Friday, November 24, 2006
How is American land use law adapting to our increasingly diverse and economically stratified populace? From the recent election results, some would have us believe that Americans have rejected a bias against immigration. But the "on the ground" details of land use decisions tell a nother story. Here's a vignette from Montgomery County, Maryland, a Democratic-dominated and affluent suburb of Washington. Like countless jurisdictions across the nation, the city of Gaithersburg (motto: "Character Counts!") has been looking for a location for an organized center for day laborers (who are most often Latino in Montgomery County) to congregate and get jobs. But nearly every proposed location generated some local opposition. Instead of merely imposing this locally unwanted land use on any of a number of potentially appropriate sites, the city has announced that it has given up. (Here's an editorial of the Washington Post.) The failure of the local government and the supposedly progressive populace to allow such a simple and important land use shows, yet again, that much of America still prefers social segregation.