Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bikeshare Programs, Ctd.

In reponse to this post, a commentator writes:

Your account of what 'history' tells us about bikesharing is too selective to offer any true insight. Your omission of any mention of success stories like Montreal and Minneapolis, and your eagerness to file Paris under 'duds' is also rather questionable. I understand the this is a property theory post, but by focussing on only one aspect (vandalism) you ignore the numerous positive effects bike share schemes have on a city. Surely the success or failure of a scheme should be measured against all of these things.

This is a fair response that deserves some attention.  The first claim is that my post ignored a number of successful bikeshare programs.  The commentator cites Montreal's Bixi bikeshare program as an example.  I'm not so sure Montreal helps the pro-Bikeshare argument.  Bixi is currently over $30 million in debt.  Last year, expenses outpaced revenues by almost $7 million.  Yet, as the commentator rightfully notes the program may generate many wonderful externalities that justify this use of taxpayer dollars.  The Bixi program, for example, may reduce automobile trips and increase the health of city residents.  This, too, flounders when confronted with the facts.  Researchers at McGill report that 86% of Bixi trips replaced walking, or rides on personal bikes or public transit.  Only 10% of rides replaced car trips.  Thus, the environmental and health benefits seem pretty week.  

My point here is not that Bikeshare programs are evil.  Some of my best friends ride bikes.  It just seems that in a world of (very) limited resources, Bikeshare programs are a poor way to spend government dollars.   

Steve Clowney

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September 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Property Casebooks: and Pricing Issues

Thanks to the Property Prof gurus (including my marvelous colleague Al Brophy) for inviting me to post here.  From Al's post, you may know that I hope to address teaching and learning issues, based in part on my experience working on the "Carnegie Report" on Legal Education ("Educating Lawyers").

To begin, however, I'd like to raise a different issue:  Do those of us who teach property law weigh the cost of casebooks and supplements in making decisions about required texts?

I've served in recent years at chair of the UNC Chapel Hill faculty senate, and as the chair of the UNC Faculty Assembly (representing faculty at all 17 UNC system campuses).  A crucial issue that has been raised in both settings concerns the costs of student textbooks and what faculty members can do to try to keep educational costs down for our students in these challenging financial times.

I've long been a user of the Dukeminier & Krier property casebook (since entering law teaching in 1981... in part because I'm a UCLA Law graduate and knew both of the original authors).  More recently I changed to the casebook by Freyermuth, Organ, Noble-Allgire and Winokur (Property and Lawyering, 2d, 2006) because I wanted to see how its "lawyering exercises" might be used to engage students and teach more than doctrine.

In spring 2009 I adopted a new casebook by John Sprankling and Raymond Coletta of McGeorge--

Property: A Contemporary Approach (Interactive Casebook Series, West) (first edition, 2009).  Last year, my students loved it, and I did too (it was well edited, provided importance choices since it included a chapter on intellectual property as well as one on environmental law), had a very strong teachers' manual, an on-line version that made it easy to prepare while traveling, and was authored by two thoughtful professors who had also authored important and thoughtful supplemental teaching resources (on global issues in property law and study aids).    My students last year rated this casebook much, much  more favorably than others I have used.  I enjoyed teaching from it and thought all was well.  I adopted it again for this fall semester (when I'm teaching a large section of nearly 90 students)... All was well....

Until... (drum roll please), I was preparing my fall semester syllabus and tried to find out more about West's pricing policies particularly as they applied to students with used books.

The saga will continue in my next post....

In the meantime (it's a quiz!)

1.  Do you consider the cost of textbooks and supplements in making decisions regarding required instructional materials?  Why or why not?

2.  Do you know what the materials you require cost?

3.  Have you heard of the federal textbook legislation that supposedly requires publishers to advise faculty members about costs?

Your comments and insights are most welcome.


--Judith Wegner (UNC School of Law)

September 24, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

When The Star of David Doesn't "Comply" with a Historic District

A Hasidic groups alleges discrimination over its plans to renovate a historic building in Litchfield, Connecticut:

This summer, a federal judge ruled that sufficient evidence of "discrimination against Jewish people" may exist, warranting a trial over the Borough of Litchfield's denial of a Hasidic group's application to build a synagogue on the west end of Litchfield Green. The ruling virtually guarantees a trial this fall on a controversy that has deeply divided the town.

