Fear and governance, the MRPO

Published 11:20 am Friday, June 1, 2012

Any astute observer or participant in governance should begin to notice that much of the laws, regulations and rules (LAWS) written have been written using fear-based arguments and opinions.  And that seems to be truer today than ever.
That’s not to say there aren’t laws that are practical and pragmatic, but there is a tendency for some people to think the existing population of laws at federal, state and local levels don’t go far enough to suit their views. This seems especially true when we see an injustice, harm done or just an unwanted change.  The knee-jerk reaction is always — there ought to be a law against it; a perfectly normal human reaction.  Now we have not only the news media but the “internet” to spread around fear of the “wrong” at the speed of light.   Put this information in front of your local, state or federal politician and they immediately think they have an inalienable right to push through some quick laws that will “solve this societal problem once and for all.”
Now place this “fear factor” into the current movement by Polk County to put in place an updated “Unified Development Ordinance” that contains a “questionable, at best,”  mountainside and ridgeline protection ordinance  (MRPO).  So what is driving this effort and resistance to it?  Here are some quotes from the TDB:
“…one thing that stands out greatest in her mind is the protection of our mountains…”
“ These are highly restrictive provisions for property….”
“which was the first time she’d heard of a mountain and ridgeline protection ordinance after a 10-story building was constructed on Sugar Mountain.  This set off a public outcry.”
“Could you imagine coming out of Polk County High School with now fabulous views covered with metal buildings?….I think if I’d gone to high school here I would have never left this area.”
“said he spent hours with the Henderson County Fire Marshal, who said no one has been killed in a landslide….he was referring to a comment made…. during a prior UDO meeting about issues such as people being killed in landslides, such as in Henderson County…..”
I’d classify all these statements as expressing fear.  It can be for or it can be against, but they are all based on fear.  These fears are very real but they are not likely based on sound analysis or review.   From what I’ve seen of the proposed ordinance and the process by which it is being managed, I think fears of adopting the MRPO are more warranted than the fear of landslides or the fear of losing our scenic heritage.  There seems to be a lack of comprehensive review of the need for an MRPO.  This type of rule without detailed consideration of the local geology, environment, economics or culture lacks understanding and foresight.  I’m not talking about researching similar rules as a valid method for detailed consideration.  And I’m not talking about using cultural data or scientific and engineering analysis from somewhere else.

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