Property Rights Foundation of America®
Founded 1994

 

Eighteenth Annual National Conference on
Private Property Rights

Property Rights for Freedom & Prosperity
October 25, 2014
Century House, Latham, New York

 

PHOTO STORY

Photos: Peter J. LaGrasse

 


WELCOME

The Real Wolf – Endorsed by Carol LaGrasse

Carol W. LaGrasse

As she welcomed the crowd, Carol LaGrasse displayed a copy of the newly published book The Real Wolf, co-authored by Ted B. Lyon and our good friend Will N. Graves, author of Wolves in Russia, who has addressed our conference. The Real Wolf comprises 21 chapters by noted experts on key topics ranging from “Selling the Wolf” to “Seven Stages of Wolf Habituation” and “Diseases from Wolves.” The book is perfect for busy people, also, as each chapter is free-standing and can be enjoyed in any order. Ms. LaGrasse said that The Real Wolf is a dream-come-true for our friends, and essential to rural people, agricultural interests, and hunters not only is the West, but in the Northeast and elsewhere.

“Property Rights for Freedom and Prosperity”

Carol W. LaGrasse, P.E., President, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., welcomed and thanked all who came to the conference. She said that the speakers will tell about the long struggle, their optimism and resolve to win back the Founders’ vision.

“Our rights are not given by any man or government; but our rights are natural, the inalienable rights to life, liberty and to pursue happiness, while respecting the equal rights of others… This requires right reason. This is why we pursue knowledge, why we come today – to learn, to resolve, to gain inspiration and assurance.”

“So, inherent in our rights is the right of property, to pursue happiness, to prosper. Government cannot legitimately, working on its own perverse motivation or in conjunction with powerful interests, strip any one of us today from the just product of our labors.”


OPENING ADDRESS

Jay H. Lehr, Ph. D.
Science Director, The Heartland Institute
Heartland Institute, Chicago, Illinois
Jay H. Lehr, Ph.D.

“A Legislative Plan to Replace the United States Environmental Protection Agency with a Committee of Fifty State Environmental Protection Agencies”

“We have defeated in the last century Communism and Fascism and have replaced them with government regulations,” began Jay H. Lehr, who holds the first degree in ground water hydrology awarded in the United States, from the University of Arizona in 1962. He continued: “The U.S. EPA is exerting the biggest land grab ever attempted on our nation by trying to take control of every puddle that exists on every farm in America.”

“My plan is to destroy the United States Environmental Protection Agency.” He added, “No one living today that is actively working that is more responsible for the creation of the EPA than. I am now doing penance for my action.”

He described his involvement, after the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in 1969, planning the safety net that would become the EPA in 1971 during the Nixon Administration. His speech is a treasure trove of first-hand history about the founding and expansion of the EPA, the Water Pollution Control Act (later renamed the Clean Water Act), and the slew of major federal pollution control laws passed during next ten years, all but one in which he had a hand.

In one of the most important speeches presented in the eighteen annual national conferences sponsored by PRFA, he took the listeners to a litany of the EPA’s current excesses under its $8.2 billion budget and offered his solution. In fact, he said, “I have spent twenty years working tirelessly to expose this story to the public beginning with his 1991 book Rational Readings on Environmental Concerns where fifty other environmental scientists joined together to describe the manner in which their own fields had been hijacked and distorted allowing fear mongering of an unconscionable nature.”

Dr. Lehr spent the bulk of his speech describing his solution: “I believe that the current structure of U.S. EPA should be replaced now by a Committee of the Whole of the fifty state environmental protection agencies. In nearly all cases, these have long ago taken over primary responsibility for the implementation of all environmental laws passed by the Congress or simply handed down as fiat ruling without congressional vote or oversight of the EPA.”
“This is a battle we can win,” he said.

A non-technical paper prepared by Dr. Lehr was distributed at the conference, describing the history, the current organization of the U.S. EPA, and the stages and structure of the proposed restructuring of environmental regulation under the authority of the fifty state agencies. Individual copies of the paper are available upon request.

Full speech of Jay H. Lehr, Ph. D.

