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Thread: Randall O'Toole: contrarian or just a tool?

  1. #1
         
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    Randall O'Toole: contrarian or just a tool?

    Who pays this guy to do what he does? Who reads this stuff? Has he ever worked in a planning office? Has he ever dealt with citizens in a public meeting? Has he ever gotten his butt chewed out by a politician in a public meeting? Has he ever dealt with a state agency as a local planner? Has he ever just gotten out and traveled around a little?

    I find his opinions to be just that: Opinions. He's a hack working for a BS "think tank" that exists only to try to knock down planning and regulation. Tying growth management and housing bubbles together is tenuous at best, and fraudulent at worst. Arguing that the world is flat when the evidence shows that it isn't is kind of boring after a while, but he's like the Energizer Bunny in that he just won't stop. Real estate "bubbles," although somewhat in the eye of the beholder, exist in markets that will never see a decent comprehensive plan, such as Mobile, Alabama, and are more a function of many variables other than Smart Growth, comprehensive planning, or whatever O'Toole is paid to construct an argument against. Does anyone really take his garbage seriously?

  2. #2

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    Purely a tool. The "expert" libertarians, highway lobbyists, and homebuilders go to when they want a data-laden quote of the moment.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    He should be taken no more seriously than others loosely tied to our profession who make their money howling at the moon. He really no different than Kunstler, really.

    I find folks like who at their best, move the debate a long a little. O'toole does represent a some of the libertarian ideals, pro-development ideals, anti-growth ideals etc...These ideals deserve a place in the debate, perhaps O'Toole is an appropriate spokesperson, perhaps not.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    I'm not familiar with this blowhard(?). Are his articles linked on Planetizen often? Ever?

  5. #5
         
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    I'm not familiar with this blowhard(?). Are his articles linked on Planetizen often? Ever?
    It may be a wise decision for Planetizen to link his articles every once in a while if only to show people like me what the opposition is reading and thinking about. I find his arguments, like those of Wendell Cox, to be tedious, flat, and shallow, but even the lowliest citizen has a right to rant in a public meeting. Search, read, and learn, my friend...

  6. #6
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Unfortunately I think the planning and development field seems to be a frequent focus of 'pop' journalism and a lot of the arguments on both sides are lacking in intellectual rigor. A lot of these folks are basically journalists and don't have an education in planning or related fields (I don't even think Kunstler has a college diploma). They may be skillful writers but they don't have an informed, real-world perspective that would be gained by working in the field.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    He should be taken no more seriously than others loosely tied to our profession who make their money howling at the moon. He really no different than Kunstler, really.
    Oh, but he is different. Kunstler is at least amusing. I want to see him speak live because I imagine that he gets all worked up and veins start popping out this neck and forehead.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle
    Oh, but he is different. Kunstler is at least amusing. I want to see him speak live because I imagine that he gets all worked up and veins start popping out this neck and forehead.
    Yep. Except he does have a very canned, standardized speech (For example, he made remark about the Palace Hotel in SF (definitely not my taste-its the kind of over-gaudy, treacly design that makes you understand why the modernist movement came about) that we couldn't build it today (thank goodness!)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by a_retrogrouch
    It may be a wise decision for Planetizen to link his articles every once in a while if only to show people like me what the opposition is reading and thinking about. I find his arguments, like those of Wendell Cox, to be tedious, flat, and shallow, but even the lowliest citizen has a right to rant in a public meeting. Search, read, and learn, my friend...
    I've done a bit of looking around but his writings didn't seem to be unique or interesting in any way. Certainly not spouting new ideas. I was wondering if I was missing something.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Yep. Except he does have a very canned, standardized speech
    That doesn't surprise me too much. He does have a tendency to recycle material. I've read a couple of his books and the parts about Atlanta seemed like he open one book on his computer, highlighted the Atlanta section, pressed control-c and then opened the new book and pressed control-v.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  11. #11
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by a_retrogrouch
    It may be a wise decision for Planetizen to link his articles every once in a while if only to show people like me what the opposition is reading and thinking about. I find his arguments, like those of Wendell Cox, to be tedious, flat, and shallow, but even the lowliest citizen has a right to rant in a public meeting. Search, read, and learn, my friend...
    I agree. While it may be annoying to read the arguements of an opposing viewpoint, especially one that has very little factual basis or logical structure, it is important to know what the other side is saying so you can respond to it instead of being blindsided when the topic comes up at a public meeting or other interactive type situation. Also sometimes the opposing viewpoint actually has important information in it that might not have been considered and could lead one to having a better informed and well-rounded view.

    With that said, I've seen enought of Wendell Cox and O'Toole is not waste my time reading them since I never get much out of their arguements.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  12. #12

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    O'Toole? Pure Hack Tool

    Denver, as some of you may know, passed a successful light rail initiative last fall. Having a personal interest in the project, I did volunteer work to get it on the ballot and worked on the campaign.
    Naturally, I read everything I could on the "con" arguments, some of which were authored by O'Toole. I found his claims to be without merit or foundation - typical of his arguments were claims that light rail was dangerous because of the possibility of collisions with vehicles. Someone reading the article would be left with the impression of "Gee, light rail is dangerous" as it ignored how many more accidents happen between vehicles.

    On the other hand, I suppose we should be glad to have him around; he makes our arguments very appealing!

  13. #13
    Member JLA's avatar
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    I haven't read any of his work, but it sounds like he is of the same cloth as Wendell Cox, whose material is pure propaganda. The right-wingers have a few favorite "think tanks" that they love to fund to produce junk policy analysis to cloud legitimate debates. If there is a housing bubble, it has a lot more to do with easy credit, low interest rates, and speculative fever than growth management.

    As for Kunstler, I enjoy his rants. He doesn't pretend to be an academic, just a very good (albeit acerbic and at times over-the-top) commentator. You just have to take him with a grain of salt...his writing is as much entertainment as social critique.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle
    Oh, but he is different. Kunstler is at least amusing. I want to see him speak live because I imagine that he gets all worked up and veins start popping out this neck and forehead.
    What I like about Kunstler is how in his first books he raised the issue of the problems of sprawl, in a scathing yet humorous way. I think the book, along with Suburban Nation, is a good introductory for the average person to get a grasp on the whole sprawl problem - and to realize that it's not just a local "my town" phenomenon.

    Interestingly, I spend some time each day skimming the articles here - and I've noticed that it seems that every town in America keeps noticing the problems of sprawl - yet nobody (well, a few exceptions) seems to realize that it's not just a local problem - and they also don't realize that regulating 4-acre minimum lot sizes doesn't stop development, but worsens sprawl!!

  15. #15
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    O'Toole has recently blessed the southern part of the Atlanta metro with his insight. He actually showed up at a public meeting (I wonder who paid to have him flown in) to oppose commuter rail. As part of the discussion he ended up admitting that he had never actually seen Georgia's commuter rail plans but just knew anyway that they wouldn't work.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

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