Freedom Foundation Liberty Blog
by Glen MorganApril 23, 2013
In 1968, during the Vietnam War, AP Correspondent Peter Arnett attributed a quote
from an American Army Major after the destruction of the Vietnamese Village Ben Tre, “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” This quote, which is still controversial, was repeated frequently by the anti-war protesters as an illustration of the lack of logic in the Vietnam conflict.
Today, this is also official policy and business as usual at Whatcom County
as they require property owners to destroy wildlife habitat and wetlands in order to save the wildlife and wetlands. Last Friday I visited with a property owner – Joe Remenar in North Whatcom County near Blaine. Not far from the Martin property which I discussed in this post a few weeks ago.
Joe retired from the Department of Justice as a former special agent working with drug interdiction who had done overseas tours in places like Afghanistan. He purchased a small property and home not far from the Canadian border in Whatcom County. Enjoying the views out his back deck, he decided to improve the wildlife habitat on his property. He didn’t apply for a grant or take taxpayer dollars, he just spent his own time and money to improve the habitat for the birds, amphibians, insects, and other critters by building a pond. He was careful in his pond construction. He did not interrupt the flow of a stream (also known as an “instream flow” violation). The State Fish and Wildlife biologists reported that his pond was a clear and obvious wildlife enhancement project.
He was justifiably proud of his accomplishment and it changed a field with little habitat into a pond with nesting geese, feeding grounds for great blue herons, and other wildlife in the area. However, he made one crucial mistake – he did not get permission from the Central Planners at Whatcom County. For this crime against bureaucracy, he was going to be punished.
As further proof that the Nanny State isn’t just a thorn in everyone’s side, but it is also a thoughtless, rapacious beast – the geniuses at Whatcom County led by Whatcom County’s lead Central Planner – Lyn Morgan-Hill (no relation to the author), demand that Mr. Remenar must destroy the pond and wildlife habitat in order to save the wildlife habitat. This was the solution only a dedicated Central Planner could invent and justify. Just to be clear, of course – Mr. Remenar would also have to pay one of the “preferred” consultants approved by Whatcom County to create the plan on how to fill in the pond.
Like most people, Mr. Remenar doesn’t want to destroy the wildlife habitat on his property. He wants to save it, but the Central Planning mindset at Whatcom County has only one plan, and Whatcom County’s plan is not required to make sense. The faux environmentalists who attack property owners like Mr. Remenar never have to say they are sorry or even have a rational reason for their actions.
They just inflict harm on property owners like Mr. Remenar and care little about the consequences. To Central Planners like Lyn Morgan-Hill, it makes sense to destroy the environment in order to save it.
Update: Glen led a "Freedom Academy" event at the Rome Grange on Mt. Baker Highway April 20th, attended by over 50 folks. Freedom Foundation encourages the public to learn about civics and become directly involved in local government "because people want to be free." (Well, most folks do. Some take juvenile pride in mocking liberty. )
April 17, 2013
Glen Morgan, Property Rights Director
Freedom Foundation, Citizens Action Network blogHow many government employees does it take to plant a tree?
It sounds like an old joke (the answer starts at five and grows from there), but it is a real question some of us have asked when we see the expansion of “Tree Ordinances” in local jurisdictions in Washington State. The City of Tukwila, for example
, is exploring a tree ordinance consisting of many pages of make-work rules to manage every aspect of pruning, planting, protecting, removing, and enjoying trees and landscaping. The question, unanswered, of course, is how did the City of Tukwila become one of the most heavily treed cities (47% according to their “consultant” report) in Washington State without this critical, crucial, crises ordinance process to save our trees from ourselves? This is indeed a mystery nobody in the Tukwila government appears able to solve. However the citizens and elected officials of Tukwila still have the opportunity to avoid the tree ordinance fiasco which the Mercer Island City Council attempted to impose on their citizens (and which was impressively rejected by the residents in 2001).
Anyone who has ever enjoyed driving around some of the older neighborhoods of Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Spokane, Olympia, and other cities has been able to enjoy the wonderful landscaping located there– many of the trees are more than a century old. If you were to look back on photos from the late 1800s in most of these locations the ground was entirely barren before the homes were built. No hundred page tree ordinances with fees, fines, arborist requirements, or other complicated bureaucratic contortions existed at the time. Somehow, to our modern amazement – trees were planted and they grew without the Nanny State and Central Planners to micromanage the process. I’m sure this is a great mystery to the current Central Planners and naïve politicians who are writing, and passing these mostly worthless and pointless ordinances. It is something to ponder.
However, if what we are experiencing is “progess” then the “Progressives” have decided that trees can no longer grow on their own
, and in fact we would all live in a barren wasteland devoid of plants, trees, and beautiful landscaping without their critical ordinances - despite overwhelming common sense observations to the contrary. At some point, like George Orwell’s memory hole from the novel 1984,
the current Central Planners require the inconvenient fact that all those beautiful trees in all those old neighborhoods just somehow were planted, cultivated, and grew without Central Planning’s interference.
Unfortunately, what we are more likely to see with the proliferation of pointless, homogenous tree/landscaping ordinances provided by Central Casting at the American Planning Association
(this is the group that provides the cookie-cutter planning documents for most of our planning departments), is the reduction in both variety of landscaping/tree planting results, and the tendency to force whatever the fad of the day might be upon our communities with little local control or individuality allowed. Secret, midnight pruning, and using the ordinance as the excuse to file complaints against neighbors are certain and well-documented outcomes.
My recommendation is to dump most aspects of these pointless tree ordinances.
I’ve personally planted thousands of trees and dozens of varieties. I’ve also had to remove trees that were either unhealthy or becoming a problem where they were located. I am far from alone in this interest and activity, and miracle of miracles – nobody had to write a law to force me or most other people to do this. None of us need the Nanny State or Central Planning to tell us what to do. This is the cycle of life, and the beauty of landscaping and interacting with nature is that you can make it better now and for the future.
We do this because we enjoy watching the trees and plants grow, and if a community wants to encourage tree planting, they can do so without these ordinances. Use the history of Arbor Day
as an inspiration on how you can get your community to plant trees without government harassment. Review your local ordinances to see what is restricted, "managed," or "permited" where you live. To the Nanny State and those who support it – please just leave us alone and let us plant and manage our trees without your interference. To the amazement of the Central Planners the trees really will grow without their ordinances. Do we really need a tree ordinance to "manage" this?
He Who Must Not be Named
Say the name, "Agenda 21" and a shocked pall falls over the room. Environmental collectivists glare menacingly, and cast a spell conjuring up incantations about tinfoil hats. Conservatives shrink in fear. Boo!
Agenda 21? It doesn't exist! Stop talking about it, you... you foolish conspiracy theorists! What Agenda 21...? Oh - the 21st Century Agenda
. Gotta stay current on the nomenclature.
Guess which sorcerer invoked "That Which Must Not be Named" by name
yesterday? That's right, the headmaster of the Forbidden Forests, Ken Salazar apparated yesterday into Anacortes, which isn’t even in the San Juans (but no matter, those with federal powers conjured the illusion). With a magic wand, the presidential pen
, these islands have been declared a national monument, an unusual new brand of territory with special magical places and waters that must be protected from Muggles, you know. Click here, if you dare!
Just make sure you have practiced your defenses against the dark arts.
The Magic New Map (with all of Lummi Island)
The little people can thank "conservative" councilman Sam Crawford
and Whatcom County Council for adding their blessings to this, back in 2011. WE can't imagine this was conjured-up to have no affect. What that will be, we shall see in time.
There are some who say that we need to "give up some of our rights" for a better world. Give up rights... That's an interesting concept. Which rights? The right to freedom of speech? The right to vote? Nobody wants someone else's religion forced on them, but can government deny the the practice of religious principles
? Is there any such thing as a right to privacy? What about protection from unwarranted aerial surveillance and thermal scans? How about unreasonable search and seizure? Where should the line be drawn, and by whom? Assessors and building departments? Questions, pesky questions...
The Trojan Heron posted on this Orcas Island story
, and the Island Guardian just reported on the courtroom proceedings Thursday March 21 with details,
"Google Maps, Permits, Search Warrants
(UPDATED 02-21-13 10:20 A.M.
) ~ An Orcas man is in court on a criminal charge, that stems from a civil charge, resulting from construction of a building without permits, that ended up being used for a residence.
Based on the court record it is hard to tell when Errol Speed’s trouble started, but it is clear that when Speed added his complaint in May of 2010 to the County about what he and others believed was land use violations by a commercial enterprise on Orcas, it resulted in the owner of that property making a similar charge against Speed. (more
This post puts even more perspective on the story, asking the most important questions of all about what community is, and the humanity of the situation:
by Gordy Peterson - Island Guardian
The hard old oak chairs in the Courthouse have held the butts of generations of islanders. Judge Stuart Andrew peered over the huge dark paneled desk down upon the small audience in the oak chairs. Faded historical photos of island characters hang from the courtroom walls. These are the men who sat in judgment of their neighbors, men who handed down rulings according to the laws of the territory. I was here today out of an interest in justice. My neighbor and friend Errol Speed, is on trial, charged with serious crimes.
My butt is in an old oak chair. Errol ‘s butt is in a sling. That’s right, he is charged with the most heinous of crimes (at least in San Juan County), building code violations! OMG!
The district court judge sees a daily parade of substance abusers, domestic violence perpetrators, and people who commit violent crimes against others. Then along comes someone who is slammed up against the wall by jackbooted thugs for a difference of opinion over the size of his barn.
In this case a business competitor turned his butt in to the County Assessor, and the Planning Department for alleged offenses he found by looking at aerial photos of Errol’s farm on Google Earth. Errol was served with a search warrant and the authoritarian enforcers from the County swarmed his private property and busted him because he had no permit for his trailer or wood stove. He didn’t even know he needed one for his trailer. I’ve known Errol for more than 20 years. He is a father of six with ten grandchildren. I was the neighborhood grocer on Orcas where all his kids grew up. I saw Errol and his family in the store almost everyday. He’s a hard worker, a good father, a small business owner, and an organic farmer (why does SJC persecute organic farmers? This is the third one in a row! Charles Dalton, Nick Jones, now Errol Speed?).
Now here is the point of this article; seriously, is this the way we want to treat our neighbors? Have we come to the point in San Juan County where the correct application of the building code is the same as criminal assault? Where a landowner can face fines and jail time for using an unpermitted wood stove to keep warm? Why wouldn’t San Juan County exhaust civil remedies for non-compliance before violating the privacy of its’ citizens and storming the property with a search warrant? Is this the way we want to treat our neighbors?
This case brings some important issues to the forefront:
Can the County use information obtained from magnified aerial photographs as the basis to obtain a search warrant?
Does a private property owner who is doing no harm to his neighbors have a right to privacy?
Have regulations in San Juan County gone too far?
Regulations in this county have done an adequate job in protecting community values. Soon we will see the implementation of the most onerous and unnecessary regulations to ever come down the pike. These regulations are nothing more than tools to use to harass your neighbors for a vendetta of any kind. Is there someone you don’t like? You can stick it to them with the new CAO. If the County gets its’ way you can use aerial surveillance photos to turn in your neighbor. Have we crossed the line here into some kind of fascism? Does the “golden rule” have any meaning in the islands anymore? “Love thy neighbor” or put his butt in jail, that’s our choice. I hope for a better community. I don’t even recognize this one anymore.
Yesterday, the county water district caucus of the WRIA 1 Planning Unit transmitted a letter to Whatcom County Council. That may sound boring, but WE think it's important and something everybody should see. Why?The letter
describes in clear terms how water laws affect everybody. It explains what's supposed to happen. Then it lays out how agencies and planners have basically run away with the process since 2009. A lot of people have been dumped - citizens with wells, private water associations, the county's public water districts, and even small cities in large part - even though the Watershed Planning Act (RCW 90.82.10) says:
The legislature finds that the local development of watershed plans for managing water resources and for protecting existing water rights is vital to both state and local interests. The local development of these plans serves vital local interests by placing it in the hands of people: Who have the greatest knowledge of both the resources and the aspirations of those who live and work in the watershed; and who have the greatest stake in the proper, long-term management of the resources.
In spite of this very clear law, state and regional agencies and the county's departments have jumped the tracks. Not only has resource planning become remote, but both public and
private water rights have been fought over behind closed doors without transparency, or open public meetings
(check out the state law
). Next week, council will have the opportunity to do the right thing to start fixing the
situation. It's pretty clear that only council is motivated to step-in.This is a critical issue that affects everyone. Read this situation letter and attend the meetings listed below if you can. Get involved however you can, or brush-up on the words and music to "How Dry I Am."MEETING ALERTS
A Whatcom County Council Surface Water Work Session
is scheduled for next Tuesday, March 19 at 10:30 a.m. in Courthouse Room #513
, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham. Be there! It's a biggie.
(A Puget Sound Partnership/WRIA 1 "WIT
" meeting is also scheduled for Tuesday, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at the 1000 N Forest Street, Bellingham. You may have missed this post
A special meeting of the WRIA 1 “Joint Consolidated Board”
is scheduled for next Thursday March 21 at 1:30 p.m. also in Courthouse Room #513
, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham.
Despite virtually every council member pointing out that the reconveyance would have little or no impact on the Lake Whatcom water quality, that straw man was dancing a jig all evening. He just wouldn't burn. Here's the vote:
- Crawford: Yes. Disappointing, but predictable. WE don't know what his principles are.
- Kremen: Yes. Certainly! It's his baby. He set the table as administrator, and ate the meal as councilman. A principled leader would recuse himself.
- Brenner: No. Barbara has been opposed to this in principle for quite some time.
- Kershner: Yes. Very disappointing. At least Solomon didn't actually cut the baby.
- Mann: Yes. Arguably another case for recusal - nope.
- Knutzen: No. Bill has been opposed to this in principle. He knew this was driven by environmental collectivists who resent logging and discovered the reconveyance loophole to end it.
- Weimer: Yes. A park is love. You can't make this stuff up.
, self-promoted at the Bellingham Herald Political Blog
by The Political Junkie
might have been useful, but WE found it to be churlish and intolerant. The running mockery relayed no tolerance for different views; no sympathy for collateral damage. Attacking the sincere and innocent with the blood lust of bulldogs does nothing to improve the civility of the community.