MORNING PRESENTATIONS
The Struggle for Property Rights

Robert LoScalzo, Joseph Ardizzone, & Irene Prestigiacomo
Willets Point United, Willets Point, Queens County, New York City
Robert LoScalzo

“A Unique Civic Alliance Goes to Court: Protecting City Parkland, Corona, and Willets Point”

Robert LoScalzo, documentary video producer and owner of LoScalzo Media Productions, who has been following the Willets Point situation since 2007.

This is the fifth consecutive year that Irene, Joe, and Robert have attended this conference to update the group on what is happening at Willets Point, where it has been the City’s intention to redevelop the entire sixty-two-acre district. He has reported the community’s opposition with the facts and powerful illustrations. But now the City has arbitrarily changed the redevelopment plan and intends to allow the same developers to build a huge shopping mall on the parkland west of City Field and to level the 62 acre area originally planned for the first stage of development of Willets Point and convert it to nothing but parking.

Here Robert LoScalzo addresses PRFA’s Eighteenth Annual National Conference. He described the lawsuit brought on February 10, 2014 in State Supreme Court, New York County, by New York State Senator Tony Avela, the City Club of New York, New York City Park Advocates, Bono Sawdust Supply Co., and other Willets Point businesses, Joseph Ardizzone and others who own businesses at Willets Point, against the City of New York and Mayor DeBlasio, the City Council, City Planning Commission, City Industrial Development Agency, City Economic Development Corporation, as well as the Queens Development Group, Related Willets, Sterling Willets, and Queens Ballpark Company, to stop the project in order to save the parkland west of the Mets’ Citi Field stadium and thereby save Willets Point.

Among the business plaintiffs is St. John Enterprises, owned by the late Ralph St. John, who was a good friend of Carol and Peter LaGrasse, then of College Point, during the early seventies when New York City used eminent domain to condemn his trucking and recycling business located nearby on College Point Blvd. for ostensible “redevelopment.”

On August 15, 2014 Justice Manuel J. Mendez ruled against the ironclad arguments in the lawsuit. The decision was appealed on September 9, 2014 to the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division – First Department.

Robert LoScalzo also spoke of a separate lawsuit in March 2014 brought by 33 business owners who are tenants at Willets Point, plus the Sunrise Cooperative umbrella group to which they belong, against the City and its agencies, as well as the developers, to stop the project because there was no lawful relocation plan for the current commercial tenants as required by the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970.

A Unique Civic Alliance Goes to Court
Protecting City Parkland Corona & Willets Point
(Willets Point photo projections by Robert LoScalzo)

Willets Point is home to a concentration of roughly two hundred and fifty industrial manufacturing and mechanical businesses and is best known for its network of scores of automotive repair shops. Many of these shops are operated by new immigrants from Latin America, Afghanistan, India, Ukraine, and all over the world. They provide expert repair services at very low prices and they attract a clientele from the tri-state area and beyond. Many of these property and business owners came together to form Willets Point United in 2009 in response to the City’s intended development of the area where they work.

The latest twist of the plans announced by New York City and its developers would permanently deed parkland west of the stadium to the developers. This aroused opposition from new quarters: the century old New York City Club, which has a tradition of protecting parks, and the businesses in the local community of Corona, who would be threatened the competition from the outsized shopping mall and also be hurt by the traffic that it would generate. Because parkland is held in the public trust, the public trust doctrine principle of law going back hundreds of years requires a specific act of the State Legislature to alienate this land, which was not done. This illegality as well as the fact that the new plan is being implemented without required hearings and approvals formed the heart of the lawsuit by a new civic alliance.

Judith S. Kaye, former Chief Justice, New York State Court of Appeals, the state‘s highest court, appeared in court to argue on behalf of the powerful developers allied with the City Administration and against the multi-party lawsuit brought by the organizations fighting to save the parkland on the west side of Citi Field and to protect the local community of Corona and Willets Point’s community of small industries. Since 2009 Judith Kaye is Of Counsel for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, LLP, New York City. (Willets Point photo projections by Robert LoScalzo)

Full speech of Robert LoScalzo


Michael D. Diederich, Jr., Esq.
Diederich Law Office
Stony Point, New York

“The Wizard of Oz Exposed—
A Town is Busted by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals for Repeatedly Changing its Land Use Rules”

Michael Diederich was a history and bio major in college. After he received a degree specializing in environmental law, he went on a tour of U. S. military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea was to instill American values and the rule of law and to see how to make society better.

