Can Reason Save Cleveland?

The pending end of the Daley Era in Chicago had me thinking about city politics in general, and as luck would have it – Reason magazine just came out with “The Confrontation,” which is kind of the culmination of the “Reason Saves Cleveland” series of webisodes hosted by Nick Gillespie and Drew Carey (yes, that Drew Carey) in which they explore ways to save Cleveland (contrary to popular belief, LeBron did not actually kill the city proper) by reducing the role of government in city affairs.

The series ran in March, but at the end of May, Carey and Gillespie sat down with members of Cleveland’s City Council, with some predictably funny exchanges:

City Council President Martin Sweeney: If you apply for a sign that’s within our regulation, it would take somewhere between three and five days. If it’s outside the regulations, it needs to be [no bigger than] four foot by eight foot, no more than two or three colors. If you want to go 10 by 10, and put it up a little bit higher, and have 10 colors on it, you have to get approval to go outside the variance.

 Carey: Why does it matter how many colors are on it?

 Sweeney: It’s one of the regulations we have.

 Carey: Get rid of it.

 Sweeney: Got it. But what I was trying to get at, the three to five days is if you stay within the regulations, if you agree with them. If you want to go outside, it’s six weeks to put it on the calendar and have it heard. And then all the other steps.

 Carey: You should be able to put up whatever sign you want, man. If it’s your business.

 Councilor Zack Reed: But understand, you can say that simplistically. We can’t say that because there has to be some type of structure.

But you can say that simplistically because you don’t need that type of structure (More than 10 colors on a sign? ANARCHY). Nick says it better:

Gillespie: There are ways of switching the default positions so that rather than having to apply for a variance you are automatically granted whatever land use you’re doing unless there is a specific objection made, so that instead of the onus being on the business owner, it’s actually on somebody who would have an objection. Things like that.

It’s an interesting look at how cities view themselves. The council members can’t help but falling back onto their established position that the outside world has screwed Cleveland, and regardless of what they do, they’re going to be victims of greedy businessmen and be on the short end of the demographic stick. But other cities face these problems and deal with them in all sorts of ways, many of which – Oakland, Houston, Indianapolis, Chicago – are described throughout the series, Here’s one of my favorite episodes (note the scoffing at Houston’s relative lack of zoning/planning):

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