One important point: Bill Knutzen introduced an amendment to the reconveyance resolution that would have guaranteed that Whatcom County would manage the land, and not sub-contract that responsibility to any third party entity, e.g., Whatcom Land Trust. Ken Mann would not support the amendment, but insisted he would "sign in blood" the promise that control would never go to a third party. Okay fine, but WE damn well expect these people to live up to statements like that.
Bill's motion failed 4 - 3 (Knutzen, Kershner and Brenner approved), despite lip service lauding the intent. The reason given to reject was that they feared that any change to the language might spook the legal eagles and derail the deal.
The reason this is important is that while DNR is a public trust, subject to transparency laws, auditing and information requests, private land trusts, though acting as agents of the state, have no such responsibility.
One big reason for opposition to the reconveyance, as one correspondent pointed out, involves concern about special interests, unmonitored and unrepresentative rent-seeking opportunists scheming to leverage government at the expense of the people. WE're not saying they are, although the usual suspects have been circling overhead since the inception. WE prefer something more accountable and transparent.
Breaking news from the Seattle Times, March 8, 2013
OLYMPIA — Gun-control advocates are launching a weekend lobbying blitz on seven members of the state House who may control the fate of a contentious bill to require background checks for all gun purchases.
State Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a Seattle Democrat organizing the push for universal background checks, said Friday that his bill now has 47 supporters — 46 Democrats and Lake Stevens Republican Mike Hope.
It needs 50 to pass. (Continue reading...)
While supporters of bills
like this say it will make it harder for criminals to obtain weapons – let’s face it: criminals won’t comply. They won’t follow this new law any more than they obey the other gun control laws already on the books.HB 1588 would make it extremely difficult for friends or relatives to sell or exchange a gun. Licensed dealers – persons who engage in gun sales as a business - must already conduct background checks.
Some may argue that this is just like reporting the sale of a vehicle. Does that equate? No, that's not "apples for apples." It's not illegal to sell a car to someone without running a background check on the buyer or driver. A person doesn't have to have a drivers license or know how to drive to buy a car. That kind of analogy is a distraction and false; don't buy it.
Of course, killing, committing crime, and creating havoc with arms are already illegal.Should private citizens be commandeered to police one another when they sell their property? This bill says yes where it comes to arms, and failure to do so would make a person a felon.
This law means to complicate how people keep
arms that they legally possess. There is no question that the bill means to burden and frustrate the exercise of a right.
We wouldn't tolerate frustrating or burdening the right to vote. Why should we tolerate frustrating or burdening another
right (to keep and bear arms, that the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed)? All rights are precious. Our government's job is to recognize rights and protect them, not to pick away at them in backhanded ways.Action Item: Phone calls should be focused on Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, 360-786-7920, and the pro-1588 legislators mentioned in this article. Please act now. Legislator web pages:
Submitted by a Skagit County contributor
On Monday morning, February 25, 2013, a notice was sent out from the Skagit County web server announcing a special ceremony the next day. The purpose was to celebrate Skagit County’s receipt of the Smart Communities Award from former Governor Gregoire and to recognize the outstanding contributions of over 60 local community leaders in a project that had taken over three years and cost in excess of 1.2 million, most of the amount in tax dollars, in the form of a grant from the EPA. The county was obligated for an additional third of that, but was able to satisfy the requirement by “in-kind” contributions utilizing paid staff as well as volunteers. After an intense process of goal setting, obtaining grant money, establishing committees, hiring inspiring speakers, obtaining studies from well paid consultants, conducting local meetings to obtain citizen involvement in predetermined outcomes and drafting a series of recommendations, the project was presented to the public and elevated to the Skagit Council of Governments (SCOG) in April 2012 for consideration and implementation. So, an awards ceremony recognizing the county for its progressive vision and complementing those who played a key role seemed appropriate after the completion of such a long and arduous task.
It is perhaps ironic then that on the previous Wednesday afternoon, February 20th, the SCOG narrowly defeated a resolution that was a watered downed version of only one of the recommendations that had been proposed by the project’s citizen advisory committee. The other recommendations, which were based on Envision Skagit’s nine major goals, had either been rejected outright or incrementally dropped from subsequent proposed resolutions in the face of persistent opposition from the public and lack of support from key members of the SCOG itself. It seemed like a rather ignominious ending for a project that was avidly promoted as Skagit County’s opportunity to secure a bright and happy future for the next 50 years.
Envision Skagit 2060’s lack of success resulted from a disconnect between its proponents, who included the county commissioners and county planning department staff desirous of grant money, their paid consultants and a specially chosen Citizen Committee, and the opposition, who were just interested residents of the county worried about what this project would mean for them and their heirs. The proponents were satisfied with essentially sentencing future generations of county residents to lives of reduced freedom as well as less material wealth and convenience in order to accomplish their visionary goals of abundant green infrastructure, open spaces and greenways. Their ideal was to crowd people into densely packed urban growth areas. Building up and not out was a catchphrase. Residences were typically to be clustered in multistoried buildings. Retail establishments would occupy the ground floors. Almost everything a person needed or did would be in walking distance. The goal was to limit people living in rural areas to only 10% of the population.
