Government Planning and Collectivism

When the city started the planning process, its website described the goal of the plan:

The Plan will consolidate and coordinate a vision and strategies to address neighborhood enhancement and development over the coming years….

Once complete, the General Plan will provide for a collective Vision Statement that represents the community’s view of its future. It will clearly articulate goals, priorities, and policies upon which to make decisions.

From the beginning, the city made it clear that the General Plan would be a collective plan. And that is precisely what was adopted in 2015—a collective plan.

A collective plan is founded on the premise that individuals must subordinate their individual plans to that of the collective. If your vision, values, and goals conflict with those of the collective, you will be required to cast them aside in deference to the community. And this is precisely what happens in practice.

With this context in mind, let us consider just a few of the ordinances passed during the past three decades.

The City passed a landscaping ordinance that dictates the types of trees and shrubs that must be planted. Community values were used to dictate what types of landscaping property owners would be legally allowed to install. The preservation ordinance and later amendments imposed restrictions on the owners of historical properties, forcing property owners to abide by the community’s values in regard to certain buildings. For decades, City Council has been at war with the sign industry, imposing numerous restrictions on billboards, “attention getting devices,” and other outdoor promotions. Again, the community’s dislike of “visual pollution” led to prohibitions and mandates on individuals.

In each of the above examples (and many others), the community’s vision, values, and goals superseded the individuals involved. In each of the above examples, the individual was forced to submit to the vision, values, and goals of the collective. And that is what planning will do to every Houstonian, including you.

No matter your personal vision, values, and goals, you will be required to act in accordance with the General Plan. If your vision, values, and goals conflict with the collective plan, you will be denied permission to act as you judge best for your life.

This may seem like hyperbole, but that is the very nature of government planning.

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