Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
The limits of local control
Published on August 5, 2012 By Draginol In Politics

I see a lot of people in politics support the concept of "local control".  But as a dogma, it falls apart at a certain point. Let me present you the example of Higgins Lake, Michigan.

Higgins Lake is a beautiful lake in the northern part of the lower peninsula. It has two large state parks, a couple first class marinas and several public boat launches.  The lake itself is beautiful. Shallow and sandy by the shore and very deep (over 100 feet deep) in the middle.

So what problems could it have? Answer: Boat parking.

If you own a boat, you can park it on the lake if you use one of the licensed marinas or if you have property on the lake.

However, a lot of the locals who don't own property on the lake and don't want to pay to keep their boat at the marina, think they should be allowed to hoist their boat in the water at a road end. Their argument is that road ends are public land and therefore, they, the public, should be able to leave their boats out in the water for the Summer.

Think about that for a moment. Most roads are public. Imagine if they lived on a public road and suddenly hundreds of campers parked out in front of their houses for the Summer.  It would be obnoxious. More than obnoxious, it would prevent other people from being able to park there temporarily.

For some years, people did just as I described and it was a disaster. Every road end on the lake was filled with boats that made it virtually impossible for other people to get out onto the lake from those road ends. It was also a nightmare for people who lived near road ends since their homes now bordered on make-shift marinas -- something they certainly hadn't signed up for when they bought their house.

The courts ruled that it was illegal to park boats on the water for non-transient uses (for the reasons I mentioned earlier - you can park your car the side of a road for a bit but that doesn't mean you get to turn the road end into your personal camping spot for the summer). Eventually, the Michigan legislature codified this in law.

In the last couple of years, the people who want to put their boats in at road ends have come up with a new tactic - try to make the issue decided at "the local level".  That is, let the people in the township vote how the road ends are used. Isn't that nice? Of course, there's a lot more people off the lake than on the lake so it's pretty obvious how that vote would go - which is precisely why property rights aren't determined at the local level -- if Peter and Paul think they should be able to use your stuff and it's put to a vote where they're the only two voters, guess how that's going to go?

The issue even skirts some class warfare rhetoric.  You see, most people with houses on the lake don't live there all year. Which, thank to "local control" on who gets to vote, means they don't get to vote on anything. They're taxed heavily (Higgins Lake residents get the standard non-homesteaded tax and a special non-resident tax on top).  So the people most directly affected by a vote of "local control" wouldn't even get to vote on the matter, which is pretty convenient for those proposing the bill.

As you can imagine, the local politicians are inclined to support the "local control" side of things since the majority of the people near Higgins Lake certainly would like to have free (or nearly free) rights to park their boat on the lake. And the people most likely to passionately oppose them can't even vote.

on Aug 05, 2012

Buying a chunk of land, making a parking lot and a marina as well as some cabins and concessions would be out of the question? How about a public park charging admission with time limited campgrounds? 

These things out of the question? They could be started small, and be grown as needed...


on Aug 06, 2012

I feel like the rules write themselves.

Obstructing access to the lake should be illegal.

Abandoning your boat on the water means it's no longer your property and can be possessed by scavengers.

Who is benefiting from these laws, and how long will it take the rest of them to figure out it's not really benefitting them, but mucking up their lake and their rights to it?

You can let it be decided at the local level, but eventually people will notice that they can't get their boat on the water and they'll vote to change the law again.