The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 168
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Thus by 1962, after three previous campaigns, the rhetoric of the
zoning opponents had matured, its conceptions, assumptions, and pre-
sentation had been refined, polished, and clarified. Equating zoning
with politics, special interests, downtown businessmen, and violation of
private-property rights, opponents appealed to the small businessmen
trying to get larger, to property owners fearful of some remote bureau-
cratic board telling them what to do with their land, and to those aspir-
ing to own property and obtain the American Dream. These were
people trying to make it in Houston's viable and booming urban
economy. With their enthusiasm for growth and with such a favorable
outlook for continued prosperity, they saw no need for a zoning ordi-
nance that would control or rationalize urban expansion.
The zoning opponents understood the ethos and values of Hous-
tonians and assumed a two-fold approach: for the city council and local
organizations they erected a cogent and intellectual attack on zoning as
a planning technique. In their statements to the general public, how-
ever, they attempted to play upon the deepest fears of Houstonians,
using lies, distortions, and innuendo to convince Houston citizens that
zoning was a threat to their way of life. In 1948 the zoning opponents
sensed the prevailing mood and incorporated an attack on "Big Gov-
ernment," and by 1962, after years of the Cold War, they associated
zoning with communism and socialism. In all four campaigns the
zoning foes stressed that zoning was an attack upon individual free-
dom, private property, capitalism, economic growth, and the American
way of life. The anti-zoning rhetoric was clearly congruent with certain
traits-"a belief in the rights of property, the philosophy of economic
individualism [and] the value of competition"-which Richard Hof-
stadter labeled the "American political tradition." For over fifty years
Houston's staunch affirmation of these mainstream American values
has been dramatized by its anomalous status as an unzoned city.60
the contention that Houstonians perceived zoning as a Violation of private property and
free enterprise. The poll-taking method is unclear, but it seems as if the Association
asked people (how they chose them is uncertain) to write on a card why they opposed
zoning. One hundred and sixty people listed 210o easons; 30 percent called zoning a
violation of private-property rights and another 11 percent called it socialistic, un-
American, and anti-free enterprise. "Reasons Given for Opposing Zoning," Lee Collec-
tion, Mss. 58, Box 2, Scrapbook 2.
(oHofstadter, The American Political Tiadition, xxxt ii.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/204/: accessed August 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.