Regulation

City Regulations vs. Art in Not-So-Weird Austin, Texas

|

Art may be timeless and powerful, but nearly as timeless and powerful as municipal regulations. A story unfolding in Austin, Texas, which apparently, if bumper stickers you see there are to be believed, prides itself on being "weird":

 In the case of theCathedral of Junk, artistic vision and the Austin cultural skyline lose.

Yesterday Vince Hanneman, the artist behind the cathedral, announced he is tearing it down. 

The cathedral had been slowly growing/accreting new parts in Hanneman's back yard since

1988, becoming a genuine piece of roadside Americana and even being featured on a postcard issued by the city. However, earlier this year Hanneman found himself on the wrong side of the city's Public Assembly Code Enforcement unit, which had major concerns about the safety of the structure and wanted Hanneman to pull the structure back out of the easement. There were also concerns about how accessible the structure could be to the public.

There had been serious efforts by Hanneman, council and city staff to try to come to some accommodation. However, on June 15 Hanneman released this statement, announcing his decision and thanking everyone that had tried to help:

Your efforts have helped soothe my bruised heart. Nevertheless, I feel obligated to tell you that our efforts have been in vain. The City has made me alter the Cathedral so much that little of its original charm is left. They are still wanting a building permit for what is left. Therefore, I will be continuing to dismantle what remains. Also, visitors will be turned away. Thank you everyone. It's a sad day for me, but much more so for Austin and, by proxy, the world…..

This is not the only recent incident in which local coding regulations and artistic expression have become social flashpoints. In 2008, the PACE unit was criticized for its closure of the Enchanted Forest, then the United States Art Authority (hosting Texas author Joe R. Lansdale June 16) got caught up in red tape about the certificate of occupancy. Then there was the long, weird debate about whether Ralph the Cactus Planter was art or a junked car. Last year, there was great debate over whether a mural was art or graffiti.

I wrote in Reason magazine's May 2008 issue about how a gang of artists experimenting with alternative energy solutions were bedeviled by city officials in Berkeley, California. Jesse Walker blogged last week about Jesse Howard, whose outsider art morphed over time from civic nuisance to museum fodder.

Advertisement

NEXT: Reason.tv: 3 Reasons The FCC Shouldn't "Touch" The Internets!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The people are safe from the scourge of amateur art.

    Yay!

  2. Acceptable public art can be whittled down to two stylistic themes: bronze statues of exhausted U.S. soldiers or multi-culti-children holding hands under a rainbow.

    Anything else falls under “Look how our tax dollars are used”-segments on the local rube-news at 9.

    1. Remember the fuss about the 9-11 flag raising statue: even the soldiers had better be multi-cultural now.

      1. And firemen too. Don’t forget the firemen.

  3. Yeee Hawwww, only in Texas LOL

    Lou
    http://www.Anonymous-VPN.de.tc

  4. Sometimes a pile of junk is just a pile of junk.

  5. Sometimes a pile of junk is just a pile of junk.

    True, but I would prefer to decide for myself, instead of having some self-important busybody do it for me.

    1. The local Baptists were probably offended by his calling it a “cathedral.” To be a proper cathedral you have to be able to play football in it.

      1. I have some friends who call one of the giant churches in one of the North Houston suburbs “The Methodrome”, being a Methodist church. I would be happy to claim membership in a church so big God doesn’t miss you when you sleep in.

        1. You think God’s Servants don’t have attendance monitoring? Would be pretty shortsighted for people who work for The All Seeing.

          1. Do Cowboys fans get an exemption? After all, they worship His team.

            1. Get thee behind me Satan! The Cowboys are the penultimate team of the devil, right behind any team owned by Bud Adams.

              1. Go to Hell Bud Adams.

        2. When I hear “Methodome” I don’t think Methodist.

  6. That’s very different to how the place looked when he took it over, which he described as “a grown-over jungle” and home to the nation’s oldest hobo camp. Initially he was happy to share the property with them, but “as far as they were concerned, I was trespassing on their land,” he said.

    Poor Hobos needed a lawyer

    * Actual possession of the property
    * Open and notorious use of the property
    * Exclusive use of the property
    * Hostile or adverse use of the property
    * Continuous use of the property

    1. “Jerri, what does V-I-C-T-O-R-Y spell?”

      “Fandango? Hobocamp? Ho…hobocamp?”

      1. -1 that really sucked. -1,000

  7. I think that I might have to go find this . . . thing art. Maybe tomorrow. Keep it weird, Austin.

    Oh, and why ain’t there more of this: Clay Henry, the beer drinking goat. He was also the mayor . . . and pee’d the Rio Grande!

