The Freedom to Dream
And the Costs of Zoning Laws
by Rico Hill
Hill presented the following speach as testimony in favor of Senate Bill 99-091 for the Local Government Committee on Tuesday, February 2. That bill would limit the ability of El Paso County Commissioners to zone parts of the unincorporated county. It passed out of committee with a 4-3 vote. Hill's speech is followed by a brief biographical sketch and his reflections on the history of zoning laws in America.
Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Committee. My name is Rico Hill. I am a rancher from Yoder, Colorado. I appreciate the opportunity to address you today.
Not long ago, I attended a ceremony in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. The theme of that ceremony was "Keep the Dream Alive." You, ladies and gentlemen, will also have that opportunity today. You will have the opportunity to keep the dream alive for thousands of people who want the right of self-determination. We simply want the opportunity to vote on regulations that have the power to affect our lives and the lives of our children forever.
Most Americans are familiar with the expression, "Taxation without representation." That principle is unfair, unacceptable, and un-American. We believe that Regulation without Representation is also unfair, unacceptable, and un-American. Powerful officials who are not elected by us, who do not live in our district, and who do not value our rural culture and lifestyle, would inflict excessive regulation upon us. Senate Bill 91 will protect citizens from regulation without representation and permit citizens to vote on an issue that will profoundly impact their way of life.
We the people believe that when county government fails to fairly serve the citizens, citizens must look to the state to remedy that injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not think about himself and what his legacy would be, but he was constantly concerned about a legacy of freedom for his children, and all children, for all time. Some of us do not have wealth and riches today but we have a dream of what we can be tomorrow!
Some of the decisions you make up here at the capitol can be difficult. This one need not be. We look to you to help us preserve our way of life. Your support of Senate Bill 91 will allow us to vote on our future. Please stand with the struggling middle class and the working poor. Voting is the American way.
Thank you for your time, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Who is Rico Orlando Hill?
I was born and raised in Richmond, VA. I migrated to Colorado via the military in 1985 and retired from the Army June 30, 1997. Currently I reside in Yoder. I breed, train and sell Paint horses for performance classes and raise cattle and other livestock. My occupation is Satellite Communications Systems Operations and Maintenance Engineer.
American Zoning Laws
El Paso County's history is not unlike our own country's history, in which people have struggled to purchase plots of land. Today, many residents of El Paso live in a trailer until they can build their own home. Some families can make the transition in three to five years, longer for others, but that is the way we can achieve the American dream.
So where did the zoning ordinances come from? The first recorded incidence of zoning occurred in the early 1800s. Citizens in San Francisco wanted to keep the Chinese immigrants in their "own" part of town, so Chinatown was started with zoning. Later, zoning was practiced in the boroughs of New York City. That's how we developed neighborhoods exclusively Irish, Polish, Jewish, and so forth.
Today's version of zoning discrimination is more subtle. It is now used as economic segregation. Ergo good/bad neighborhoods, communities of the advantaged separated from those more modestly housed, etc. The face of discrimination may change but its effect is the same, separation of people and classes. Some may think that zoning is the "natural order" of things. Really?
You are invited to take a refreshing drive in the country. We are all neighbors "out here" in the truest sense of that word. There will always be those among us who have more and those who have less. We all work and live together and don't seem to have a problem with our neighbors. We don't have poor neighborhoods and crime like our city friends who are zoned (that is, not yet!).
Zoning can and frequently does regulate affordable housing out of rural counties to make way for expensive developments. You may hear arguments here today about the living conditions of poor people. When you hear those stories, ask to see pictures. Try to obtain addresses. These people cannot document what they say. Ask the ultimate question. "Would these so called poor people be better off living under a bridge in town?" "Would they be better off in a government subsidized housing ghetto?" The answer is, we may not have much, but we have our freedom and a dream of what we can be tomorrow!