Scott Tibbs
Printed in the Herald-Times, 2-23-2001

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Let homeowners decide

To the editor:

The news that Mayor Fernandez vetoed the historic designation for the McDoel Gardens neighborhood is good news for Bloomington residents concerned about property rights. This was bad legislation from the start, restricting the right of homeowners to manage their property as they see fit.

According to AM 1370, one of the reasons Fernandez vetoed the designation was because there was not a clear consensus on establishing a historic district, and he suggested that perhaps a compromise could be reached in the future. Fernandez is correct that this was a very divisive issue, and the city should not be driving wedges between neighbors. In this way, the City Council was irresponsible in passing this highly divisive legislation.

But a more basic principle behind the McDoel Gardens designation is that the rights of citizens should not be subject to majority vote. Even if all the residents of the area but one were supportive of the designation, it would still be a trampling of that person's right to do as he sees fit with the property he worked very hard for. We are not a democracy, but a Constitutional republic where the rights of the minority are protected from the tyranny of the majority.

Instead of placing their trust in government regulations, the City Council should instead be expressing faith in the people that elected them to be responsible with their property. Clearly, some reasonable regulations are required to protect people from having their rights infringed upon by their neighbors. But "historic" status is a nebulous concept that reflects aesthetic preferences of some people, and is not a legitimate reason to restrict people's rights.

Last year, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore talked about favoring "the people, not the powerful". Clearly, the City Council favors the "powerful" force of government.