As a civilian, his practice has centered on helping people who are oppressed by local government. His client Steven Sherman planned a development on the 400 acres he had bought. He was stymied by the Town of Chester in Ulster County, which changed its rules relentlessly and added a new fee as soon as the previous one was paid. Mr. Sherman died after he went to court. Last week was the unveiling of his grave. His wife Nancy J. Sherman became the plaintiff.

When the Federal Appeals Court of Circuit Judges Straub, Sack and Lohier ruled on May 16, 2014 against the Town of Chester, it began by reversing the Federal District Court’s holding that because Mrs. Sherman’s claim was not based on a final ruling it was therefore not ripe under Williamson Country Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City (1985). Instead, the Appeals Court held that “seeking a final decision from the Town would be futile because the Town used unfair and repetitive procedures to avoid a final decision.”

To illustrate the abuse that Sherman had experienced, Circuit Judge Straub drew an example from Catch-22’s Pianosa Island: He recalled how Hungry Joe Yossarian rejoiced that he had completed his assigned 25 missions, but the Colonel arbitrarily increased the number of missions, and increased the number again, and again, with no end in sight.

“Plaintiff Steven M. Sherman must have felt a lot like Yossarian in his decade of dealing with defendant Town of Chester. In 2000 Sherman applied for subdivision approval while he was in the process of buying a nearly 400 acre piece of land for $2.7 million. That application marked the beginning of his journey through the Town’s ever-changing labyrinth of red tape. In 2003, the Town enacted a new zoning ordinance, requiring Sherman to redraft his proposed development,” and again after he created a revised proposal in 2004, and again in 2005, and again in 2006.”

“On top of the shifting sands of zoning regulations the Town erected even more hurdles. Among other tactics, the Town announced a moratorium on development, replaced its officials, and required Sherman to resubmit studies that he had already completed…”

“When the Town insisted that Sherman pay $25,000 in consultants’ fees, before he could obtain a hearing, he might have thought, ‘The Colonel will just raise it again.’ And he would have been right. After paying the $25,000, he was told he owed an additional $40,000 and that he would also have to respond to a lengthy questionnaire,” the appeals court wrote.
“By the time this lawsuit was filed, over ten years had passed…Sherman became financially exhausted – forced to spend $5.5 million on top of the original $2.7 million purchase,” the appeals court wrote.

“The District Court (Edgardo Ramos, Judge) ruled that Sherman’s claim under the Takings Clause was not ripe under Williamson County…because Sherman had not received a final decision on his property and seeking a final decision would not be futile…The court reasoned that…Sherman…had not established that his application will definitely be denied in the end.”

“We conclude that under these circumstances, Sherman was not required to obtain a final decision from the Town,” the Appeals Court ruled.

Attorney Michael Diederich’s tenacious pursuit of justice brought this exceptional victory in the federal appeals court, but the Town of Chester won in the end. The Sherman property went into foreclosure, with $4 million owed to TD Bank. After foreclosure, the bank sold almost the entire 400 acres where Sherman had envisioned The Chester Golf development to The Open Space Institute, which plans that the land will connect Goosepond and Sterling Forest state parks. Why couldn’t the town and the preservation organization have simply bought the property in the first place?

Full speech of Michael Diderich, Jr., Esq.


John Marwell
Shamberg Marwell Hollis Andreycak & Laidlow, P.C.
Mount Kisco, New York

“How Errant Golf Balls Threaten Private Property Rights”

This speech is about golf balls. It is about a pre-existing use that was legal when established, but predates new zoning where it is no longer legal. But the right to continue that use is not taken away by the new zoning. This case looks at a situation when an established situation existed for twenty years, where the municipality was comfortable to change the law or the regulations. I’m still waiting to see a change when the municipality provides for increased use of private property.

Unfortunately, this was an Appellate Court case. The next step is the New York State Court of Appeals, but less than five percent of cases are taken.

I personally know the Quaker Ridge Club in central Westchester. It has operated almost continuously since 1918. Golf magazine rates it as one of the 100 top clubs and it has been the host of the Ryder’s Cup and other prestigious competitions.

This case is about one of the one hundred exclusive homes built around the periphery of the club in Scarsdale. The owners moved into homes that were approved from 1999 to 2004. A condition of the applicant, the developer, was that the trees be preserved as well as plantings. No vegetation along the gold club boundary was to be removed, unless an inventory of the trees to be removed was approved. This acknowledged the provision for screening for the homes.