Getting around in the county was also supposed to change as an emphasis on mass transit apparently would displace the American preference for individual cars and trucks. The citizens committee proposed increasing rail traffic, more buses and vans, and even water transport.
A third-world "Collectivo" bus
, a third world answer to transportation needs used in South America were suggested as a means of moving people back and forth along SR20. In addition, priority was to be given to bicycle lanes and walking paths. To prevent excessive travel, especially for those living in the eastern part of the county, broadband coverage at urban rates was suggested so people could work at home.
Concerns about an increase in flooding due to climate change led to a recommendation to remove residents from Hamilton and Cape Horn. Opponents of the project understandably sensed a threat to property rights with the emphasis on relocations, redesigning zoning laws to confine populations into specifically identified urban growth areas and widening non-use corridors along the Skagit and Samish rivers.
Envision Skagit 2060 only tepidly addressed the real need of Skagit County, now and in the future; economic vitality. What was addressed was mostly in vague terms. The most specific proposal was to set aside 1600 acres of land on Bayview Ridge for industrial purposes. Otherwise, there was only a recommendation to encourage sustainable businesses that enabled people to work without long commutes and which made sustainable use of sustainable resources. “Sustainable” was a word used frequently during the entire envisioning process.
The unfortunate truth is that healthy environments and high “livability” standards are found almost exclusively in wealthy societies. And prosperity requires an energized, mobile population in search of economic advantage. Mobility, except for the ability to travel short distances under pedal power, was actually discouraged under this plan by its very nature. The primary reason that people freely move to crowded enclaves, such as major and even medium sized cities, is economic opportunity. That transcends all other considerations. If the leaders of Skagit County wanted its demographic to include more than retirees, drug dealers and a few farmers, Envision Skagit 2060 wasn’t the program to look to for guidance. In fact, it was a blueprint for stagnation and blight.
The Citizen Committee stated that its most consequential recommendation was the creation of a “Skagit Alliance,” which was a supra-county decision making authority comprised of public and private sector leaders. Apparently, unaware or unconcerned that this was a real threat to representative democracy at the local level, the committee promoted this regional entity as a means to “implement a unified approach to growth, development and conservation over the next 50 years.”
Public meetings were held in April and May of 2012. An additional Envision Skagit 2060 related forum was held in June, which was an attempt to shore up climate change assertions that provided the basis for key elements of the program. At the meetings, many of the oral comments centered on property rights protection and questioned the necessity for the expense and effort of creating the envisioning scheme. One person mentioned that the program appeared to undermine the Growth Management Act. Some people pointed out the remarkable similarity in process and results of Envision Skagit to numerous other programs around the country. Another person wondered if the county hadn’t got shortchanged by this apparent cookie cutter approach. Although it elicited emphatic denials from presenters and synchronized eye rolls from attending cognoscenti, a few individuals suggested Envision Skagit 2060 had ties to Agenda 21, citing the proposed program’s social engineering goals in line with the UN program, as well as the county’s membership in ICLEI. Skagit County had joined ICLEI in 2009 at the beginning of the Envision Skagit creation process. ICLEI is a NGO, headquartered in Bonn, Germany, that was set up to help local governments implement Agenda 21. Reportedly, as of 2011, the county has let its membership lapse.
During the meetings in the spring, and subsequent SCOG meetings in the fall, those opposed to the project were clearly in the majority and the comments reflected that. The negativity with which Envision Skagit 2060 was greeted obviously did not go unnoticed by public officials and undoubtedly led to the program’s defeat. It is not surprising then that there were hard feelings. According to the February 27th edition of the Skagit Valley Herald,
in the midst of the celebratory affair, disparaging remarks were directed against Envision Skagit detractors by Citizens Committee spokesman, Tim Rosenhan. Opponents of the project were collectively labeled “tinfoil hat Taliban.”
One of the criticisms of those opposed to Envision Skagit 2060 is that they are against all planning. That’s a straw man argument. More than a few opponents stated publically in previous forums that they weren’t against planning, just this particular plan. In the end, Envision Skagit 2060 went down to defeat because its recommendations didn’t fit the current and future needs of Skagit County. And some of the recommendations were not simply unsuitable, but patently ridiculous. The question now is will some official, motivated by ideology or dreams of career advancement, attempt to resurrect a version of this discredited program in one form or another?
