John C. Goodman

That's 60,000 automobiles spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every morning and every evening of every congested business day, thanks to Boulder's land use planning.

While Boulder forces its middle class workforce to live in neighboring communities, it is surprisingly generous to the poor. A multimillion dollar homeless shelter is so luxurious, it actually attracts vagabonds from other Colorado cities. As one local writer explains:

Boulder Shelter for the Homeless is a multimillion dollar facility of recent construction. It has a spacious day room, a TV room, washing machines ($1 per load) and dryers (free) available, showers, a few dozen small storage lockers, and a large kitchen/dining room…It has a 160 person occupancy limit, and the nightly "overflow" is accommodated by a network of local churches and a synagogue managed by Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow.

There is also an active program to provide subsidized housing to low-income families. One development on prime real estate with a mountain view is estimated to have a market value of $500,000 per unit. In other words, low-income families are living in housing units that are worth considerably more than the average home in Boulder! Unfortunately, poor families cannot sell their homes to the highest bidders, however. Were they able to, they would immediately become non-poor and the property would go to its highest valued use.

Maximizing the value of property, however, is not the goal of the citizens of Boulder. If you have a house built, say, before 1950, there's a good chance the Landmark's Board will designate it a historic preservation site and not allow you to modify it. For new houses and renovations, the city virtually dictates how big the house can be. It also tells you what kind of fireplace you can have and what you can or can't burn in it. If you want to tear down an existing structure, you can't just bulldoze it. You have to disassemble it and recycle all the pieces.

When the owners of a trailer park decided to use the property to build condominiums instead, the trailer owners appealed to the city leaders, who rezoned the property so that it could only be used as a trailer park.

Then, of course, there is the nanny state desire to tell everyone what to do with their personal lives. Smoking in Boulder is banned in almost all indoor facilities and also outside on the sidewalk.

What's my own view on all this? If Ted Turner buys a ranch at the foot of the Tetons and he buys up so much property that no one else lives within miles of him, more power to him. But if he buys a small ranch and then tries to get the government to keep everyone else out, that is the crass and illegitimate pursuit of self-interest.

If he does the latter, he should feel guilty. Very guilty.


John C. Goodman

John C. Goodman is Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute and author of the widely acclaimed book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and National Journal, among other media, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts."