The emperor’s new clothesline

Frank CagleFrank Talk

I was just a kid, but I remember a bit of gossip that got the whole community outraged. We heard tell of a new fancy subdivision in town called Hickory Hills. They laid out streets and lots, and people built expensive houses on them, and a community popped up like a mushroom. But what outraged everybody was that they had these rules that sounded like the damn Russians. You weren’t allowed to have a clothesline in your backyard, for instance. How could anyone forbid you having a clothesline on your own property? A typical response: “By God, I’d have me a clothesline if I wanted one.”


Things have changed since the 1950s, of course, and most people have come to appreciate the abstract notion of protective covenants and zoning as protection for property. But there is still that element of resistance to being told what to do by regulators. Things change. Like that nice view of green space next door being developed. Or being told there’s too much traffic on your road for another house. There has always been tension between regulators and developers over variances to the established order.

Universities teach future planners how to achieve order on the great unwashed populace in spite of “greedy developers” and Neanderthals who can’t see the beauty inherent in a master plan. You ought to be happy to live in an apartment if it means there is a lot of green space out there. We may not do much for affordable housing, but we do have an urban wilderness. That makes the birds happy.

In this country the regulators have achieved huge success in the “sophisticated” major cities. Metropolises here resemble Europe in that red tape, regulation and user fees choke progress. Critics deplore that in San Francisco or Los Angeles there is a desperate shortage of housing for low-income people. That’s because it costs you twice what it ought to build a house.

But out here in flyover country, we still occasionally want the freedom to put up a damn clothesline if we want to.

Planners want people to live in high-density neighborhoods that preserve green space, encourage walking, bike riding and mass transit. Your average citizen with a family wants at least a half-acre lot with a McMansion on it and two cars in the driveway, not to mention a truck to pull the bass boat.

(Single people and “empty nesters” are making downtowns thriving places to live these days, which means a noticeable lack of children.)

Traffic planners think it’s crazy to allow bumper-to-bumper daily rush-hour traffic on six- and eight-lane highways with a single occupant per vehicle. Your average citizen wants his own ride, preferably a gas-guzzling SUV or a pickup truck that costs more than a Cadillac. With Wi-Fi and 10 cup holders. Four-wheel drive, of course, for when it snows. Although when it snows you take off work. But once every other year you may need to haul something home from Lowe’s.

Planners want to guide growth, adhering to a master plan, conforming to a certain vision of orderliness. Your average citizen just wants to find a developer who has a project in which he can afford the mortgage payment.

The city of Knoxville’s makeover of the Cumberland Avenue Strip by the University of Tennessee campus is a model of anti-car, pedestrian-encouraging, urban design. Your average Knoxvillian just wants to know how in heck you are supposed to get in and out of the Copper Cellar.

So, do you understand Recode as an issue now?

Why the delay? Soon-to-be-former House Speaker Glen Casada has decided to wait a couple of months before he resigns. He is asking Gov. Bill Lee to call a special session to elect a new speaker. Why the delay? Some possibilities. Such a move prevents House Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn from becoming acting House Speaker. Dunn was one of the first to call for Casada to resign. Casada hopes to elect one of his loyalists as the next speaker, which may allow him to continue to have influence in the House that he can use to lobby or just to hang around. (That isn’t going to work, but what does he have to lose?)

Ace reporter Andy Sher, the Free Press, points out that Casada, as speaker, can still make appointments to boards and commissions and influence policy for years to come. Appointments like the board to supervise online sports gambling in Tennessee.

Casada is continuing to get a salary, and he doesn’t have a job right now. He also has a state-provided driver. Why is Casada being allowed to pick his ouster date? The legality of removing a speaker is not clearly defined. He was elected to a two-year term. If pressure is brought to bear, he may decide to try to hang on – or to go to court, dragging things out.

State Rep. Robin Smith, first-termer from Chattanooga, is running for speaker, saying she is seeking the support of the other rookies in the House – there are two dozen of them – to resolve the mess. It should be noted that the core of Casada’s support when he was elected speaker was all those freshmen he and his aide Cade Cothren helped get elected. Given their track record in picking leadership, I don’t think that’s an argument I would use.

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