  8. JEsus fucking christ. I would pay years worth of salary for 10 minutes alone with these cowards. Missouri cops shoot dog for no reason.

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=626_1276905053

    1. For fuck’s sake, it’s like they collared it just so they could shoot it. He waited until it was calm to gun it down.

      More great video from the police. They’re like Michael Bay: they love to make terrible films that have things getting shot and beaten in them.

      1. There’s some evidence that the dog has chased people, but never harmed anyone. Still I’m having a hard time seeing justification for shooting the dog.

      2. To be fair to the police, they haven’t done nearly as much harm as Michael Bay.

        1. If the police were to collar and gun down Michael Bay, they’d be regarded as heroes. Their priorities are clearly in the wrong place.

        2. Underway here at our @BPglobalPR memorial day BBQ. Old growth redwood bonfire is lit. Blue whale still in transit.
          12:52 PM May 31st via Twitter for iPhone

          The blue whale for our @BPglobalPR BBQ just arrived and we’re…wait, what the shit? Why is this thing covered in light crude?
          1:19 PM May 31st via Twitter for iPhone

          1. light crude Texas Tea

            Sweet Texas Tea

      3. it’s easier to hit a stationary target apparently.

        1. You ain’t shittin’ pal!

    2. Why on earth would you get so excised over a dog?

      Yap, yap, yap, whine, whine, whine, bark, bark, bark, ruff, ruff, ruff, pant, pant, pant, slobber, slobber, slobber.

      It’s just a stupid and annoying animal. Save your outrage for travesties committed against humans …

      1. Ya, There’s no correlation between the careless abuse of animals and degrees of sociopathy.

        Nice troll though.

              1. That’s E=mc^(2) dumbass.

                  1. or better

                    Yi=B0+B1+B2+B3+??

                  2. hmm, I always thought you were a linear thinker.

                    1. I’m just happy to be considered a thinker. This damn drool bib and helmet make it hard to be called anything but a…

                1. E = mc FuckYou

                  Better?

                  1. As long as the McFuckyou doesn’t come with a lithium tainted Shrek glass.

                    1. Nope. It’s a Colonel_Angus Fuck You.
                      Shrek is innocent. More or less.

                    2. Well that’s no fun.

                    3. What’s fun got to do with it?

                    4. Everything. That is if you follow the dog theory of life. It must be fun, food, or fuckable. Otherwise sleep.

                    1. Stupid thread. +69 was for Sol

      2. dbcooper is a fool. Man has an obligation to protect domesticated animals from abuse. Most serial killers abused animals when they were young. A cop that would shoot a dog that wasn’t attacking anyone would shoot a human for very little reason.

        Get it now, moron?

          1. +Go fuck yourself.

            1. Nice one.

        1. It’s called the MacDonald Triad.

    1. Wow, when I read there was a case pending I assumed it would be against the cop, not the dog owner.

  9. Now, Mr. Hanneman, about your Dismantling Permit …

    1. As a matter of fact, he is now being hassled for lack of a demolition permit.

      1. Easy Solution: Host a “Build Mohammed out of Junk” Day, get Pakistan Pissed Off, BAM, they’ll blow it up for him.

  10. If only there were some privatized alternative to zoning and code enforcement.

    Oh wait, there is:

    One approach involves what Professor Robert H. Nelson calls Privatizing the Neighborhood: buying a home affiliated with a homeowners association (HOA) that has an architectural rules committee. Unlike a government, HOAs cannot extend their jurisdiction to homeowners who have not opted in. Since HOAs are very local and small, participants are often neighbors and hence have incentive to settle disagreements in a civil manner. You would also have more influence on your HOA than on Boulder City Council.

    HOAs and common law traditions allow for variations in individual preferences and situations and allow creative methods of conflict resolution.

  11. If only there was some privatized free-market alternative to zoning and code-enforcement.

    Oh wait, there is:

    One approach involves what Professor Robert H. Nelson calls Privatizing the Neighborhood: buying a home affiliated with a homeowners association (HOA) that has an architectural rules committee. Unlike a government, HOAs cannot extend their jurisdiction to homeowners who have not opted in. Since HOAs are very local and small, participants are often neighbors and hence have incentive to settle disagreements in a civil manner. You would also have more influence on your HOA than on Boulder City Council.

    HOAs and common law traditions allow for variations in individual preferences and situations and allow creative methods of conflict resolution.

    1. Have you ever dealt with a HOA? If you think local city or county officials are petty, whimsical and mean-spirited, piss of your HOA board.

      1. I’ll say that the opt-in or opt-out would make it a slightly different beast though.

        The problem with most associations now is they require one to join as a convenant on the property. (whence the petty tyranny) And, worse, for newish construction, the builder still has a controling interest on the board, so they’re not even the pretense of ‘democracy’

        1. So what’s the point of having an HOA when people can opt out if the HOA says no?

          “I want to clear cut my yard and fill it with plastic flamingos.”

          “No, it would lower the property value we are chartered to maintain.”

          “I’m out.”

          I don’t get it.

          1. To me, one only owns property if one controls it and can use and dispose of it.

            The use of restrictive covenants in titles to real property is really little more than a deceptive way to appear to sell property while maintaining actual ownership.

            If people want to do that with property, fine. I respect their right to structure a contract the way they want to. But they shouldn’t be allowed to pretend they’ve sold the property, because they haven’t. They’ve leased it.

            So I’m OK with HOAs as long as the HOA remains responsible for the property taxes, and as long as the liability for any harm that occurs on a property passes up to the HOA.

            1. Fluffy,

              Under the current HOA model of corporate government and common-interest ownership, a homeowner never truly owns his property; even after the mortgage is paid off. The property is always collateral to whatever debts the HOA corporation may create.

              Like owners in a trailer park, residents of an HOA are in many ways glorified tenants. “Your home is your castle except in a community association.” One HOA attorney has recently suggested that homeowners in HOAs “must be willing to surrender their ownership interests and be renters.”

              Since libertarians seem to believe that the collective-ownership interests of the HOA corporation must trump the property rights of the individual homeowner, I propose a new model of home ownership.

              Rather than own individual property, a person moving into an Common Interest Community would purchase shares of the HOA corporation. These shares would allow the member to live in the CIC. When the member leaves the HOA corporation, he would be entitled to the value of his shares ? which would be tied to the overall property value in the CIC ? rather than the equity of the individual property he happened to occupy during his term as a member of the HOA corporation.

              In this model, the title of the home would belong to the HOA corporation. There would be no illusion or pretense about who actually owns the property. It eliminates the deception that you so rightfully criticize.

              Since the stated purposes of HOA corporations is to maintain property values (although I’ve never seen any credible evidence that they actually do this), this would provide an incentive for the HOA corporation to do so for the benefit of all residents. An individual’s financial stake would be tied to the value of the community as a whole, not to a specific home.

              This is in contrast to the current Animal Farm model, where some homeowners are more equal than others, and the existing system of perverse incentives makes it lucrative for property management companies and HOA attorneys to milk the HOA corporation for all it’s worth, at the expense of individual homeowners.

              For example, under the current model, the Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association corporation was able to foreclose on the $300,000 home of Michael Clauer to collect $800 in HOA dues + $2,7000 in attorneys fees. The Clauers lost $296,500 in equity, since there was no mortgage on the house. In the model proposed above, the Clauers would be entitled to the remaining value of their shares in the HOA corporation — $296,500 — if they are force out.

              If such a policy were adopted, “Common Interest Communities” would finally live up to their name.

        2. > I’ll say that the opt-in or opt-out
          > would make it a slightly different beast though.

          It would, but as Fred Pilot said in a comment on another blog (scroll down):

          You’re using the wrong paradigm. HOAs are not private membership clubs. They are — as the owner of this blog pointed out in his 1994 book “Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government” — a private form of local government. You are no more a “member” of this government any more than you are a “member” of whatever town or county in which you reside. You automatically and involuntary become a “member” by the mere act of entering or purchasing real property within their jurisdiction — just as is the case with HOAs.

  12. Did you know that junk cathedrals are virtually unregulated? Actually, I jest. However, if you are looking for a highly efficient way to discover the next frontier for regulation and regulators, simply Google this phrase: “virtually unregulated.” The results are a thrilling if dizzying tour of the daydreams of nanny-statists, (most) politicians and entrenched interests.

    1. Thanks, voxpo. This *is* a very interesting exercise. Let’s hope the nanny-statists don’t discover that H&R is … well, you know!

  13. Last year, there was great debate over whether a mural was art or graffiti.

    It’s art if you have the consent of the owner to paint on the surface — otherwise, graffiti.

    Though in the case of the pictured graffiti, it seems the government would have been well advised to call it free art, and leave it alone.

    1. Exactly. If the owner wants it there, it is art. If not, then he can paint it over as graffiti. I am not sure who is worse, the assholes who make owners paint over murals on their own walls or the assholes who keep owners from painting over graffiti in the name of art.

