Another way to kill business

It’s hard to believe that a city in another state has found a way to harm small business more than what’s going on in Oregon, but it just may be true. Watch this one minute video, but PLEASE don’t show it to any state or local lawmakers. They just might want to jump on the anti-small-business bandwagon even more than they’ve jumped on it so far.

Produced by the Institute for Justice.


Steve Buckstein is founder and senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.

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Posted by at 12:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 54 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Matt Evans

    Boarded up storefronts are apparently thought to be more attractive than signage in Dallas.

  • valley p

    Ironic that this is in Texas, land of the free. Beyond that, banning garish storefronts could actually boost business by having better appearing streets that pull in higher end customers. I mean, compare 82nd avenue in Portland with SE Hawthorne street. On a square footage basis, which one does better commercially? Aesthetics = $$.

    • Steve Buckstein

      I assume Dallas lawmakers used just such arguments to impose their will on local businesses. You, and they, may even be right that fewer signs would boost business, but that’s not the point.

      The point is that if freedom and property rights mean anything, they mean that it’s the owners’ decision – not the government’s. Give advice – fine. Dictate – no thanks.

      • valley p

        In my experience it is usually surrounding business owners who come to a local government and ask to have signs regulated. An example is Government Camp, and unincorporated area that organized themselves, went to the County, and eventually agreed to a set of design standards (which some objected to). Since then the place, which was once run down and tawdry has thrived commercially. Think about the number of subdivisions that have rules on exterior building materials, parking on front lawns, and so forth. Why do people do this? To protect property values.

        Yes, its a tradeoff of a person being able to do whatever they want with their own property versus what may be better for the whole community. All of society and civilization is about such tradeoffs,
        and in America we manage to settle these issues through democratic means within constitutional limits. If the pendulum swings too far one way then it usually manages to get swung back the other peacefully.

        • Steve Plunk

          In my experience it has been city staffers who come up with these ideas. They have the time and incentives to do such work.

        • Steve Buckstein

          Restrictive covenants in subdivisions are not the same thing as a local government imposing restrictions such as the Dallas sign ordinance. Usually, those who buy into the subdivision agree at the outset to whatever restrictions are imposed on the use of their property. They don’t have to purchase if they disagree with the rules.

          Surrounding businesses seeking to impose restrictions on their neighbors is another animal. Again, the result may be “good for business” but that result does not justify the violation of the neighbor’s property rights. Absent significant health or safety concerns, such restrictions are simply not appropriate in a free society.

          • eagle eye

            I don’t see much difference between the subdivision and the local government, having quite a lot of experience of both. You move into a city (subdivision), you agree to live by the rules the city (subdivision) makes.

          • valley p

            Rules are rules. I don’t see much difference between subdivision covenants and city sign ordinances. Whether people agree at the outset or whether rules are changed later through a democratic process, what is the difference? Life is not static. New situations emerge calling for new rules.

            The surrounding businesses impose restrictions on themselves as well as their neighbors. Its not a violation of property rights to alter those rights within the law. The Supreme Court has ruled on this many times. Reasonable restrictions are constitutional and legal.

          • Steve Buckstein

            I have experience with both also. One significant difference is that in a subdivision, it’s the property owners who set the rules and can change them.

            In a city, it’s the city council and/or voters. Property owners may be a minority of both groups.

          • eagle eye

            I guess the point of the video is that store owners have a right to make their stores look as sleazy as they want, no matter what it does to the neighborhood. Well, I don’t have much sympathy for them.

            To think that I used to support the Institute of Justice, which apparently is behind this campaign. They kind of messed up an affirmative action campaign, and my interest in supporting them waned, though I waver. Thanks for pointing this out. I won’t hesitate any longer to just throw their solicitations in the trash.

  • Jerry

    These morons are so stupid I wonder how they can find their way to “work”.
    What a bunch of losers.

  • eagle eye

    Now the Texas paragon is tainted! Pretty soon all that will be left is a few tropical islands.

    • Steve Plunk

      An occasional outlier will occur. Texas is still miles and miles ahead of Oregon when it comes to respecting business and it’s contributions to society.

      • eagle eye

        I’ll take Oregon over Texas any time. Or Oklahoma or Kansas.

        • Steve Plunk

          I’ll take Oregon as well, born and raised here. That doesn’t change my disgust for the business climate and the attitude of our bureaucrats.

          • eagle eye

            Be as disgusted as you want. I’m disgusted with a lot too — starting with our dullard small-business class, notably the ones who skirt the laws they hate, but the others, too. But I have reasons to stay. Maybe you do too.

  • oregonwolf

    no biggie! just paint a big swastika in your store window and announce white supremacist meetings. then your protected by freedom of speech. If you dont like that one then have black panther meetings.

  • Richard

    sigh, and I thougt about moving to Dallas, perhaps my tem is better spaent developing aFTL drive.

  • Bob Tiernan

    *valley person:*

    Why do people do this? To protect property values.

    *Bob T:*

    Isn’t that “greedy” of them to do this, vp? I mean, there are a lot of things property owners can do to keep their property values on the upswing, but that doesn’t mean they are right. And I doubt that Government Camp has become what it is because of rules on signs.

    You should see how colorful some pubs and storefronts are in Ireland’s small towns (as well as in cities). They really stand out, and they look great.