The complete Envision Skagit 2060 Citizen Committee Final Recommendations can be found here
A more in depth critique of the committee’s recommendations is on the Skagit Republicans website
by Glen Morgan, Property Rights Director
....because people want to be free
When I was in college, my peers and I would have our makeshift debates in the dorm hallways, arguing about the fundamental problems with Marx and other prophets of the left. We usually came to the conclusion that Marx just didn’t understand the nature of man. Columbia University still required all undergrad students to read a core curriculum of largely western thought at the time. So we studied Marx
, John Stuart Mill
, The Federalists Papers
, etc. These debates were not unusual then (I hope they still happen today). The influence of the Socialist Utopian view of the world is still with us today, of course, under a variety of different titles and schemes, and they all share the same fatal flaw that dooms Marxism every time: that some “educated elite” or, to quote Plato, mythical “Philosopher Kings”
could lead the masses to utopia. Like a chronic disease, we can’t seem to shake these failed concepts regardless of how many times they end in disaster.
The term “utopia” is usually used to reference communities or a society that has achieved perfect or at least optimal conditions. It was originally coined by Sir Thomas More
in his 1516 book titled Utopia
about an island society. The first utopian proposal can arguably be Plato’s Republic. The modern view of utopia is a perfect world where everything is in harmony, people are perfect, society is perfect, and the environment is in some type of perfect stasis and all is well. Frequently there is a religious fervor behind the vision of a utopian nirvana, and all who stand in the way are evil.
In modern times, the Central Planners who work in our counties and cities take the same basic failed philosophy and apply it to everything they do. Their efforts are just as doomed and unlikely to result in the mythical utopia.
But Plato is rarely read today, and Marx is usually stuffed on the bookshelf, referenced by today’s “Progressives” only when they think they are out of the general public’s earshot. Given that reality, I’d like to translate their writings to the common experiences we have today.
The primary assumption which drives Central Planning today is that we, the people, are “stupid” (to quote Secretary of State Kerry
) and must be protected from our inevitable mistakes. Since we lowly citizens are, from a Central Planner’s perspective, ignorant peasants who are barely able to think for ourselves, let alone function in society, the Central Planners must make all our decisions for us. Don’t get me wrong – they will “allow” us to vote every now and again for some politician who gives us happy talk (but also thinks we are stupid). However, outside of voting, abortions, gambling, smoking pot, marriage, birth control, movies, and clothing – they believe choices should be limited. Very limited indeed. Since they view themselves as the smartest people on the planet, they also feel entitled to tell everyone else what they can or cannot do. This is power, and Central Planners are always greedy for more.
When faced with our state’s Central Planning schemes, justified under the Growth Management Act
or other legislation, the question that should naturally come to mind is “Who makes the decisions?” If people are stupid and prone to making mistakes, what makes the Central Planners so different?
Obviously, they are as human as the rest of us peasants, and they are just as likely – if not more so - to make mistakes as anyone else.
There is one big difference between the mistakes made by average folk and the Central Planners. When you or I or the rest of us in the peasant class make a mistake, we might hurt ourselves and maybe people close to us. An individual might go bankrupt, have an accident, get arrested, get drunk, lose a job, etc. It isn’t fun to make these mistakes, and many of us learn from them, and we learn from the mistakes of others. Most of us do adjust our behavior so we don’t keep making these mistakes. When the Central Planners make mistakes, they hurt everyone
, and all of those people are innocent. A Central Planner costs the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars as they make a bridge too short like the Columbia River Crossing project.
A central planner destroys an effective ferry system by botching the ferry design
. Sinking bridges
, devastating businesses, destroying industries, causing chaos in communities, and other community-wide destruction is ONLY done by our fearless Central Planners. These mistakes are as common as rain in Washington State where state officials are inevitably moving forward with the Central-Planner mindset.
Just like an individual wants to hide his own mistakes from friends or family members, the central-planning and big government crew want to hide their community disasters from oversight or questioning. They claim they need more taxes, more power, and more time. They blame the stupid peasants because “the plan” is never at fault. They assure us that next time they will get it right. Utopia is just one more plan, ordinance, law, or tax away. Of course, it never comes, and it never will.
Central Planners have no concern about destroying your home, closing down your business, or wreaking havoc with your farm. Your family’s future is of no concern to them. They know best and do everything for the “collective good.” Fortunately for them, a Central Planner can justify any individual harm and any sacrifice required from you and me by invoking the collective good. I have witnessed this in most counties and cities in Washington State. A Central Planner will sacrifice you and your family on the altar of the latest plan without a thought to the human tragedy or consequences of their actions. They destroy dreams for a living, and their individual dream is to keep doing their job over and over until they can collect their government-guaranteed pension.
Planning alone, of course, is not the problem. We all agree to plan our budget, our trips, our work, our education, our home projects, and so on. These plans are modified all the time. We adjust them based on changes in our income, family fortunes, setbacks, and opportunities. In a community, it makes sense to plan for growth, roads, power, playgrounds, and many other aspects of modern living. However, the difference between normal planning and central planning is that the latter aims for utopia. They are picking winners and losers today in an attempt to influence human behavior
and build their utopian scheme for tomorrow. The modern Central Planner is attempting to control, dictate, monitor, and manage nearly every aspect of human behavior. This ridiculous overreach only increases the size and certainty of the inevitable disaster. The people who suffer the most from their actions are us – the peasants, the citizens, the voters, the taxpayers who bear the brunt of the all-too-human Central Planner and their insatiable greed for power.