Steve Clowney

September 24, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wegner Visiting With Us

I'm delighted to announce that my beloved colleague Judith Wegner will be sitting with us for a spell.  Judith was dean here at UNC for a decade and more recently was principal investigator on the Carnegie Foundation's major study on legal education, part of its "Program on Preparation for the Professions."  Judith was also president of the AALS in 1995.  Before entering teaching, Judith worked in the Office of Legal Counsel and in the appellate staff at Land and Natural Resources.  You can find a couple of Judith's most recent articles here.

I expect that Judith will be talking about her work with the Carnegie Report, as well as pedagogy, and a lot of other things, too.

Al Brophy

September 23, 2010 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Korngold on Globalizing Conservation Easements

Gerald Korngold (New York Law School) has posted Globalizing Conservation Easements: Private Law Approaches for International Environmental Protection on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

For the past thirty years nonprofit organizations have revolutionized open space and habitat conservation in the United States through the use of conservation easements. Pursuant to legislation, nonprofits may now acquire and hold perpetual restrictions that prevent alteration of the subject land’s natural and ecological features. These rights can be held “in gross,” with the result that the nonprofit need not own land near the restricted property and can be based in a distant location.

Based on this success, proponents in more recent years have advocated the export of “conservation easements” from the United States to other countries. A vehicle like a conservation easement and having some or perhaps all of its attributes could be employed in other countries to achieve various local and national conservation goals. My thesis, however, is that while conservation easements could be a useful tool for preservation of land outside of the U.S., they may not be the most effective or suitable framework to advance conservation in all countries. Rather than pushing for adoption of an American style “conservation easement” elsewhere, other countries and American (and global) advocates of conservation devices should engage in a process to determine a given country’s appropriate conservation toolbox. That process should be free of American legal and conservation jargon and without a predisposition for U.S. legal structures, values, and policy choices. Each country must determine on its own whether private conservation restrictions meet its economic, social, and political realities and aspirations (many of which are quite different than the American experience reflected in American conservation easements) and what attributes the device should have on key issues such as duration, in gross enforcement, role of government, etc. These national and local goals can then be given life by finding an appropriate legal structure, ideally consistent with the country’s own jurisprudence and system.

This article will provide a framework of the major policy and legal issues that could, and in my view should, inform a country’s decision to adopt private conservation restrictions. These include considerations of cost, efficiency, preference for private vs. governmental actors, the benefits and costs of perpetual limits on land, public regulation of land as an alternative, the specter of neocolonialism in environmental controls, the nature and capacity of the country’s nonprofit sector, and the local legal system. Finally, the learning about conservation restrictions should be a two-way street, not just the export of American methods: the views of some other countries about governmental involvement in private conservation may teach valuable lessons to American jurisdictions about the need for an increased role of government and the public in certain aspects of the selection, modification, and termination of a some conservation easements.

Ben Barros

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September 23, 2010 in Land Use, Recent Scholarship, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Future of Property


Here's an amazing slideshow of Chongqing, the largest city that you've never heard of.  And here's an excerpt of a Foreign Policy article on the changes in China' western region:

These are good times indeed for Chongqing, home to 32 million people and growing so quickly its maps are already out of date by the time they are printed. ... In Chongqing's northern New District today, it is possible to drive for more than half an hour past high-rises of 30 to 50 stories, block upon block, where five years ago there were only fields. In 1998, Chongqing had a GDP of just $21 billion; by 2009 it had quadrupled to $86 billion. Last year, Chongqing's GDP grew at an eye-popping 14.9 percent, nearly twice the impressive growth rate of China as a whole. How did this happen?

Steve Clowney

(photo used under creative commons license)

September 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Squatter in the Empire State Building

There is a short article in yesterday's New York Times that provides an interesting landlord/tenant issue for students to unravel.

Landlord leased an office suite in the Empire State Building to a mortgage broker.  Mortgage broker (apparently contrary to the terms of the lease) sub-leased a portion of the space to a law firm.  Law firm, through no written agreement, arranged for a solo practitioner to use "an alcove."  The attorney had keys to the suite and a building-issued security ID.

Mortgage broker defaulted on the lease and landlord pursued eviction proceedings.  Everyone but the solo practitioner left.  It apparently took the landlord seven months to officially notice that the solo practitioner was still there.

So question #1 would be to try to characterize the legal status of the solo practitioner both before and after the eviction of the mortgage broker. 

But the other interesting aspect of the article is that the lawyer didn't think he did anything wrong. 

