one change in procedure kept their case alive:
Since the traffic stop was perfectly legal, the subsequent interview and drug discovery was also legal.
Martinez now has 151 months to think about a basic legal principle--if you violate one law, you really can’t complain if they find out you were violating another one at the same time.
This kind of sting operation seems to be more and more popular, at least in the quieter segments of the Interstate Highway system in the Midwest. See this prior post, for example, concerning a similarly successful bit of fakery for a good cause in Muskogee County, Oklahoma.
March 1, 2004
In an AP story today, Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco reacted to the Social Security Administration’s new orders to its staff to refuse to use any San Francisco-issued marriage licenses to help establish identity for name-changing and other routine tasks.
The SSA's order is largely symbolic. As noted in the same piece, folks can use other identification for the same purposes, such as driver’s licenses. Nonetheless, SSA won’t use post-February 12 marriage certificates issued in “The City” until the courts determine the legal effect of the mayor’s outspoken refusal to follow California's marriage laws.
It’s possible that the new mayor is thuddingly clueless, but I doubt it.
I think it’s more likely that he’s fully capable of seeing in others what he already showed himself to be, and that he’s simply rising to the bait:
Did the mayor really think that there might not be any consequences flowing from his decision to ignore state law in favor of his own concept of right and wrong?
Did the mayor really think that the means by which an issue finds its way to the courthouse is irrelevant?
Did the mayor really think that the Bush Administration would do nothing about the ancillary Federal reaction to the mayor’s own bit of political showmanship?
March 1, 2004
Yesterday was Leap Day, and around here the weather decided to act more spring-like, rather than maintain its real, dead-of-winter character.
I took advantage of the warm, sunny day to play a round of golf, something I hadn't been able to do for a long while.
I made sure to keep my expectations about how I would play as low as possible.
I can now report that for most of the entire 18 holes, I met those expectations completely.
Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.
That fact may become obvious later on, but it needs to be said here anyway.
© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2004