Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Legislation introduced by Senator George Allen (R-VA) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to create a federal "National Heritage Area" that encompasses portions of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania is likely to disproportionately harm minority families in the region by making homeownership more inaccessible, say members of the Project 21 black leadership network. The "Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act of 2006" is S. 2645 in the Senate and H.R. 5195 in the House.

"Rather than promote initiatives that harm property rights and make it harder for minorities to obtain a piece of the American Dream, Senator Allen should focus on protecting the property rights of all Americans," said Project 21 member and Virginia resident John Meredith. Meredith, who has experience working on environmental and land use issues, is also the son of James Meredith, the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962. "The last thing that wealthy, preservation interest groups need is a leg up from the federal government-especially when that leg up comes on the back of minorities and the lower middle class," said Meredith.

National Heritage Areas are land areas where preservationist interest groups and the federal government have teamed up to influence local land use decisions, frequently in ways that have restricted property rights. A March 2004 report from the General Accountability Office found that provisions of such areas "encourage local governments to implement land use policies that are consistent with the heritage area's plans, which may allow heritage areas to indirectly influence zoning and land use planning in ways that could restrict owners' use of their property."

Although the bill was introduced ostensibly for the purpose of historic preservation, and its advocates - apparently for public relations purposes - have marketed it as a pro-tourism measure, supporters have repeatedly claimed the bill is needed to combat suburban sprawl. New land-use restrictions affecting housing availability could be bad news for minorities in the "hallowed ground" region. A National Center for Public Policy Research-commissioned econometric study, "Smart Growth and Its Effects on Housing Markets: The New Segregation," found that anti-sprawl policies disproportionately and negatively affect minority homeownership:

Poor and minority families pay a disproportionate amount of the social and economic costs of growth restrictions. The weight of increased home prices falls most heavily on minorities, the disadvantaged and the young, fewer of whom already own homes. The "haves" who already own homes ride the price bubble created by restricted growth policies while the dream of ownership moves further away from the "have-nots." The 2002 study, which examined the social and economic impact of one model for sharply curtailing sprawl, found that growth restrictions would have prevented 260,000 minority homeowner families from homeownership had they been applied nationally over the preceding decade.

Housing restrictions can have strong, negative affects on the quality of life for families who cannot afford skyrocketing housing prices. The introduction to the "New Segregation" study tells the story of a 45-year-old waitress living in Fairfax County, Virginia, who, despite having over $2,000 a month to spend, lives in a seedy hotel with her four children and receives financial aid from the county because the average rent in the area at the time was over $1,100 per month. During the 1990s, due to Fairfax County's severe development restrictions, the county added 110,000 fewer housing units than it did new jobs.

"Serving the interests of preservationist elites at the expense of normal, everyday Americans is unacceptable," said Project 21 Senior Fellow Deneen Moore. "The public outcry over last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Kelo eminent domain case shows that Americans want stronger property rights protections - not new threats to private ownership." "I am at a loss to understand how this furthers the interests of anyone but the super-elite," said Project 21 national chairman Mychal Massie. "Suffice it to say that this land-use initiative is harmful and punitive to the very people elected officials promised to protect."


Even the Brits are abandoning public transport

Despite the efforts of their very "Green" government

Thousands of daily bus services will be scrapped and fares will rise by 20 per cent during the next decade in a continuing exodus from public transport to the car, a report has found. The Government is falling well short of its official target of increasing bus use in every region. Passenger numbers are declining in every large city apart from London, the only area where services remain under public control.

The report, commissioned by the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG), which represents local authorities in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle upon Tyne and Birmingham, found that bus companies were exploiting local monopolies to make excessive profits. Fares have increased by 86 per cent above inflation since 1986 and passengers have fallen by half in those cities. By contrast, the cost of motoring has remained stable and the total distance travelled by car in Britain since 1986 has increased by 50 per cent.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, said in 1997: "I will have failed if in five years' time there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car. It's a tall order but I urge you to hold me to it." Rail travel has increased by a quarter since Mr Prescott made his pledge but the decline in bus services means the proportion of journeys made by bus, tram or train has fallen from 15 per cent to 12 per cent.

The Government's official target is to increase bus and tram journeys by 12 per cent in England by 2012 and to deliver growth in each region. Last year bus and tram journeys rose by 1.9 per cent in London but fell by 1.2 per cent in the rest of England. The report found that bus services had declined by 41 per cent in Tyne and Wear, 31 per cent in South Yorkshire and 20 per cent in the West Midlands since 1995. Services in Manchester, West Yorkshire and on Merseyside fell by 10 per cent to 12 per cent.

