Saturday, April 21, 2012

Population Density

(For those of you unfamiliar with "Just Blowing Smoke", let me state for the record that while I attempt to cover serious issues during the week; the weekend is normally reserved for complete nonsense.  While even I concede that the difference is all but indistinguishable; you can still expect that sarcasm lock key has firmly been pressed today.)

The City of Los Angeles is making a renewed and conscious push to increase population density around the major arteries of its mass transit system by enforcing special new zoning laws. Since LA is the model of urban sprawl and the home to a particular breed of silly people; the more I considered this, the more it confused me.

Oh sure, with the cost of housing in southern California (or anywhere else in the state for that matter), you'd have to be pretty dense in the first place to want to sign on to a new mortgage in these troubled times.  (Come to think of it, wasn't it stupid people buying houses that created a good chunk of the problem in the first place?)  What I couldn't understand however, was what advantage to the city there was to having so many dense people living in such close proximity to each other.  While a concerted push to gather all those considered 'slow on the uptake' together in certain areas might be beneficial to law enforcement (criminals have long shown themselves to be amongst the densest of the species and would therefore be easier to keep an eye on); the attempt to gather the weak-minded together through zoning laws might be considered a form of profiling that should be considered illegal and concentrating patrols in such an area might therefore cause more problems for law enforcement than it would solve?

I also couldn't help but wonder whether having so many dim-witted people living together might create additional burdens on other city services.  Were accidental fires more likely to occur in an area filled with obtuse individuals?  Were toilets more likely to clog after inappropriate things had been flushed down them by people who were simply too dim to know better, causing sewer line issues?  Would special traffic signals have to be installed in such areas to prevent oafish citizens from hurting themselves or each other in crossing streets?  And what did any of this have to do with putting these simple folks around the transit system?

Then it hit me!  

Having driven far too many miles, far too slowly on LA freeways over the years, I realized that perhaps the city had finally figured out a way to make a serious attempt to get some of the worst idiots off their highways and onto buses and trains.  This was brilliant!  Not only would this allow more intelligent commuters to travel on these multi-lane masterpieces of modern transportation more quickly, but it would also likely help those using public conveyances to commute to and from work.  Saving them the cost of automobiles, insurance, and $5 plus per gallon gas would allow them to divert this new found wealth into paying for homes that they probably still couldn't afford.  Of course you'd still have to figure out a way to make these dummies want to move there in the first place, and to walk past their cars and on to the transit stations, but it might be a start. (Maybe they could come up with a program of IQ-based property tax incentives.)

Eventually however, I began to wonder if such a grand scheme, no matter how masterfully conceived and executed, could actually succeed.  After all weren't Washington DC and its surrounding suburbs packed with some of the densest people in the nation, with no pervasive benefit coming from collecting those whose elevator doesn't go to the top couple of floors into one area.  One might even be able to successfully make the case that concentrating these dense people, as we have, into areas where the primary sources of employment are federal agencies and the national legislature might actually have had a deleterious long term effect on the nation.  (Many have made the case that it already has.)

Of course I've never heard anyone discuss that there had ever been an actual plan to increase the number of numskulls in Washington, though perhaps the prospect of a safe and well-paying and simple minded government job is in and of itself enough to attract those who will never be considered the 'brightest bulbs on the tree' (and a fair number of those who might glow a bit brighter).  Maybe there's just something about not being 'the shiniest coin in the purse' that lends itself to the talents required for government service and attracts them, like moths to the flame.  Maybe the single minded pursuit of incredibly tedious, mostly useless paperwork; all wrapped in pretty red tape and filed in triplicate is something that appeals to those who could be considered a bit slow on the uptake.  

Perhaps this even goes a long way to explain Charles L'Enfant's design of Washington itself, where the east-west streets are all named with letters and the north-south streets with numbers ... a recognition that a subtle aid for mostly senseless residents to make their way around the seat of the national government more easily was a necessity.  Perhaps this is even why the Capitol City was built on mostly mosquito-infested swamp land that would have been otherwise found unsuitable and uncomfortable for use to those considered far more sensible.

With such an obvious example of failure before it, the LA experiment with population density is likely to be proved an idea as dumb as those it expects to influence.


More recently released statements in the news find that LA is now trying to cover their tracks (pun intended) with this whole effort up by saying that all of this is actually an environmental issue.  (Perhaps they had gotten wind of this post coming out and decided to do a little proactive damage control.)  In a marvelous bit of political spin, they have apparently come forward to claim that the goal that they were in fact attempting to achieve was not that of getting stupid people sequestered into specific selected areas of the city, as was apparent from the wording of their original announcement; but instead that of getting 'a lot of people' concentrated in multi-family dwellings around their mass transit system. (Nicely played LA, nicely played indeed ...)

None of the more recently released statement speaks to how they expect to crowd people into town homes and apartment buildings in the capital of urban sprawl when they could instead be living in single family homes, unless of course they're stupid.  But that's OK, if history has taught us anything, it's that everyone will blindly accept the statements of government officials without question when what they're trying to tell is they are smarter than contractors in knowing what they can do with the property that they own and likewise smarter than people in knowing where they can and should live.

Come on now, how stupid do they think we are anyway?  (Don't answer that.)


No comments: