Let It Burn

In keeping with our current theme about government and its responsibilities — David Sirota writes,

With Montana facing major wildfires, senior Montana Republican lawmaker John Sinrud – who heads the state House’s appropriations committee – used a legislative hearing this week to attack Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s (D) administration for — get ready for this — trying to prevent homes and buildings from being burnt down. At the hearing, he asks “Why not just let [buildings] burn?”

You can hear it yourselves —

David S. continues,

The Helena Independent Record last week reported that Schweitzer is being forced to call an emergency legislative session (at a cost of $65,000 per day) in order to obtain more firefighting money because Republicans like Sinrud previously rejected his efforts to add that money to the budget – all while they advocated for massive tax cuts for out-of-state corporations. The Montana GOP has responded by writing letters to the editor claiming Schweitzer is lying, though the Great Falls Tribune editorial board debunks that claim entirely — showing that it is the GOP that is lying.

I keep saying the American people need to face some basic questions about government, like why do we bother to have one if it’s not going to do shit for citizens? Right wing extremists have decided that government has no responsibilities to citizens at all. It is not supposed to protect civil liberties, or property, or public safety, or even lives. To the Right, government exists only to protect privilege and accumulate power, and if you aren’t already in the “privileged and powerful” column you’re on your own. But I suspect there are a lot of (perhaps former) Republican voters who didn’t realize that’s what they signed on for.

14 thoughts on “Let It Burn

  1. I’m sure it was those damned pigeons fault. I’m particularly concerned about the mountain states, no, not because of pigeons, but because of global warming. Despite the rugged appearance, these are fragile ecologies. Very little the gap separating grassland, forest, and desert. Already, in these states, man has turned forest into grassland and grassland into desert. A little hotter and a little drier will turn them all into Elko Nevadas.

  2. Excuse me sirs, but on this point the republican has a point. As a resident of Montana, I can state with out a doubt that there are many homes and suburban developments on the outskirts of cities that should never have been built. These homes now are in dire threat every summer due to their clear vicinity to the woods and the clear repercussion of being near to fire that would otherwise burn. Do you know how much money it costs to put a forest fire out? If you add to this the money it takes to connect these homes to other utilities such as sewer, garbage, electricity, phone, or whatever other things we want in our homes you must inevitably conclude that these homes are a gross blight on the community that should have never been built.

  3. I wouldn’t sneer so quickly, Maha. Of course Sinrud’s isolated statement by itself sounds terrible; it makes great anti-Republican propaganda. But we don’t really know what he meant because the YouTube piece cherry-picked his statement.

    There are indeed legitimate ecological policy issues in deciding how and when to fight forest fires. National policy is changing to permit smaller controlled burns as a method of forestalling huge “crown fires.”
    It may make sense to adopt policies that we won’t protect isolated houses in national/state forests. (And to be fair we’ll have to phase that one in somehow.) Maybe that’s what Sinrud was driving at. Whether Sinrud is an asshole or is raising legitimate enivironmental policy questions I have no idea. Do you? I certainly don’t trust the YouTube video.

    Asking questions about how and when to fight forest fires doesn’t mean one is a right-wing reactionary.

  4. these homes are a gross blight on the community that should have never been built.

    And wasn’t it the Sagebrush Rebellion types who demanded the tree-hugging environmentalists get out of the way of property owners’ and developers’ rights?

    I’m sure you are right that much land was developed that shouldn’t have been developed, and it was a mistake for government to step aside and let this happen. Perhaps government should acknowledge the mistake, condemn the property, and help people relocate.

  5. If people want to build homes in forest fire zones with great post-fire mudslide potential maybe taxpayers shouldn’t pay and firemen shouldn’t die trying to save the McMansions.

    Somewhere there is a common sense zone of demarcation.

  6. There ARE developments that should not be built. The issue should be adressed at the point zoning laws are passed and building permits issued. I can accept that permits MIGHT be issued with the caveat that superhuman, frequent efforts by the forest service will not be made because the developer is warned – perhaps with the requirement that the buyer be warned.

    However when I have built, there have been a variety of usage and impact fees – BIG ones. The local goverernment is not shy about collecting their take – up fromt – pre construction – and if no warning was issued BEFORE development – they have an OBLIGATION to the people who have their lives tied up in those homes, not just as an investment but for the personal, irreplaceble items that make a home a totally different animal from a house.

  7. I’ve been puzzling over your suggestion that “Perhaps government should acknowledge the mistake, condemn the property, and help people relocate.”

    There’s something wrong (by my standards) but I can’t quite figure it out. Maybe it’s that you really do look to government as the source of all things good and bad. I can’t pin it down but maybe your seeming wish to rely on government doesn’t strike me (and I have many years experience in and out of government) as practical or wise. And the problem crosses party lines.

    If you want to talk about lack of respect for the ordinary person’s real property, look into Democratic opposition to anti-Kelo eminent domain legislation. It’s sickening and has no basis in real urban planning needs but only in government convenience. Such statist attitudes in both parties are part of the problem — the knee-jerk reliance on a government solution to everything., which you seem to endorse.

  8. Doug Hughes,

    While impact fees may well be significant for new developments on the outskirts of cities like Missoula, Hamilton, Bozeman, or Helena, research indicates fees are often not significant enough to pay for all eventual costs to cities. As more and more people come into new developments the city is faced with problems they previously did not have to address (as an example, when enough people go to the outskirts of a town, children will need bus routes to take them to school, these new residents will all live far away from typical day – to – day stops like grocery stores and restaurants, meaning they will have to drive to those places, meaning previously small roads will have to be expanded to deal with increased traffic, I could go on).

    The expenses these developments put on local governments are not matched by impact fees. Alas, this is the pattern of development of any US city and is mandated by our zoning laws, until America is willing to come to terms with our poor zoning laws we will never be able to reduce our ecological footprints, or, perhaps more precisely, decrease the likelihood of living close to forest fires.

  9. DMS — Re “statist” — who is the government? We are the government. Government ‘R’ us. Government is not something that swoops in from another planet to run our lives. It is a tool we citizens can use to solve some of our problems. Not all of them, but some.

    Right wingers fought environmental standards that would have limited development for years and called them “statist.” Now that the bad things the environmentalists predicted are coming to pass, attempts to use government to undo the damage with the least amount of financial loss to citizens is also called “statist.”

    Well, son, you can take your statism and shove it where the son don’t shine.

    Most middle class-people have the bulk of their life savings in their homes. As a homeowner, I would not appreciate it if a home I purchased in good faith was left without essential services or otherwise condemned for reasons beyond my control, and I was not compensated for the equity I’ve built up in this place. THAT would be “statism” in my book. And if that were to happen to me I’d be homeless unless my relatives were to take me in.

    By the same token, tax-paying citizens generally expect services from their government, and I can’t see that government officials can arbitrarily choose to not provide those services.

    In a just world, we would round up the original developers and make them repay the homeowners, but I doubt that’s going to happen.

    Seems to me the people in these areas need to weigh options decide what they want government to do. See also Doug Hughes in comment #7.

  10. I would recommend Roger Kennedy’s book Wildfire and Americans (2006.) Kennedy points out one reason that Americans have moved into wilderness areas stems from concerns over possible destruction of American cities during a nuclear exchange. Because of these concerns, government assisted in developing suburban and rural residential areas.

  11. [sarcasm] Yeah! This is just like those stupid New Orleanians & all those people who live along the Gulf of Mexico. They know hurricanes & flooding happen all the time, so why should the government bother giving them a handout? They had it coming to them! [/sarcasm]

  12. KG the X,

    Tax land values, and the impact of population growth and development is properly assessed upon the beneficiaries.

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