12.30.2005

The Return of Redlining

I found this article in today's Washington Post. It opens with this:

"Ours is by no means a tradition limited to respect for the bonds uniting the members of the nuclear family. The tradition of uncles, aunts, cousins, and especially grandparents sharing a household along with parents and children has roots equally venerable and equally deserving of constitutional recognition. Over the years millions of our citizens have grown up in just such an environment, and most, surely, have profited from it. "

-- Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio (1977)

WRITING FOR the Supreme Court, Justice Powell sensibly struck down a singularly ludicrous municipal attempt to define family living arrangements so strictly that it would criminalize a grandmother's choice to live with her grandson. Now comes the city of Manassas with an equally outrageous zoning ordinance. Under the guise of upholding standards in its pristine neighborhoods, it would outlaw households consisting of a family's cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. Quite aside from the law's probable unconstitutionality, it is patently bigoted.


It seems that Manassas's neighborhoods, until now valiantly attempting to present themselves as the shining vestiges of the antebellum South, have been attracting an increasing number of residents of Hispanic descent. The Republican Mayor, Douglas S. Waldron and a city council similarly controlled by the GOP, decided the best way to combat this "problem" was to address the living arrangements of many of these new immigrants to Manassas.

Many of the newer residents of Manassas lived in households that included extended family. This time honored method of stretching and saving money was made a crime by redefining the term 'cohabital family' in certain zoning laws. Again, from the Washington Post,

In an act of Big Brotherish government intrusion, they changed a zoning law to redefine family units suitable for cohabitation -- and to exclude uncles, aunts and others they deem as undesirables. To enforce their decree, Manassas authorities are sending inspectors into selected city households to interrogate hard-working people about the numbers and relationships of the inhabitants.


The most devious part of the new law is that the inspectors respond only to complaints. How many white people are going to get complaints filed against them? Exactly. The powers that be in Manassas don't even make an attempt to hide this. The city's Chief Building Official, Brian Smith, said that the purpose of the new legislation is "to make sure these peripheral people start to be winnowed out."

Peripheral people? This is America, we like to consider ourselves the land of equality. If nothing else, we should remember that our founders were "peripheral" bumpkins, farming lands thousands of miles from London. Our wars have been fought by people who immigrated to the United State. Our infastructure was built by immigrants to support industry manned by immigrants and our people are fed food farmed by immigrants. Peripheral people are the basis of our country!

On top of all this, the new ordinance is not a response to increased crime, rowdiness, litter, or noise. In fact, my landlord would probably be in violation of this law for renting his basement to me and my fiance. One of the households that was visited by inspectors was that of a Hispanic family who had a cousin living with them. Another was a five bedroom house with 8 people living there.

This is hardly overcrowding. This is old fashioned racism.

At its base, Conservatism is about reactionary resistance to the things that make this country great; immigration, diversity, increasing freedom and the concept that the rights of the individual transcend the predisposition of the group.

12.31.2005 Found this quote from the dispicable Roy Moore on another blog. Sorry, no link.

Roy Moore is being interviewed by Ali Velshi on CNN. They're talking about Moore's support for the push to require American drivers to understand English.

Moore leads with, "...If we have to start, uh, taking languages um as they come, then we'll never get all the languages anyway. Why-- What's to say we stop at 13; why not 53? It just doesn't make sense. English should be required, uh, to understand our driver's license and our road signs.

[Velshi starts to ask a question and they talk over each other for a second]

Are we going to start giving road signs in Hispanic, in ,uh, Greece, in whatever language--"

UPDATE: 1.5.2006

The Washington Post reports that the law has been suspended in the face of ACLU and grassroots pressure.

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