Sunday, August 30, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-Five.

25. Do an "Oklahoma Land Rush" in the cities.

Local governments are always complaining about the loss of property tax bases and the difficulty of controlling the cities, with crime and suburban flight and the rest. Meanwhile, environmental groups decry the loss of land to suburbs and farmers are under constant pressure to sell land to developers. We build roads and drive cars along them and have strip malls and all the rest of the sprawl.

I'm not saying that everyone should live in a city, mind you. I don't want to live in a downtown, because I've got young kids who want to play outside and it's hard to do that when outside is a busy street. What I'm saying, instead, is that we can encourage people to live, and build, and shop, in the cities, by giving away the land for a limited time.

Here's how it works: Cities designate as "Claimable" properties and areas that need reconstruction or improvement, beginning with any building or property where there are 10% above average police calls for any kind of trouble, and any land that has been vacant for more than 5 years. Upon designating the property as "claimable," the current owners will have one year to clean up the property, either by turning it into something useful or reducing the crime rate or otherwise dealing with the problems noted. If they do so, then they keep it.

If they don't do so, the city can use its power of eminent domain to take the land and then give it away free to people who apply for the land. Applications would require a plan on how to improve or develop or use the land, with the planning commission (0r equivalent) selecting the winners. That person would then own the land provided that he or she develops it as planned and owns it for a minimum of 10 years. During that 10 years, no taxes would be charged on the land (unless the owner were to fail or transfer the property, in which case he or she becomes liable for all back taxes that would have been owed.) After 10 years, the property would be taxed as any other property.

The benefit to surrounding properties will help keep tax revenues up-- properties adjoining the newly-improved property will be more valuable, and how much are cities collecting from vacant land or slums, anyway?

The land-grabs could be used for housing, or retail, or office space, or, heck, amusement parks, for all I care, just so long as they're good for something other than crime and disuse. That way, people who want to be in the cities could develop properties, and make downtowns more attractive to everyone.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

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