But at Leon and Gail Behar’s property, the a lot of trees and vegetation trees and vegetation along the border fell or was cut down and these homeowners sued to stop golf balls that were landing in their property.

However, the homeowners had substantially removed trees on their own, in addition to those lost to wind. The Westchester County Supreme Court ruled that they took trees down and assumed risk. They came back to court. Now the court ruled that they must weigh a balance of harm to them and the golf club, an unprecedented concept in cases like these. Again they court recognized that the plaintiffs had assumed and had caused a burden to the protection of their own property. The court denied a preliminary injunction a second time.

They homeowners went back to court and asked for a ruling. Another judge granted Quaker Ridge’s motion, for the same reason as in the homeowners petition for the general ruling. (They can’t create their own problem and then complain about it.)

However, the Appellate Division Second Department did serious harm. They brought in trespass as an issue. The golf balls invaded property with such frequency without the Golf Club taking any means to control their golf balls, failing to design and control their play and failing to create a barrier.

Even more extreme, the Appellate Court ruled that the homeowners were not bound by the vegetation preservation plan. And the court ruled that the homeowners can go back to the Supreme Court for trial on a case to address damages.

The first thing they can do is to make a motion to reargue or else you try to appeal further. They brought in Judge Hay, a retired judge from the Appellate Division. Appellate courts typically prefer amicus briefs, but the golf club’s motion for an amicus brief was denied. Now the trial of damages and back up the appellate courts.

The golf club a 40 ft. high netting. But the municipality denied the club’s request for higher netting to be put up. Word about conflicts is coming from various clubs. Another club (Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck) had to buy the adjacent house.

I think that the significance of this ruling goes well beyond golf courses. What about the value of zoning to protect private property? Do the terms of zoning permits end when the property changes hands?

This courts decision reflects a dramatic (and in my view) draconian) change in the law that does not bode well for any owner of property throughout the State that enjoys protection as a pre-existing non-conforming use.-Additional note by John Marwell Sept. 26, 2014

Full speech of John Marwell


AFTERNOON THEME:
Internationalists Insinuate Their Agenda into Local Land Use Policy

Tom DeWeese
President, American Policy center
Remington, Virginia

“Throwing Out ICLEI”

Tom DeWeese has been bringing the threat of United Nations influence on American government before the public since the early 1990s. He is expert on noticing the vulnerability of the internationalists as they launch increasingly ambitious goals. For instance, he said, “I believed that the “Rio+20” Summit in 2012 [twenty years after the Earth Summit] would provide an opportunity for us.”

“How do you hide a meeting with 20,000 opportunists?” the free-lance activist asked rhetorically. “This was the opportunity for us to kill UN Agenda 21 once and for all.”

The result was to “replace Agenda 21 with Sustainable Development. This is an easier sell,” he said, reflecting on the new advantage that the internationalists thought they’d have. However, this change in direction played into his hands.
“I had been working about twenty years to create an army against Sustainable Development!” he exclaimed
“I hit the road,” he said. “I hit one hundred communities in a year!”

The itinerant speaker, who had been publishing his DeWeese Report for nearly two decades, portrayed basic themes, especially using the definition and meaning of private property rights from the Constitution, writings of the Founders, and the Bill of Rights. One of his favorite citations is from a decision of Washington State Supreme Court Judge Richard Sanders: Private property ownership means that the owner has the rights of “ownership, use and disposal.”

In his talk he drew attention to what he said were the outcomes of Sustainable Development thinking with many examples of ridiculous and harsh zoning regulations.

He moved his meticulously planned speech to a close with a distinct talk on how to put the spotlight on the illogical, harsh style of zoning that is becoming commonplace under “Sustainable Development” theory. Each example illustrated how zoning makes life more difficult for the ordinary homeowner. The details were quite moving, especially in the context of freedom that he had pointed out as the foundation of American government.

He drew the audience into a sort of anti-sustainable development revival meeting, or, more specifically, into a participatory training session to defeat local zoning. The intensity got higher. “Always ask them why,” Tom DeWeese said.

He asked the audience to call out “Why?”

In a well projected, plaintive voice, he again intoned, “Why?” asking them to join with him. He raised both his arms and called out, “Why?”

Finally, the entire room was filled with angry, accommodating, or at least good-humored folk, standing up with both arms in the air, plaintively looking toward the podium or an imagined, non-responsive town board, while seeming to imagine with Tom DeWeese that they were in a local meeting where the officials would not answer their question of “Why do you want to pass such repressive zoning?”

Their voices combined in a chorus: “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

Tom DeWeese demonstrated beyond doubt that he is the populist leader of the property rights movement. He has gripped an issue – internationalism’s intrusion in zoning and other aspects of local government, and, at the conference, he brought a fiery yet extremely well organized address about the sinister, distant cause and its tentacles—illustrating his points with examples—and the people’s recourse. He may not have realized it, but his talk was in the great tradition of American populist leaders from the eighteenth century and later—both political and religious. It is a tradition that dignifies the common person and which rigid, corrupt authorities justly fear.

Full speech of Tom DeWeese


 

Lawrence A. Kogan, Esq.
International Business, Trade, and Regulatory Attorney
CEO – Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (ITSSD)
Princeton Junction, New Jersey

“The Dangers of Internationalists Designing Land Use Controls”

International attorney Lawrence Kogan ran with the subject, the danger of internationalists designing land use controls, that brought him to the podium and expanded it for formal publication on the web site of the Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development, where he is the CEO. The 55-page symposium-style paper compresses mountains of information about “U. S. State and Local Implementation of International Sustainable Development” into one reference source that is now conveniently accessible to the general public. Better yet, the paper is published in outline form, further compressing information from a multitude of domestic and international sources, all of them footnoted. His speech as presented was basically an introduction and guide to this broad subject.

The general subject of the original invitation was basically two-fold:

1. Who’s behind it? What are the theories and actions of international organizations and players that are designed to control land use in the United States?

2. What’s happening? What actions are taking place in the United States that have their genesis in the efforts of such organizations and players? What are the types of local land use controls that can reasonably be construed to have resulted from the efforts of such organizations and players?

Mr. Kogan focused on the subject of Sustainable Development. It is unlikely that anyone will ever prove where the idea originated, but it became the theme of an organization based in Bonn, Germany, founded in 1990, with the name International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives, known by its acronym ICLEI. UN Secretary General Maurice Strong proposed the idea for this organization to create a parallel local Agenda 21 process, according to the references in Mr. Kogan’s paper. He actually developed the idea for ICLEI well before Agenda 21 was published, considering the date of Agenda 21’s release in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The name was later changed to Local Governments for Sustainability, but the organization is still known as ICLEI. Whatever the use of the words “sustainability” and “sustainable development” before Agenda 21 and ICLEI, there is no question that the United Nations and ICLEI, as well as other international entities outlined in Mr. Kogan’s paper, are leading the movement for a particular pattern of policies that they define as “sustainable development.” This provides the theme of his research.

Mr. Kogan documents in some detail how local government was brought in and the central part that Maurice Strong and his senior people played in this process:

The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) [known as the Rio Summit or Earth Summit] “was the first time that local government engaged with the United Nations and actively represented itself in the summit process…Fortunately, Maurice Strong, the UNCED Secretary General, had a deep commitment and extensive background in bringing major elements of civil society into United Nations discussions.”

The same sympathetic observer evaluated the success of implementing locally governed policies for sustainability:

“Local Agenda 21 (LA21) – One of the most extensive follow-up programmes to UNCED is widely cited as a success in linking global goals to local action. In 2002, over 6,000 local communities around the world—the Major Group addressed in Chapter 28—were found to have adopted some kind of policy or undertaken activities for sustainable development, either as a main priority or as a cross-cutting issue.”

[Ref. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development, Sustainable Development in the 21st Century (SD21): Review of Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Rio Principles - Synthesis, prepared by Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future (Jan. 2012)]

Of interest is the documentation of how local governments are enlisted to accomplish global environmental goals without the commitment from the U. S. Congress, while at the same time, the local governments are seen as a source of influence to obtain from Congress the massive funding that is necessary to carry out the Agenda 21 environmental goals that Congress has not addressed. In this way an end-run around Congress takes place and later Congress is expected to pay the bill because of the influence of localities that are committed to “sustainable” environmental initiatives. In addition, a leap has taken place from the old “government” and “non-government” classification of participants in UN matters.