Mr. Perlman said he did not consider himself a squatter or law-breaker. Yet he had no sympathy for the building’s management, which he complained had been trying to push out small tenants to make way for larger tenants. The mortgage broker was one of several small tenants that sued the Empire State Building over their electricity bills. “I didn’t think of it as a scam,” Mr. Perlman said. “If I’m guilty of anything, I’m guilty of procrastinating.”

Perhaps I represented landlords for too long, but I find it striking that an attorney can think that he can take something of value (possession of space in the Empire State Building) for seven months without paying the owner a dime and then think that he has done nothing wrong. 


Tanya Marsh

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September 22, 2010 in Landlord-Tenant | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Property Rights and Neighbors

For better or worse, I tend to be confrontation-averse.  But five minutes ago, I had a brief, unpleasant interaction with a neighbor over a little property rights issue -- and what's worse, an issue I wouldn't care about, except that it's a property rights issue! 

Readers, he parked on my lawn.  Not the whole vehicle, mind you -- just 2 wheels of his SUV, which he had parked in the street in front of my house.  But the wheels were completely off the street and on my front lawn.

Now, I have to confess -- my lawn sucks.  Compared to my neighbors, it is evident that I don't care much about my lawn.  I mow it every week, but here in suburban Minnesota, that's tantamount to saying I feed my kids occasionally.  I have another neighbor  who -- I kid you not -- measures his grass, that would make a derby horse weep at its blueness, with a ruler to make sure it's even across his yard.  Me?  Crab grass, dandelions, thistles, it's all the same to me as long as its mowed eventually and not an eyesore.

So perhaps in the ethos of suburban Minnesota, I had unwittingly communicated a message to my neighbors (after all, as Carol Rose tells us, property is a type of language) that I didn't care what happened to my lawn.  And frankly, that's mostly true, except that, dammit, it's my lawn to care or not care about!

I don't know where this primal feeling comes from that wells up in me when I see my property rights disrespected, even inadvertently, but it's there: this cold anger that makes me put at risk social relations that are potentially far more valuable than two wheel-sized patches of dead grass. 

Even though I know it's absurd, I wanted his damn SUV off of my lawn.  So, what to do?

The way I saw it, I had four options:

(1) Ignore it and stew; or

(2) leave a note on the windshield; or

(3) walk around the SUV several times, hands on hips, shaking my head, hoping the neighbor would notice my unhappiness and come move the SUV; or

(4) go knock on the neighbor's door and tell him I didn't want him parked on my lawn.

As usual, I picked the most ridiculous option: #3.  I probably looked like a peacock in a mating ritual.  But, as I was going back into my house, my neighbor emerged from his to move the SUV. 

Now, I felt like I couldn't not say anything without looking like a total wimp.

So, I said, "Hey, you know, it's parked on the lawn."

He said, "Yeah, I didn't notice it when I pulled in."

But, you see, that's impossible.  I mean, the vehicle was tipped up at angle (slight, but impossible not to notice!  I think . . . . .), so if he really didn't notice, it was because he couldn't care less about my property rights.  And, if he did notice, but did it anyway, it was also because he couldn't care less about my property rights.  Therefore, I zapped him with this witty rejoinder:

"OK, thanks."

He moved the SUV deep into his own driveway -- passive agressively deep? -- and went back into his house, unsmiling, as did I.  No doubt he's furiously typing away on his own blog right now -- PeopleWhoParkonOtherPeople' -- about what a jerk I am, and how if there's ever a fire or a tornado, he's not going to pull my family out of the wreckage, because I've violated the bonds of good neighborliness in favor of the assertion of my property rights.  I can't say Robert Ellickson didn't warn me!

This episode begs two questions, at least:

(1) where does this primal urge to assert our property rights come from, even if we don't much care about the property itself?  and

(2) what kind of rotten luck does it take to have a property professor move in next door?

Mark A. Edwards

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September 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Destoying Black Property = Commemorating Civil Rights

Slate highlights a property-rights story coming out of Montgomery, Alabama:

Over the last decade or so, dozens—perhaps hundreds—of homes in Montgomery have been declared blighted and razed . . . The owners tend to be disproportionately poor and black, and with little means to fight back. And here's the kicker: Many of the homes fall along a federally funded civil rights trail in the neighborhood where Rosa Parks lived. Activists say the weird pattern may not be coincidence.  . . .

The city of Montgomery is destroying the homes of low-income, African-American residents along a trail commissioned to celebrate the civil rights movement.

Steve Clowney

September 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)