    2. Any graffiti could be considered art regardless of permission. It is vandalism if the owner of the property did not consent to it.

      1. This. Graffiti is art no matter if permission was attained or not. We’re looking at the difference between vandalism or not vandalism.

  14. Anyway, here’s a fun game if you have no life (and you don’t if you’re reading this): See how many rhetorical tricks you can find in just this brief excerpt from the story cited (answers at the bottom):

    “In the case of the Cathedral of Junk, artistic vision and the Austin cultural skyline lose….The cathedral had been slowly growing/accreting new parts in Hanneman’s back yard since 1988, becoming a genuine piece of roadside Americana and even being featured on a postcard issued by the city.”
    .
    .
    .
    .

    Cathedral of Junk–Deliberate oxymoron, a conspiratorial wink.
    artistic vision–Junk is art? It is if a newspaper writer says so!
    cultural skyline–The “cathedral” is visible tens of feet away!
    a genuine piece of roadside Americana–Well, it is near a road.
    featured on a postcard issued by the city–Well, that settles it!

    1. What’s the point of this? If the weird ass citizens of this city think so, then yes, the Cathedral of Junk is art. Are you some over-educated dickhead who thinks he can pronounce what is or isn’t art? Because you certainly don’t seem to understand the idea of a “cultural skyline” and an actual physical one.

  15. As a supreme court justice said, I know art (or pornography) when I see it.

    When they came for the graffiti, I said nothing. When they came for the roadside signage, I said nothing. When they came for the home made sculpture, I said nothing.
    When they came for the internet porn, I uh, er, had my hands full, but afterwords I had a f*cking fit!!!

  16. The Cowboys are the penultimate team of the devil

    The RAVENS are my team, and don’t you forget it.

    1. Nuh-uh! Satan loves us more!

      1. Don’t you…Satan…?

        1. I am thinking Satan would be cool enought to like a decent team

          1. We scoff at your self-importance. Snow, unemployment, misery and Rust-Belt status makes us Satan’s favorites.

          2. I thought he liked Canadian football?

            1. We are Canadian!

              1. Sorry, should have remembered from all the terrorist financiers they keep catching there. My wrong!

          3. I am thinking Satan would be cool enough to like a decent team

            And you figure he’d give them some other-worldly assistance, or at least show them how to cheat efficiently. I’d say he either was an Oakland or Pittsburgh fan (70’s, early 80’s), became a 49’s fan (80’s, early 90’s), and has recently changed allegiance to New England.

    2. Dear Satan:

      penultimate – adj. next to the last, just below the ultimate.

      1. Maybe that’s what he meant.

  17. Typical Austin. They want Austin wierd as long as it is you know “cool wierd” and not “really wierd”. Most public art is crap these days. But what they guy does on his own land is his business, provided it doesn’t harm his neighbors which this doesn’t seem to.

    In other news, the peasents are revolting.

    http://thehill.com/homenews/ho…..blood-boil

    1. Is it his land? I thought it was on an easement.

      “Keep Round Rock Mildly Unusual.”

      1. “Keep Round Rock Mildly Unusual.”

        +100 🙂

    2. Austin is a weird city of 100000 with 600000 Californians thrust in.

    3. While Austin is full of hipsters, quacks and hypocrites (mostly because of California and a large college student population) this is not a great example of it. The majority of people here are outraged at this (the owner was being fined $1000 a day at one point). This is government overstepping its bounds and Austonians don’t know what to do because they usually like when the government does that.

  18. Surprised Reason missed this story. IG’s of the world Obama now owns all of your bases.

    http://www.washingtonexaminer……14994.html

    1. This little IGy went to market.

  19. Latest BP Outrage!

    CEO Tony Hayward attends snooty yacht race as pelicans roast in goo.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/201…..0616040225

    1. I’m not sure what you want from him. He can’t do anything to affect that. He could give orders before, but he can’t do that anymore since he’s been relieved of power by his board. Sackcloth and ashes might make a good presser, but it won’t make the pelicans any less gooey.

      Also, look on this as externally driven evolution. Pelicans who instinctively avoid landing on the funny looking water have a competitive advantage. It’s Darwinism in action! And anyone who hates Darwinism must be a knuckle-dragging evolutionist. Your enlightened sense of outrage tell me you aren’t one of those people.

    2. He might as well since the guy who just shook his company down for $20B is either golfing or making the Nationals lose.

