futuristics | dystopias
Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan has plans to create a new town in Florida, Ave Maria, that will be governed according to his own personal interpretation of what are "strict Roman Catholic principles"
Said Monaghan, "We're going to control all the commercial real estate, so there's not going to be any pornography sold in this town. We're controlling the cable system. The pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives
Town planners indicate that "...Located on what was once largely agricultural land, it has been designed to be a compact, walkable, self-sustaining town that reflects the community's rural roots while offering a full range of residential options and commercial services to its residents...
The town would essentially be built around Ave Maria University
, which has operated from Ann Arbor, Michigan for a few years and recently moved to Naples, Florida. But the college's success is not an isolated one and appears in part to be hinged to Father Joseph Fessio, the new College's provost and top-ranking priest. Fessio enjoys a close relationship with Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI.
The San Francisco, California-based Ignatius Press, which Fessio founded and still runs, is the primary English-language publisher of Ratzinger's works. After Ratzinger was named Pope, Time magazine acknowledged Fessio as a member of the new pontiff's inner circle. [This from a news report at Common Dreams
Not surprsing, there's much more to the story. Another component of making this dream of Monaghans' achievable is the active collaborative partnership of real estate developer and agricultural/mineral explotier Barron Collier Companies
. Barron Collier has ties with upscale real-estate developer Lutgert Corporation
. Together, as real estate developers, they seem to have a good record at develping attractive looking communities, but their record with respecting environmentally sensitive terrain may be more problematic. Exxon-Mobil [ who has partnered with them to develop and start extraction
of "potential new oil fields in Southwest Florida and is currently active in furthering exploration of Collier’s 840,000 acres of mineral assets
"]. It's a matter of public record that Barron Collier has no problem fighting local governments and environmental groups about issues such as where to place high voltage power lines
. So there may be other much more troublesome matters afoot than just having concerns about adult book stores and condoms at the drug store counter.
The Project has already put spade to earth on 17 February 2006 and hopes to have the nation's first new Roman Catholic college in 40 years open by 2007. Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist said it will be up to the courts to decide the legalities of the plan. Florida Governor Jeb Bush, at the site's groundbreaking earlier this month, lauded the development as a new kind of town where faith and freedom will merge to create a community of like-minded citizens. He didn't speak to the implications of local ordinances that might violated state or federal Constitutional protections.
Personally, I find it difficult to believe that a town designed on a square grid pattern, densely settled, and superimposed atop farm and marshland, comes even close to reflecting rural roots.
Others have written about the endeavor. Analyst Bill Berkowitz at Working Assets
has some questions of his own
about monocultural communities, authortarian cults and social control. Over at Leiter Reports
commentator Benj Hellie explores the corporate connections
Given the founder's penchant for overt control of things he has clearly said he doesn't like [pornography, abortion, birth control], I'd also have concerns about what attempts would be made to forbid livavble wages [while Monaghan long ago sold off his intersts in Dominos Pizza, he was hardly an exemplar of one sensitive to worker's concerns], zoning laws, universal health care and universal educational standards.
And what happened when an amateur theatre group wants to perform something like Arthur Miller's Crucible [not to mention Torch Song Trilogy]
Given the close ties with corporate real estate speculators, as well as existing relationships with one of BigEnergy's more flagrant polluters, concerns about political censorship around if and when the citizens of Ave Maria begin to question environmental degradation, waste disposal, even global warming, makes for a much more disturbing union.
I'm certain we'll hear more about this as ime marches forward.