The report concludes: "Projecting these numbers forward gives an estimate that over the ten years from 2004-05 to 2014-15, bus patronage will fall by 20 per cent, fares will rise by about 20 per cent and service levels will fall by about 20 per cent. "Bus services are not providing a high-quality alternative to the private car and so motorists do not have incentives to switch to the only public transport mode that may be available to them."

In London, where the average fare is the same in real terms as a decade ago, bus passenger numbers have risen by 50 per cent since 2000. The services are controlled by Ken Livingstone, the mayor, who sets fare levels and determines the frequency and quality of the service under tightly drawn contracts with bus companies.

In the rest of England, private operators control all aspects of the service and can withdraw from routes with 56 days' notice. PTEG wants its members to be given similar powers to the London mayor. It believes that this will allow cities to offer a better service by cross-subsidising lightly used routes with the profits made from the busiest ones. It claims that private operators are contributing to decline by cherry-picking the most profitable routes, leaving others with an infrequent service that results in increasing numbers of people switching to cars.

The Government has begun a review of the way buses are regulated outside London and is drawing up proposals that would allow local authorities and bus companies to co-operate more closely on service levels. But ministers have balked at the idea of giving authorities the power to set fares, routes and frequencies. The report found one company dominating bus services in each of the biggest six English regional cities. National Express runs 81 per cent of buses in Birmingham and makes an estimated 21 to 35 per cent return on investment. The other companies also make "excess profits" despite presiding over declining services, and often failing to fulfil commitments to invest in newer, more reliable vehicles.


Australia: Geography lessons morph into environmentalism

High school geography is being taught as a series of issues presented in a naive and unquestioning way, often by teachers with no relevant qualifications. Associate professor John Lidstone of the Queensland University of Technology said much of what was taught was "naive environmentalism". And amid calls for a government review, Professor Lidstone said high school students were often not presented with the fundamentals of geography, such as the formation of mountains or glaciers, or the science behind issues, such as the rainfall cycle in Australia when examining drought. "There's an unquestioned acceptance of issues like the greenhouse effect; they're not actually engaging in the debate," he said.

Dr Lidstone, secretary of the International Geographical Union's commission on geographical education for 10 years, said the biggest problem was the subject's integration into social studies courses. "Integrated social studies doesn't do history well, it doesn't do geography well, it doesn't do citizenship-type things well. It very quickly becomes a hodgepodge," he said. "The syllabus lacks coherence and tends to become issues-based. You're asking kids to solve problems that adults and politicians can't solve. "Lost is the awe and wonder of the natural environment, glaciers, how mountains are thrown up, volcanoes and natural disasters."

The Institute of Australian Geographers and the Australian Geography Teachers Association argue that the subject has been bruised by a crowded curriculum that squeezes it into social studies until Year 10 in most states and territories. The institute wrote to federal Education Minister Julie Bishop this month calling for a national review of the geography curriculum along the lines of the recent history summit. "Geography teachers have complained that the subject has been distorted and reduced in rigour by the need to relate it to general statements of educational outcomes, and that the geographical knowledge and skills of Australian students has been significantly diminished as a result," the letter says.

Dr Lidstone questioned whether students were being taught the basics of geography before they were expected to solve the earth's problems. Working with a group of high school students looking at coastal degradation, Dr Lidstone said none could confidently answer in which direction sand moved up the Australian coast. "They didn't know the process of longshore drift. If you don't know what causes it, how on earth do you talk about remedial action, which is what they're being asked to do," he said. "There's too much focus on the issues rather than developing the skills of analysis and how to get data and interrogate it. Often students can only work on the data they're given but learning how to evaluate the quality of the data is pretty difficult."

AGTA president Nick Hutchinson said the desired outcomes listed in curriculums were too vague and imprecise, failing to detail what students should be taught. "The outcomes really destroy content in a sense because they just become such wishy-washy motherhood statements," he said. In South Australia, students are not taught "geography" but a subject called "space, place and environment" while in Western Australia and Queensland, students study "place and space".

There is a national shortage of trained geography teachers, with history teachers shouldering the bulk of teaching in social studies. In the senior years of school when geography is offered as an option, it is forced to compete with environmental management, sustainable futures or recreational and environmental studies - all specialised aspects of geography. Mr Hutchinson said that in Victoria, students must "analyse, organise and synthesise geographical information" while the essential learning statements, since revised, in Tasmania wanted geography students to "create purposeful futures".

Professional geographers and teachers believe geography should be taught as a stand-alone subject in years 9 and 10, in line with the proposal for Australian history. In his letter to Ms Bishop, geographers institute president Jim Walmsley, from the University of New England, proposes more specific topics such as the effects of European settlement on the land of Australia and how it is managed



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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