Many of the ICLEI political principles that have to be implemented to carry out the Agenda 21 sustainability goal clearly contrast with the American system, for instance:

“…for the Green Economy to become a serious contribution to sustainable development, it has to be linked with social—not only technological innovation. Decentralized solutions and public control over common goods will be key.”

“GDP has to be replaced by a development index which is based on social well-being and environmental quality, and at the same time is simple enough to be calculated and communicated on the local, national and international level.”

[The two above examples selected from several cited from: ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability, 2012: Taking Stock & Moving Forward—Global Review (2012) p. 12. See: http://local2012.iclei.org/local-sustainability-study/]

Post-modernism: This term is widely applied in art, theology, and a number of areas, but here it is applied to systems of thought and government. It represents an inexorable movement beyond paradigms and systems of thought of the past, where classical traditions are now rejected, truth is relative to various goals, and actually does not exist at all. Thus, under Agenda 21, these fundamental alterations in validity of thought and judgment take place:

“First, Postmodernism rejects any claim of absolute truth as an attempt to impose one worldview over others…There follows a suspicion of certainty and philosophical foundations, and the replacement of absolute ‘meaning’ with relative interpretation.”

“Second, Postmodernism challenges the main tenets of political economy. Thus the modern nation-state becomes an instrument of centralized repression of minority voices; the supreme authority of reason ends up being but the ‘voice’ of those in power attempting to impose their personal views as ‘the master voice’ over all other narratives; natural rights are not universal values, but a Western concept, imposed on the rest of the world by ‘cultural imperialism’ or even force; free markets are seen as the freezing of one particular arrangement that benefits those who have the power to expend their wealth.”

[Nikolay Wenzel, “Ideology, Constitutional Culture and Institutional Change: The EU Constitution as Reflection of Europe’s Emergent Postmodernism,” Romanian Economic and Business Review – Vol. 2 No. 3 (2007) at p. 38.]

The Precautionary Principle: Mr. Kogan is an expert on the dangers of the Precautionary Principle, which he brings into the discussion of Agenda 21, citing selected significant examples of its implementation in both Europe and the United States, as well as judicial rulings upholding the application of the precautionary principle in a number of specific cases. This paper is a brief introduction to the application of the Precautionary Principle to pollution control, food safety and a number of areas where human or environmental well-being could be considered.

[Under the Precautionary Principle, analysis of concentrations of pollutants becomes worthless, and thus there can be no reasoned design of pollution control facilities because, for example (who knows?)
a few parts per billion (not per million) of a particular pollutant might have some effect. The mere ability to measure levels of pollutants to the microscopic level becomes a threat to human reason and rational design of pollution facilities, which have saved millions of lives.—Editor’s note]

Mr. Kogan’s final remark:

The use of “U.S. States and Municipalities as laboratories for social change helps to create the perception of an ostensible environmental crisis. However, it has created a U.S. constitutional crisis in respect to private property rights (tangible as well as intangible).”

Full speech of Lawrence A. Kogan, Esq.


CLOSING ADDRESS

James Bovard
Author & International Political analyst
Rockville, Maryland

“Fighting Leviathan for Fun and Freedom”

Jim Bovard’s speech was true to the title, “Fighting Leviathan for Fun and Freedom.” He jumped into his topic: “My jaundiced view of government grew out of early experiences and the muckraking I’ve done in recent decades. I was raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in an area knee deep with fascinating history - and also some of the worst abuses - almost all forgotten - of property rights.

“The school bus I rode each morning traveled up the road into a place named Harmony Hollow. I think it was named that because people there had the habit of shooting each other not quite every weekend. That hollow was dominated by a narrow winding road bordering the Shenandoah National Park. When I was in elementary school, the hollow looked like an ad campaign for Appalachia. Kids lived in shabby houses that differed little from what I saw in photos touting the War on Poverty in Mississippi and Alabama.

“Some of the old-timers in Harmony Hollow had been driven off their previous homesteads in the 1930s after politicians decided to confiscate 176,000 acres of private land to create the Shenandoah National Park. The government could have easily bought from willing sellers most of the land along the ridges and mountain crests where the Skyline Drive, the crown jewel of the park, was built. But politicians wanted vastly more land on both sides of the mountain range. Park Service officials promised the president an expansive playground cleared of riff-raff. So the answer was Redneck Ethnic Cleansing.