Our belief is that Marx’s fatal flaw only proves the wisdom of our Founding Fathers reflected by James Madison’s Federalist Paper 51: “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
As humans, we do make mistakes. Our Central Planners and political leaders are only human – subject to the same foibles and failings as those of us who pay their inflated salaries. Their effort to control every aspect of our lives, dictate where and how we can live, and how much of our hard-earned money they will squander guarantees disaster. Concentrating too much power in government only ensures that, when Central Planners make their mistakes, the swath of harm and destruction is wider, more impactful, and leaves behind more victims. We believe their power should be reduced to protect us from their mistakes.
Curtailing the power, scope, and reach of the modern government is really a critical function of freedom activists today. If we fail to check and shrink the Central Planner’s effort to expand their power, then the failure and collapse of our society is certain – and it will be epic. Their quest for utopia will result in a dysfunctional, disastrous society where power, resources, and opportunities are freely available to very few, but for the “greater good,” of course. This could all be avoided if we would recognize what is happening in our communities, and take active steps to stop it. Do not assume someone else will do it for us.
We must not assume it can’t happen here. Closing our eyes and hoping it all goes away by itself is not a solution. This is happening right now, and all of us need to become engaged to change the future. It doesn’t take an army to stop it, just dedicated individuals from our communities who are willing to stand up for freedom and who will not cower in silence. Please join us at the Freedom Foundation
if you want to be counted with those who will stand up for our freedom today and tomorrow.
On Tuesday morning, February 26th, two top recreation officials from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) made a pitch to Whatcom County Council to offer a recreational program in working forests if the county would like to see that happen
And what the DNR described was a surprisingly fresh approach that seemed considerably more flexible than the current "park preserve" proposal that could cost local taxpayers almost $6 million or more in coming years if 8,844 acres of DNR forest around Lake Whatcom are taken out of production and "reconveyed" to the county by the state for a "park."DNR's recreation methodology is interesting; it's forest-based to begin with. The approach has evolved over time and it's proven. DNR recreation has been demonstrably successful in other areas. The officials explained that they could move quickly to make Whatcom County a high-priority recreation area. The presenters described how productive forests could expand the recreation economy while still meeting DNR's production goals. Of course, this would not only keep local coffers full but help the county meet its
GMA mandate to conserve productive forestry just as the GMA seeks to conserve productive agriculture.DNR's planning process relies on local input and transparency. A planning schedule was shown that illustrated how the process works; typically it takes only about two years to complete. The approach is to identify popular local activities and match them to a forest's attributes and landscape plan, habitat conservation plan, and harvest schedule. In this way, the best spots for hiking, camping, and fishing are identified along with prime places for specialized uses. DNR would accommodate active mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting and even off-road vehicles (ORV's) in separate zones because the agency understands the pitfalls that "multiuse" trails present. While the agency would continue to manage operations and risks, recreation would be closely coordinated with local governments.
Photo courtesy of Dave Onkels
While this overall concept seemed positive and win-win to much of the audience, the displeasure and nervousness of local "reconveyance" proponents was palpable.
The hardcore partners
(the Parks Department, Whatcom Land Trust, and Conservation Northwest) have worked hard to spin the "DNR as antagonist"
narrative. But that spin wobbled significantly Tuesday.
Expect an uptick in drama
over the next few weeks; watch for more head over heels reports like this article in the Bellingham Herald
that portrayed a DNR-rec plan as something that would set things back for years. Would it? Park Director McFarlane has always flat-out refused to produce a tangible plan until deeds to all this property were firmly in the county's grip. What's to "set-back"?
Right off the bat, a DNR-recreation plan would save significant time plus a small fortune in legal expenses because no deeds would need to be changed, no tower leases transferred, and no forester hired. No roads would have to be removed, and a tremendous amount of staff expense would "go poof." In almost every respect, a DNR-recreation alternative would probably move faster and achieve a wider range of recreational opportunities than "park" plans. But the Parks Department would need firm leadership (if not a swift kick) to make a sea-change. There's the rub.
