Thursday, January 6, 2005

Blogging TREBIC

TREBIC (the Triad Area Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition) is in the news a lot this week. Today it is criticising the local Sierra Club's report on sprawl. And a few days ago, an article in the N&R (not posted on their site) intimated the way that TREBIC gets to influence local legistlation in Greensboro. The article said that city staff is working on an ordinance to increase the number of trees in the city, and TREBIC gets to participate in the actual writing of the ordinance. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse! That's access with a capital A.

But this is what TREBIC does, and it's quite up-front about the fact. In a recent half-page ad placed in local builders’ trade publications, titled “What Has TREBIC Done For You Lately?”, the group boasted that it had weakened the RUCO ordinance, the sidewalk ordinance, and local environmental legislation. It claimed it was working hard to place TREBIC supporters in important positions on appointed boards. It also boasted that it had feted members of the City Council and other elected officials at a pig-pickin’ shindig in order to curry their favor.

Gosh, thanks TREBIC!

Seriously, though. Although TREBIC's spokeswoman, Marlene Sanford, often claims that the group is just promoting free-market competition, TREBIC’s exercise of influence has little to do with laissez-faire economics. It has more to do with skewing real-estate related legislation and quasi-judicial boards (such as the Zoning Board and the Board of Adjustment) in its own favor. Adam Smith, the granddaddy of free-market capitalism, had this to say about regulations emanating from the economic class (merchants and manufacturers) which forms TREBIC's main constituency:

The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it (Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Causes of the Wealth of Nations).
What then should we do? If TREBIC is guarding the making of law regarding real estate and building in Greensboro, quis custodiet cusodes ipsos? (“Who will guard the guards themselves?”)

I nominate myself. And you. This looks like a perfect opportunity for the blogosphere’s “long tail” to leak a little light and air into the smoke-filled rooms of ordinance-writing.

So I’m announcing the BLOGGING TREBIC PROJECT. I’ve asked city staff for access to all the meetings where the tree ordinance will be discussed with TREBIC, and I’ll blog what I hear, see, and say, if they'll let me in. If you would like to join in, I’m happy to let you guest blog. E-mail me at

In fact, I'd like to see TREBIC blogged in all its interactions with city and county government. Wouldn't you?


Billy Jones said...

If the city refuses to let you in I'll be the first one holding a protest sign and chanting in front of TREBIC's offices.

D. Hoggard said...

You are a friggin' genius.

They would be crazy to not let you in?