When I'm King


Our "Recipe for an American Renaissance" is slowly working its way into the public eye. In fact, we know of at least one restaurant that has begun to use it on their menus (though without our permission), and we look forward to the day we hear a politician use it in a stump speech. Yet, I grow impatient, and would like to see its practical application made while I'm still young enough to enjoy it.

I now realize that I may have to take drastic measures and proclaim myself King in order to make the Recipe a reality. Perhaps this dream of mine may never rise from the mists of fantasy, but if enthroned, I promise to rule wisely and not abuse the Bill of Rights.

As your King, I must tell you that these edicts will not be subject to debate. Please send your comments, but be nice or it's off with your head. As derived from our recipe, which reads "Eat in diners. Ride trains. Shop on Main Street. Put a porch on your house. Live in a walkable community," I hereby make the following proclamations:

When I'm King, my first act will be to construct toll plazas at all on-ramps for the interstate highway system. Each branch of the system must become profitable and pay property taxes to the communities through which it passes, or it will be abandoned and dismantled. I will then either have the right-of-way reclaimed, turned into a bike trail, or make portions of it into a national park or a highway museum as a monument to our past folly.

When I'm King, I will tax parking lots at twice -- no, make that three times the rate of any other property tax. If you can't walk to it, it won't be worth going to. Of course, this will not diminish the demand for transportation, so I expect to see new trolley companies begin operation, and I will allow these companies to lay tracks and string catenary along city streets and rural highways again. While you may still own and drive any car you desire, you'll find less need for one.

When I'm King, I will eventually privatize Amtrak, but not before I also privatize the airports, waterways, and eventually the highway system. If Amtrak must make a profit, then so must everything else.

When I'm King, I'll no longer allow Wal-Mart to advertise any benefit to the local community. Instead, they must place large placards at the entrance to each store itemizing the costs of infrastructure expansion, lost jobs at local businesses, decline in downtown real estate values, and environmental impact against the taxes they pay. Should the tax collected amount to less than cost, I will close the store (and I expect to close hundreds as a result).

When I'm King, all future commercial construction shall apply principles of sound urban design to new buildings. In other words, no more blank walls, no more main entrances through parking garages, no plain featureless big-box construction, and no setbacks to allow for rows of parking. In my regime, city planners will always give priority to the needs of the pedestrian over the driver.

When I'm King, we will again make retail employment a real career choice, eliminating the high-turnover of numb-headed sales clerks we've come to find at most mega-stores. My government will provide incentives to pay these people real wages so they'll actually find value in their jobs and treat customers better.

When I'm King, I will make it a high crime to Lou-Roc one's diner. Conversely, I will knight anyone who restores their diner to its original condition and grant them anything they want from Wal-Mart equivalent to the cost of the restoration. Also, all remaining drive-in and neighborhood theaters shall be exempt from property taxes and will have unfettered access to any movie they choose (provided they pay the rental).

Also, I will strike down any local ordinance that bans diners, lunch wagons, and neon signs, or that prevents vintage diners from opening due to fire codes or disabled-access laws. With regards to transporting diners, there shall be no such thing as a wide-load restriction.

When I'm King, I will decree that Ronald McDonald is the devil. Eventually, his name will replace "the bogeyman" as the monster children fear most. By extension, McDonald's will then be forced to dismantle all those garish play-places and instead use all the money spent marketing to children to rebuild inner-city parks.

When I'm King, there will be no more mansard roofs, unless they are real mansard roofs on Victorian buildings. That should help with the McDonald's situation as well.

Also, I'll force all franchise burger joints to put the doors to their bathrooms on the outside of the buildings. After all, we regard these places as rest stops that sell burgers.

When I'm King, no national chain retail anything may use professional actors to portray their workers in TV commercials. They must use their actual employees in the actual working environment. In my realm, I will apply truth-in-advertising to its extreme. Further, I will not allow anyone to name their restaurant after someone who either never existed or no longer has any association with the business. For example, if you go to a Joe's American Cafe, there had better be a Joe somewhere in that place (with at least a 51% ownership stake).

When I'm King, no structurally sound, historically significant building shall be demolished unless the developer proposes something better for that location -- something with a higher standard of beauty, construction, and use. Also, the new building will not have less square footage than the building it replaced. No more demolishing downtown blocks for parking lots or strip malls.

When I'm King, all post offices, courthouses, and town halls shall stand in the center of town.

When I'm King, no school district shall spend more on its sports program than on its arts programs. I see the lack of funding on arts education as the single biggest contributor to the decline in quality of the built environment.

When I'm King, no city or state within my realm shall reward wealthy owners of sports franchises with stadiums or arenas. If the teams want them, they may build their own.

When I'm King, I will confiscate all vintage, wood-carved carousel horses out of the living rooms of collectors and put them back on new or restored mechanisms where they belong -- for everyone to enjoy. These restored carousels shall be placed in all the parks McDonald's will pay to restore and maintain. Former owners will receive brand-new fiberglass replicas, since new figures collect dust just as well as the vintage kind.

When I'm King, I promise to... Huh? What? Wake up? Well, it looks like my nap time has ended. Sigh. What a beautiful dream I had.