      1. And Obama won’t let anybody clean anything up either.

        1. Your enlightened sense of outrage

          I need to adjust my sarcasm settings.

          1. Could be my filter that’s broken.

            1. I accept your apology. You owe me…let’s see…how about $15.5 million? Small bills, please.

  20. If I were a BP shareholder, I would want to see Tony Hayward cleaning gas station bathrooms for minimum wage.

    Managers should have unlimited liability in shareholder lawsuits. If he deserves six million dollars per year because he’s responsible for BP’s “success” he should sure as hell be held responsible for BP’s fuck-ups.

    1. If I were a BP shareholder I would be demanding the British government do something to get Obama out of the way so Hayward could get this fixed.

      1. Relying solely upon his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Dwarfs, I’m thinking Hayward isn’t much of an engineer. That, or he really should consider cutting down on the depressants.

    2. Managers should have unlimited liability in shareholder lawsuits.

      They do.

  21. No worries. Now that President Outrage has politicized what is mostly an engineering problem, look for revenge and shakedowns as the new norm.

    1. And don’t forget the handouts to special interests, unconstitutional surveillance, and politically motivated attacks as well as revenge and shakedowns

  22. wanted Hanneman to pull the structure back out of the easement.

    Not knowing the details this statement gives me pause.

    It looks to me like this guy built crap on road easement. In which case i really have no sympathy.

  23. “It wasn’t my decision” should have exactly zero effect as a defense.

    1. So you should get the injection if your teenager kills somebody?

  24. So you should get the injection if your teenager kills somebody?

    Inapplicable. (Unless you sent your teenager out to rob a gas station, and he took it upon himself to shoot the clerk in the face.)

    If an employee destroys your business through incompetence, will you just pat him on the head and say, “That’s all right, Tony. You go ahead and keep all the money you took from me while you were running my business into the ground. You EARNED it.”?

    1. Is BP contractually obligated to pay him his salary and bennies, as well as a golden parachute?

    2. he took it upon himself to shoot the clerk in the face

      Again with the face. Why is it always the face?

    3. Liability should attach to negligence, not to incompetence.

      If the manager you hire is incompetent, that’s your own fault.

      It’s a silly discussion anyway, since no one seriously believes that the individual engineering decisions on work sites are being made by the CEO.

  25. Weekend threadjack! I have been following this case, and seems like a good thread to spring this upon ye..

    Oklahoma City pharmacist Jerome Ersland is charged with first-degree murder in the May 19 shooting death of a would-be robber. The charge alleges Ersland shot Antwun Parker, 16, while he was incapacitated and lying on his back.

    What you think? Should he stand trial or is he getting a bum rap?

    1. It depends on how the state of Oklahoma defines self-defense and homicide. Also, five to the center of mass, with a 2nd gun, on an already down target that he walked past to retrieve, seems a little excessive. I know bullets are cheaper than surprises, but damn.

      I hope he gets off, but I can see why it would go to trial.

      1. The defense will likely argue psychotic disease, and the fact he shot the incapacitated man with five additional bullets helps his defense. His lawyer has attempted to order a mental evaluation.

  26. If the manager you hire is incompetent, that’s your own fault.

    If the CEO is incompetent, and the board does not remove him, the board is negligent.

    It’s a silly discussion anyway, since no one seriously believes that the individual engineering decisions on work sites are being made by the CEO.

    It may be silly to expect the CEO to be involved in those decisions. But it’s not silly to wonder just what, exactly he is being paid so handsomely for; if the CEO is being paid based on his presumptive personal impact on the success and profitability of the company, why he shouldn’t be held accountable for catastrophic fuck-ups?

    My position is this: The CEO is an employee, hired (at least in theory) by the owners to run their company. If his negligence/incompetence destroys the value of the company, the victims (by which I mean shareholders of record, not some nebulous self-appointeded population of “stakeholders”) should be able to seek redress against him (and other responsible parties, like the board of directors) personally.

    Incentives are vital. In this instance, when the dust settles, Tony Hayward should be living in a cardboard box. Perhaps that will provide a useful lesson for our next generation of managers.

  27. Oklahoma City pharmacist Jerome Ersland is charged with first-degree murder in the May 19 shooting death of a would-be robber. The charge alleges Ersland shot Antwun Parker, 16, while he was incapacitated and lying on his back.

  28. http://www.burberryscarveshop.com/
    here are lots of nice quality burberry scarves at a discount price for you.

  29. our nice burberry scarves at a good discount are your best choice,great welcome everyone order from us,we will provide you with the best service.

    http://www.burberryscarveshop.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.