Friday, July 28, 2006

Joshua Hurwitz, candidate for board of control

The London Free Press reports on a new candidate for board of control in the upcoming municipal election, Joshua Hurwitz, whom the newspaper describes as:

A graduate of Central secondary school who is studying psychology and geology at the University of Western Ontario, Hurwitz has researched how cities grow and thinks London council has something to learn.

Rather than allowing developers to control when and where they build, council should promote growth that pays for itself and oppose growth that does not, he said. "Sprawl simply doesn't pay for itself."
Having made Mr. Hurwitz's acquaintance, I was disappointed to see a genuflection toward the false progressive idol of "anti-sprawl" that I had never noted before in our conversations. As a political strategy it appears to have a populist cachet, especially if one were to use the Free Press or social science truisms as one's sources. But the strategy is more calculated to appeal to the special interests of semi-professional political lobby groups like the Urban League of London who can provide the electoral resources and ready access to a sympathetically obliging press that provide a young first-time candidate with the publicity he so badly needs.

As political masters, though, the efforts of groups like these are rewarded much more by a disproportionate editorial slant than by actual electoral and policy success, although they have some disproportionate claim to the latter as well. Composed of and representing predominantly established property owners, they are essentially cliques that use the platitudes of progressive education as political means to further the enhancement of the privileges and values of their own property — which must come at the expense of those not similarly established. Legislated anti-sprawl mechanisms in the form of restraints upon real estate development are back-door redistributions of wealth without the use of taxation to existing property owners by artifically elevating their properties' values and penalizing newcomers into the market. Their efforts are assisted by a coalition of socialists and progressives inherently sympathetic to the regulation and control of private property to one degree or another, to which the property owners return the compliment by employing vaguely anti-capitalist rhetoric. It's all cozy and mutually satisfying, but the overall electoral appeal is gratefully overestimated.

Mr. Hurwitz is quite correct to suggest that growth should "pay for itself" — by which he presumably means to abolish the raft of funds by which taxpayers assume much of the capital risk of developers and the subsidization of road and sewer construction to new developments. But the suggestion that developers assume the costs of growth would be an implicit acknowledgement on the part of the city that the real estate in question is, in fact, private property and would demand a reciprocal backing off by the city of the "control" Mr. Hurwitz seems to endorse, control it exerts in the form of artificial restraints like zoning laws and tedious application processes. By removing artificial incentives to growth, the city is spared the costs of growth that does not "pay for itself." Any desire to control development for the sake of control is simply pandering to the "have your cake and eat it too" political special interests.

It is quite possible, however, that the Free Press fabricated the context in which the one quote attributed to him appears — a quote which only by itself is incontestable (rather like the reporter invented geology as a subject of his study — he actually studies geography). It is a faint hope, considering this:
His other focus is on protecting the environment, from lobbying to keep Toronto trash out of the region to spending more to help people leave their cars in the driveway and walk, cycle or take the bus.
I'm sure Mr. Hurwitz knows better than I how much the city is already spending on "helping" people to adopt other modes of transportation, whether they want the help or not, an amount exceeded only by its ineffectualness. But it's the same sort of pandering to vague and inscrutable environmentalist "I know it when I see it" fear-mongering that is all one gets when one asks his anti-sprawl colleagues why urban growth now deserves the epithet "sprawl" and when that became so. Under any objective definition or by any demonstrable measure, the product of any and all urban development throughout history is ipso facto sprawl, including their own homes. The environmentalism works as a tool in their favour to elicit a reflexive acquiescent response from the public, but again gratefully much less in proportion to its publicity.

As a friendly acquaintance, I'm doing my best but it appears that only his methods elevate Mr. Hurwitz above these people:
London police are probing if vandalism at four city construction sites that caused more than $100,000 in damage is the work of a shadowy eco-terrorist group.

Since the weekend, investigators have found gravel left in gas tanks and oil systems, cut electrical or hydraulic lines and a message — Stop Destroying our Earth — written in grease on the windshield of an excavator, London Det. Const. Bart Dowler said.

[…] Similar incidents of vandalism occurred recently in Guelph where a group called Earth Liberation Front (ELF) has claimed responsibility, Dowler said.

The group's mission is to prevent urban sprawl.


David MacLean said...

Nice work on this. I had no idea this vandalism was happening.

Gordon Pasha said...

Geology and psychology? Oh, my.

Betty said...

The "A" News for the time being...has stated it is now up to $250.000.00 in damage to equipment at sites.Its all due to "Urban sprawl" someone said! Whats next...scary eh!

MapMaster said...

Geology and psychology? Oh, my.

Actually, it's geography and philosophy as it turns out. Great work, Free Press reporter!

Pietr said...

Sounds like another great victory for anti-sprawl.

Jocol said...


Josh has all the right ideas for making London an even better place to live!

Lisa said...

Is that so Jocol? Would you care to provide some evidence for that extravagant claim?