    Bob Tiernan
    Portland

    • valley p

      Govie camp took years to transform from tawdry to attractive. The effort was boosted by an urban renewal district (dreaded socialism) that reinvested increased tax revenues in local infrastructure. The sign and architectural standards were only a part of the picture. But they clearly have helped. A lot of new private investment is evident.

      Haven’t been to Ireland, but have been to Scotland and England and they also have charming storefronts. I’m not sure in each case whether the look we admire is a result of a long standing tradition of restraint or whether it is rule based, but I do know Britain has very restrictive rules on signage and rural development in general. They guard their traditions very carefully.

      Is it greedy to protect property values? It depends. One man’s prudence might be interpreted as another man’s greed.

    • eagle eye

      I don’t know about the laws in Ireland, but I have seen their pubs and storefronts, from without and within, and I can tell you they don’t remotely resemble the sleazy look in this video.

      • valley p

        Also, if the right wants to defend sleaziness in the name of free speech doesn’t that make them the ACLU? Has the circle been completed?

        • eagle eye

          There’s a culturally and socially conservative right — of which I consider myself an adherent — that has different leanings and priorities than the party-line libertarians of the left and right.

          • valley p

            While we are at it let’s not leave out the military interventionist right. Isn’t that the 3 legged conservative stool? Economic freedom (tax cuts, business deregulation, no sign ordinances) social constraint (no abortion, no gay rights, no death with dignity, no drugs,) and power projection abroad (shoot first, torture prisoners). Wasn’t that the essence of Reagan and Bushism?

            The right to be well armed fits in there somewhere as well. As does a general disdain for our environment (If you’ve seen one redwood you’ve seen them all)”.

            If conservatives don’t embrace the whole package aren’t they RINOs?

        • Steve Buckstein

          This is not a right-left issue, it’s an up-down issue, where up is toward freedom in all aspects of our lives, and down is…well, down is where we seem to be heading. To the extent that the ACLU defends individual liberty, I’ll be with them.

    • valley p

      Steve B writes: “up is toward freedom in all aspects of our lives, and down is…well, down is where we seem to be heading.”

      Down is not where we are headed, it is where we just went from 2000-2008. We were granted more economic “freedom” and we got Enron, Bernie Madoff, AIG, and a systemic financial collapse only stopped by massive government intervention. Freedom has proven to be not very helpful as an absolutist concept, where more is always better. As a relative concept (free within society’s bounds) its very helpful. Freedom to make your storefront ugly even if it harms your neighbors? I would think that should be negotiable. Freedom to speak your mind regardless of how wanting it is? No problem.

      BT wrotes: “Problem here is that even “tawdry” asa label can be misused”

      We agree. It CAN be misused. Anything can be misused. In the case of Government Camp, I don’t think it was misused. I was very skeptical when urban renewal started there, but it appears to me I was wrong. I actually make a point of stopping there now when in the past I bypassed the place.

      Individuals could have done a better job with their properties but they didn’t. And they would not have invested in sidewalks, architectural lights, orientation signs, and other community amenities. Individuals were letting their properties run down,leading to a downward spiral in customers. It only turned around after the urban renewal initiative got people together, came up with a plan with standards, and created some initial success that could be built on.

      “Why do people think there’s always a need for something like “urban renewal”? ”

      I’m not sure “people” do always think that. It’s a tool that is appropriate in some places and not in others. Portland has a great track record of urban renewal. Not perfect, but mostly good results. But the Clackamas Town Center? I’m very skeptical about that one. Letting it deteriorate, then bulldozing and starting over might be the more prudent path.

      Gotta govern? OK….why not? You would prefer government sat around and let places deteriorate? Hello Detroit. Hello Cleveland. Hello Buffalo. No thanks. Please govern. But do so well and wisely.

      • Steve Buckstein

        “Please govern. But do so well and wisely.”

        Sounds a lot like “please treat us like children and be our wise parent.” That was not the form of government this country was founded on, and it should not be its form of government today. The city failures you site like Detroit and Cleveland were not due to “government sitting around” but more likely had to do with government doing too much of the wrong things.

        You might take a look at the Reason.tv series launching March 15 titled “Reason Saves Cleveland with Drew Carey” at https://reason.tv/video/show/1050.

        • valley p

          “Sounds a lot like “please treat us like children and be our wise parent.”

          My parents did their jobs for no pay, but I never expected them to care for the aged, fight wars, police streets, put out fires, caretake national parks, inspect bridges, fill potholes, teach kids, and all the other work done by government. So no, I don’t expect the government to treat me like a kid or be my parent. I expect government to do the job we pay it to do. Nothing more nor less.

          The failures I cite are largely due to de-industrialization resulting from free trade. Greater freedom is what helped kill those once prosperous cities.

  • Bob Tiernan

    *valley p:*

    Govie camp took years to transform from tawdry to attractive. The effort was boosted by an urban renewal district (dreaded socialism) that reinvested increased tax revenues in local infrastructure. The sign and architectural standards were only a part of the picture. But they clearly have helped. A lot of new private investment is evident.

    *Bob T:*

    Problem here is that even “tawdry” asa label can be misused (as many local governments have been misusing and abusing the term “blight”). Why do people think there’s always a need for something like “urban renewal”? That’s just busy-bodies and local government feeling the need “to govern”. “Gotta govern. Gotta govern. Gotta govern”. Nothing was stopping the majority of property owners from improving the look of the place as individuals. I’ve been stopping at Government Camp since 1985 and I never recall being put off by anything I saw there.

    What next – an urban renewal plan for Antelope?

    Bob Tiernan
    Portland

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