NIMBY (and a short discussion of Ingredient Q)

Let me get this out of the way: I’m not a leader. There is an extra ingredient one has to have on top of being smart and observant and glib, let’s call it Ingredient Q, in order to be a leader. Ingredient Q involves being able to suffer idiots. I don’t possess that ingredient. I never will.

Watching television or listening to politicians or hobnobbing with union reps involves interacting (or at least observing) people who possess Ingredient Q. These people amaze me. How one can transform an idea for how things could be made better into an actual process that proceeds in the face of resistance from idiots is a talent that I have no patience for. I simply cannot suffer idiots for any length of time; it’s my own cross to bear.

So, because I don’t possess Ingredient Q, I can only (like all the Q-less people I know) create ideas, then fall back into the calming waters of cynicism as I watch the buffalo herd rumble off into Idiot Prairie. So I said all that. Now for the rant proper:

I’m getting pretty worked up about what I see happening in Long Beach. I never got this worked up about Vacaville. I didn’t have thirty years of history with the place; I didn’t have emotional buy-in. So what if a little farmland was cleared to make way for a spanking new subdivision? It wasn’t my home, really. I was just passing through.

But it was somebody‘s home. Somebody was emotionally invested in the place, I’m sure of it. Vacaville was their home, their backyard, and they had an interest in how their backyard transmogrified.

The term “NIMBY” is used dismissively, to pigeonhole people. “They don’t want a 7-11 constructed in their neighborhood?” NIMBY. The 7-11 must be built; these foolish people just don’t want it in their backyard, they want it in somebody else’s backyard. They’re selfish; they say “let somebody else take the fall” for Progress.

But on the contrary, NIMBY-ism is good and important, and is sometimes the only thing that stands between a neighborhood and the bulldozers. Because if people won’t speak out when something wrong is happening to their own backyard, when will they speak out? Who else will advocate for an area? Who will speak for the trees? The answer is “not a goddamn soul.”

NIMBY-ism should be cultivated, not dismissed. If everybody speaks up for their own backyard, developers will have to tear something crappy down before building something crappy up.

I don’t know the exact mechanisms that allowed northern California and Germany and England to keep Progress from fucking up the countryside, but I do know it wasn’t out of the goodness of developers’ hearts. I do know that. Rules were involved. It would be beneficial to examine law in those places to see how Progress shook out the way it did, but that sounds like a lot of work. Also, even if I found the specific mechanisms that worked in California or Germany, there’s certainly no guarantee that those mechanisms would function the same way here. Here is different; we have a different history and a different problem to fix, since we’ve waited (and are still waiting) so long to do something about it.

Change for the better, when a place is already somewhat degraded, is going to cost someone money. So the argument that it’s too costly isn’t useful. Of course it’ll be costly for some people. The trick is to corner those people who fucked us over by taking advantage of the rules, then make them pay for the change. I don’t care if these people complain. If elected, I’ll counter their arguments with a hearty “Go fuck yourself” before I introduce legislation designed purposely to screw them to the wall. If someone has to pay to fix things–and someone always has to pay–the people who broke the things to begin with should start emptying their pockets. So, in my opinion, which is apparently better than most of the mouth-breathers passing laws down here, here are some rules that would keep Long Beach from becoming Calcutta:

1. Greenbelts. Make it so outlying areas (but still in the city limits) can only be inherited or sold to the government. This will eventually kill off suburban creep.

Won’t happen, but it’s a nice fantasy. A 9 on the masturbation meter.

2. Tax the shit out of businesses that are located outside the central zone of the city. the point of this law would be to get rid of the Jr Food Stores, the Kwikee Marts, the Paul’s Pool & Spas; make them move closer to city center. People such as myself will be forced to order their commerce so that they get things done on calculated downtown trips, instead of popping down to the Jr Food Store for a quart of Old Milwaukee and Cheetos as the impulse strikes them. That bullshit has to stop.

Could happen.

3. The closer a business is to city center (or some similar mechanism), the fewer taxes it has to pay.

Could happen.

4. Demolition insurance. This is the biggie; this is the one that keeps more damage from happening the quickest. Any business that builds, must buy demolition insurance, so that if they go out of business–which they usually do–the box they built on the graves of possums and raccoons and wildebeests and trees must be demolished. Trees must be replanted, and wildebeests must be shipped in from elsewhere to replenish the populations that were killed and displaced. Will the insurance be expensive? You’re damn right, it’ll be expensive. The point is to NOT build the thing in the first place. But if someone is bound and determined to build a dive where it shouldn’t be built, they should insure us that the place will disappear when their business falls apart.

Should happen. A solid 10. I get excited just thinking about it.

5. Only people who’ve lived in a town 5 years or longer will be allowed to vote in local elections. That will keep the transients (such as myself in Vacaville) from being able to trash a place because they know their time there will be limited. This is huge, y’all; it keeps the carpetbaggers and various other assholes from having a voice.

Should happen.

Rules. They separate us from the jerks. And as I said earlier, there’s absolutely no way I’ll ever be in a position to institute rules, since I lack Ingredient Q. I can only rant, and hope that someone who does possess the key ingredient has had the same ideas, or sees these ideas and acts on them.

But I don’t have that hope. What will happen is that, eventually, I’ll move away from here to some place where those rules (or similar ones) have already been enacted. As a Q-less person, that’s really my only option for physical and mental health.

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