There's good cause to believe that common sense has been damned for the worst reasons - principally, politics. It's an election year, and "the reconveyance" is perceived (wrongly, WE think) as some kind of prize
that will look good listed on shiny campaign mailers. Rumor has it that at least one wannabe candidate thinks this is the key to the kingdom. Think again. When water quality improvements don't materialize (they won't) and park bills start racking up, you'll find yourself (or selves) in a very bad position with a practical and
political albatross around your neck - some legacy
. This council and the Executive could be downright heroic and leave nobody behind. But with Titanic institutional momentum chugging along, voting "no" would take courage. People do recognize and vote for courageous statesmen
To keep this debate as broad as possible, to balance the ridiculous "save the lake" slant
that this story is getting virtually everywhere else (the "epic opportunity to lose" line is entirely
untrue, and council knows it) - consider this latest appeal from these two sincere forestry leaders:
Dear Friends of Working Forests, February 28, 2013
We have possibly a last opportunity to convince the County Council that the Reconveyance of 8,844 acres, of trust lands managed under the Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan, to Whatcom County for a low impact park is not in the best interest of our fellow citizens. The council will hold a second Public Hearing starting at 6:00 pm on Tuesday March 12 in the council chambers. At the last hearing we had a great turn out and the Council did delay their decision. Once again we need you and anyone else that feels this proposal is not considering the best interest of the taxpayers, to show up at the hearing and consider speaking to the council. The following talking points are here to give you ideas for a short letter to the council and possible testimony. The proponents of this “taking” have been actively sending form letters and will be at the hearing in force. Please write a letter and attend the public hearing to give the council you thoughts. Feel free to send this on to your friends.
SOME RECONVEYENCE TALKING POINTS
1. The magnitude of this park is more than what is acceptable by the Growth Management Act The Growth Management Act specifically protects Commercial Forest land. The withdrawal of this land is in direct conflict with GMA. Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham continue to participate in the conversions of forestlands to preservation status.
2. Leaving the proposed reconveyed lands under DNR management is a zero loss to all parties. Under county management it is a net loss economically and continues the trend of a dwindling forestland base that threatens, the already raw material stressed, timber industry infrastructure. For the last 35 years the timber industry has lost over 60% of its timber base. Less than 25% of Whatcom County forests are available as “working forests”. Logs are imported from Canada and must be trucked longer distances to supply mills in Washington. Taking more timber out of the forest base will impact an important industry and associated businesses.
3. The Landscape Management Plan gave local control to Whatcom County. Proponents say that reconveying this land to the county will give local control. The Legislation that formed the Landscape Management Plan on DNR managed Trust lands in the watershed was asked for and developed by local activists, then approved by the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and Water District #10. The ink hardly dried on this plan, when the same activist groups began the next step for reconveyance. This type of planed incromentalism must stop here. What lands will be next? Will a Whatcom Land Trust conservation easement take control of this land as they have with other forestlands?
4. Specific agreements must be made before reconveyance is passed; this process has been void of facts and not fully vetted. Now proponents are talking about a forest management plan that will harvest as much timber as called for in the Landscape Management Plan. This is a smoke screen, if a written agreement spelling out exactly how the lands will be used is not done before reconveyance is passed, it will never happen. No firm park plan or plan to maintain this area has been given. The parks department can’t even keep the one latrine at the Ken Hertz trailhead maintained, how do we expect them to keep a bigger facility operating on only $150,000.00 a year?
5. Dept. of Ecology representatives have stated that reconveyance would not result in any measurable improvement to water quality. The phosphorous pollution in Lake Whatcom is in basins 1 and 2, that are heavily urbanized and mostly under the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County’s jurisdiction. Basin 3 receives mostly forest runoff and is still clean. Why are we demonizing forest practices that are a preferred land use and cause little impact on the Lake? The limited timber harvesting (revenue creation) allowed under the Landscape Plan does not need to be eliminated to maintain clean water.
6. A full economic analysis of the reconveyance must be made before a vote. Especially during these economic hard times, how can the County Council approve this proposal and not know the full economic impacts? Far too many times we move ahead on projects not understanding the unintended consequences of our actions. The county needs to do an independent economic analysis.
7. Currently there is a large amount of low impact recreational use in the proposed reconveyance area. The Department of Natural Resources allows hiking, biking and horseback riding on the lands they manage. What will change under reconveyance? Do we want low impact recreation or a park to draw more users to the watershed? An inventory of existing recreation use has not been done, so we do not have a baseline for future proposals. From this baseline future rational decisions are made, without a baseline it is just speculation. If the 8,844 acres is left in the hands of DNR timber management, existing recreation could be enhanced as directed by the Landscape management Plan (Objective 19). A recent meeting with DNR officials revealed their willingness to consider a recreation plan for Whatcom County. Instead of reconveying this property and having all the cost being the county taxpayer’s responsibility, a shared effort with the state will have many more benefits for everyone.
8. The urban society must learn how to live with the rural society and realize the benefits that come from understanding and cooperation. In other words, stop being so selfish and self absorbed. Start to understand your rural neighbors. We love the Earth as much as you and we want a wonderful future for our children also. We have committed our lives to the land; don’t you think we care for it as much as you do? Maybe because we are so close to the land we may know more of how to take care of it and use it wisely, not selfishly.
9. We can have recreation and forest management at the same time, while providing revenue to the county and not the cost to maintain these 8,844 acres. Why do we need to reconvey for a single use Park? These trust lands can produce an estimated $ 500,000 annually revenue for the county beneficiaries, plus a 5 fold benefit to the local economy. Cooperation between Whatcom County and DNR can create a “working forest” for all.
Dick Whitmore and Tom Westergreen