My friend Laura Carno wrote a book entitled, “Government Ruins Nearly Everything.” You can guess the theme.
That title runs through my head every time I drive past the town of Superior and see the burnt-out wreckage of this little community. This is the town that government ruined, though many would have you believe it was the Marshall fire.
Homes should be 100 to 140 feet apart for fire safety, otherwise radiant heat sets the next home ablaze. So why are homes built so close that neighbors can open windows, lean out and shake each other’s hands?
According to research from Independence Institute’s Randal O’Toole, no place in the interior west has more stringent anti-sprawl policies than Boulder County. Almost a third of the land in the county has been made into open space. “Pack-n-stack” urban-growth zoning won’t allow adequate space between homes.
O’Toole explains the Marshall fire took nearly a full hour to burn across three miles of grasslands before it reached Superior, where it met hundreds of houses, many as close as 10 feet apart. Those homes were goners, while many homes with larger lot sizes were spared.
Urban-growth boundaries are the major reason Colorado homes are so unaffordable. Now we see that anti-growth laws not only keep poor people from home ownership, with fires those laws literally kill people. Well done.
But wait. What about that fire starting over three miles away and crawling over all that open space and grasslands to Superior? Another failure of government.
The fire couldn’t reach Superior without first going through massive acres of poorly managed Boulder open space. A Superior town council member told me that, even before the fire, there was concern about the county not properly caring for the grassland during this exceptionally dry period. They didn’t clear enough brush or have enough controlled burns.
If government did its job in the first place the fire wouldn’t have reached the town.
But just because government wouldn’t let homes be spaced far enough apart to stop the spread of the inferno, and just because government kept the grassland a tinderbox, that doesn’t mean government can’t help you rebuild your house — the one it helped to burn down.
That’s where the new “green” building codes come in. When your home burns up you must rebuild it to the newest standards, which are the product of the anti-energy machine.
Louisville already bought into the “all-electric” codes, ramping us up to car-charging stations whether you have an electric car or not, solar energy, all-electric HVAC systems, appliances and water heaters.
Odd then how architects and builders are saying it could cost up to $100,000 more per home to rebuild.
But before you can start rebuilding your home that government incompetence burned down and government regulation makes unaffordable, you must clean up the debris and ashes that once was your home.
Not to worry fire victims! Government will contract with a company to do all the work for you.
Over three months after the fire, not one shovel of ash has been lifted from the county’s sloth-like effort to sign up a clean-up company.
Home-insurance policies cover up to two years of rent while your home is rebuilt. After that they don’t care if you live in a cardboard box. It’s their maximum coverage.
This means Boulder County’s ineptitude has wasted more than one-eighth of a family’s insurance housing allowance (three of 24 months) with absolutely no action. At this rate it will take four years to rebuild.
And the cherry on top is the massive inflation, which Milt Friedman explained so well is only caused by governmental actions, makes every fire victim wildly under-insured.
One wise 74-year-old Superior soul, Paul Williamson, cleaned up his burnt-out property himself without waiting for the county to “help.” He sold his now-vacant lot, took a huge loss and moved away. Many will follow.
Fire didn’t ruin anyone’s life in Superior. Only government did.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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