Drew Carey and John Stossel tell Cleveland to learn from HoustonWhat started as a humble video segment for Reason TV has mushroomed into a lot of positive PR for Houston (and less than positive for Cleveland). It started with famous actor and comedian Drew Carey working with the libertarian Reason Foundation on a video series about saving Cleveland, his hometown. Houston is held up as a "best practice" example for land use regulation. There are lots of suggestions and positive comparisons to Houston on red tape (minutes 29:20 thru 32), zoning (37:30), and opportunity (47:50). Yours truly has a short cameo at 38:55. (If you want to be able to jump around, the trick is to start playing it, then hit Pause. You'll see the grey loading indicator continue to download the video. Come back later after it's fully loaded and you'll be able to jump to any point you like.)
After the series was released to the internet and Forbes declared Cleveland the Most Miserable City in America, John Stossel at FOX Business News picked it up. A friend of mine loaned me a DVD of the 45 minute show (thanks Nolte), but I haven't been able to find it online. There are shorter segments about it here and here. The first one jumps right into talking about Houston 16 seconds in, and the second one jumps into Houston around 40 seconds and 58 seconds in. The Cleveland newspaper writes about the show here.
Unfortunately, one of the professors he has on the show to present the other side brings up another one of those Houston myths that just won't die: that you can build anything next to anything, including a strip club next to a day care center or school. No, we have narrow nuisance and SOB regulations to prevent that. We also have private deed restrictions. You don't have to prescriptively control everything to prevent the worst-case scenarios.
Then Bill O'Reilly picks up the story in an interview with Stossel (hat tip to Jessie):
STOSSEL: People go to where the weather is good. We already have...
O'REILLY: Well, you can't blame the city for the weather. I mean, look at Chicago. Great city, bad weather. Boston, come on. You can't blame the city for the weather.
STOSSEL: You can rank them for that. And you can blame the politicians for saying we're going to raise taxes to build our wonderful projects, and that's going to make things better. The cities that prosper like Houston are the cities that have fewer rules and lower taxes.
O'REILLY: But remember Houston used to be the crime capital? They cleaned that place up pretty well.
STOSSEL: But Cleveland has 22 zoning categories. Houston has none.
O'REILLY: Twenty-two zoning categories? Very hard.
STOSSEL: In Cleveland, to start a business, a politician bragged, "We could get you in there in just 18 months." In Houston, one day.
O'REILLY: One day? The problem with no zoning is you can have, you know, the No-Tell Motel right next to you. And...
STOSSEL: You could. But that rarely happens. And it's not an ugly city, Houston.
O'REILLY: No, I didn't say it was ugly. Who said it was ugly?
STOSSEL: Lots of people. No zoning. The city planner said it will be ugly. You will have...
O'REILLY: We have a lot of Houstonians watching "The Factor," and I love going to Houston. All right. There you are, the Forbes magazine list, and Stossel laying it down.
We've come a long way. Five or ten years ago, you couldn't find many people - including libertarians - that were willing to hold Houston up as a land-use model in public because our reputation was so bad. But now they do, and it's (slowly) changing our national reputation for the better.