to Give Feds Control of Zoning Kept Private
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
April 30, 2002 - Senate Democrats
yesterday barred the public from a committee meeting and vote on a land-use
bill that opponents believe will impose federal standards on local zoning
"This was no accident; this was a purposeful sham," said Mike
Hardiman, spokesman for the American Land Rights Association, who lined up
shortly after 8 a.m. to attend the 9:30 a.m. hearing in the Dirksen Senate
Office Building. He said the senators were trying to pass an indefensible bill
The bill establishes a federal grant program that would pay to communities 90
percent of the cost of updating local zoning regulations. The subsidies would
go to municipalities that meet guidelines established under the Clinton
administration to "improve environmental policy" and avert
"loss of community character," terms opponents call code words for
The bill's sponsors are Sens. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent, and
Lincoln Chaffee, Rhode Island Republican.
Mr. Hardiman said a Senate aide at 9:20 a.m. told him and others gathered to
watch the vote that the time and place of the meeting of the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee had been changed.
It had been moved to the "President's Room," to which the public has
no access. But when Mr. Hardiman and others demanded to know where and when,
they were told only "somewhere in the Capitol between 10 a.m. and 11
The precise place was posted only after more than a dozen members of the
public had left the Senate office building. Committee members gathered in the
secluded room shortly after 10 a.m. to pass the Community Character Act on a
A committee spokesman said the location was changed because two Senate floor
votes also were scheduled for 9:30 a.m. The full Senate sets its vote times at
the close of the previous day's business.
Mr. Jeffords, the panel chairman, started to move the bills on a voice vote,
but Republicans called for the votes to be recorded.
As the vote came to a close, Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican
and an imposing figure in the small room said, "You didn't call my name,
and I am the ranking member," as Republicans whispered to one another to
keep the vote public, but they failed.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said Republicans were told that the
committee would vote after the two Senate votes and urged that the committee
vote remain open.
"Some of our members wish to be recorded," said Sen. John W. Warner,
Voting in favor were Mr. Chafee, fellow Republican Arlen Specter,
Pennsylvania, and Democrats Max Baucus of Montana, Harry Reid of Nevada, Bob
Graham of Florida, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Barbara Boxer of
California, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Hillary Rodham
Clinton of New York, Jon Corzine of New Jersey and and Mr. Jeffords.
Voting against the bill were Republican Sens. Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, Ben
Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, Christopher Bond of Missouri, George
Voinovich of Ohio, Mr. Smith, Mr. Inhofe and Mr. Warner.
Republican senators, asked about the room change, said the decision was out of
their control, as Democrats run the committee.
Mr. Inhofe was the only senator who asked for his written objections to be
entered into record. "I am opposing this legislation we are about to
railroad through," he said.
"We tried to be as accomodating as possible," said committee
spokesman Erik Smulson. "The meeting was open to the media and to anyone
who had a form of identification the Capitol Hill police would let in."
The Capitol remains under rigid security since the September 11 terrorist
attacks. Even before then, however, the President's Room was restricted to
staff and media.
"I need to get press credentials," said Bob Harrison, director of
public policy for Defenders of Property Rights. "Whatever protection they
can give the bill in committee, they will not be able to give when the bill is
on the floor."
Patricia Callihan of the American Association of Small Property Owners, called
yesterday's move a "sneaky bait and switch."
"We are furious about what happened. We're going to have to put a
tracking device on this legislation. It's harder to find than gold," Miss