At the July meeting of the Planning Commission in Westbrook, Connecticut, to which Libertarian Joshua Katz was elected in 2013, the Commission received a referral from the Selectman, asking it to approve a proposed Blight Ordinance to proceed to a town meeting.
The ordinance would grant large amounts of arbitrary power to staff to declare homes blighted. This often leads, in addition to fines, to the loss of property.
When it came before the Commission, most members appeared ready to pass it quickly. Mr. Katz suggested limiting the law’s scope. While this did not carry the day, it seemed to remind committee members that they were responsible to the public, and had some obligation to grant full review.
This led to much debate, including Katz’s observation that, in a newspaper article from another town, the Zoning Enforcement Officer was quoted as saying that the Blight Ordinance there had led to nothing but “Hatfields and McCoys” and needed to be removed.
Mr. Katz moved to find the proposed ordinance inconsistent with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development because it is inconsistent with respect for private property. This failed, as expected, but gave a sense of where the Commission stood on the issue.
Mr. Katz then moved to return the ordinance to the drafting committee with instructions to return a version that did not duplicate existing regulations, fully respected private property, and did not authorize any governmental action absent an imminent threat to public safety. This passed unanimously.
A lone Libertarian on a local board can make a difference. While the tendency to push for larger prizes is understandable, local citizens are often well served by a Libertarian in office. Today, citizens of Westbrook have one less government intrusion to worry about.