“State and federal officials were in cahoots on the land grab. National Park Service official James Lassiter denounced the mountaineers for suffering from a lack of ‘independence and resourcefulness.’ Social Worker Miriam Sizer, in an official government report, portrayed the residents as know-nothing sociopaths, ‘steeped in ignorance, wrapped in self-satisfaction and complacency, possessed of little or no ambition,’ who posed a problem that ‘challenges the attention of thinking men and women.’

“And the ‘thinking men’ - at least those in politics - knew how to help the mountaineers: steal their land at fire-sale prices. Families were paid as little as a dollar an acre for land worth ten times that much. Land was valued solely according to its agricultural value -with no consideration of the scenic beauty and vistas. Heck, if folks wanted to maximize the bushels of corn per acre, they would have been living in the valley, not on mountain peaks.

“When some owners refused to budge, members of the Civilian Conservation Corps - known as FDR’s “forest army” - forcibly evicted them and burnt down their cabins to make sure they never returned. While the feds denounced such people for a ‘lack of independence,’ most of them were doing just fine until they were plundered.

“Along with other boys, I sometimes hiked cross country from the first crest of the Shenandoah National Park to my house, a distance of about 5 miles. I often saw ruins of old cabins and chimneys, but did not realize they may have been leftover C.C.C. calling cards. And when I saw traces of old stills, I knew enough to pick up the pace.

“Perhaps because the park brought in plenty of tourists for businesses, the sordid details of its creation quickly vanished from local memories. I was ignorant of how the government had plundered the mountain folks until long after I exited the Appalachians.”

Not entirely switching gears, Jim Bovard transformed his early experiences earning a living into irresistible tongue and cheek humor about government employees. For instance, working for the Virginia Highway Department, “As a flagman,
I held up traffic while highway employees pretended to work.”

Or, during a high school summer he worked for the department, “digging postholes, cutting brush and, best of all wielding a chainsaw – an experience that proved invaluable for my future work as a journalist.”

“On hot summer days in the back roads of the county, drivers sometimes tossed me a cold beer as they passed by. Life was different back in the 1970s. – Nowadays, if somebody did that, the police might send in a SWAT team - or maybe just call in a drone hellfire missile attack.”

“I did ‘road-kill ridealongs’ with Bud, an amiable, jelly-bellied truck driver who was always chewing the cheapest, nastiest ceegar ever made - Swisher Sweets. The cigars I smoked cost a nickel more than Bud’s, but I tried not to put on airs around him.

“We were supposed to dig a hole to bury any dead animal along the road. For deer, this could take half an hour or longer. Bud’s approach was more efficient. We would get our shovels firmly under the animal - wait until no cars were passing by - and then heave the carcass into the bushes. It was important not to let the job crowd the time available for smoking.”

The reader can enjoy more of how Jim Bovard disarms the bureaucracy by going to his speech transcript, such as when petty zoning officials raided the place where he lived as a student. Then there were Boston cops who weren’t interested in helping him find his stolen bike, but showed him an astonishing “Recovery Room” packed with bicycles of all types that would be auctioned to raise money for police benefits. [The same system existed for stolen cars in New York City when we still lived there, only the cars were in a fenced-in outdoor area.] His visit in 1995 to the “sacred burial ground of American rights and liberties,” the Supreme Court of the United States, got him kicked out because he laughed at a good quip by a lawyer who was fighting asset forfeiture. However, the entire audience had chuckled when Chief Justice William Rehnquist mocked one of the lawyers.

Full speech of Jim Bovard



Speakers’ Contributions to Private Property Rights Recognized with Awards from Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.

Jay H. Lehr, Ph.D.
Science director
The Heartland Institute
Chicago, Illinois

Jay H. Lehr, Ph.D., was conferred with PRFA’s most prestigious award, which was first presented to the revered Congressman Jerry Solomon. Dr. Lehr is renowned for his level-headed and brilliant communication of complex issues, whether in scientific circles or to the general public. The engraved plaque, presented in recognition of Dr. Lehr’s lifetime of leadership, and his contributions to science and to private property rights, is inscribed with the words:

PROPERTY RIGHTS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA, INC.
Fifteenth Annual Private Property Rights Advocate Award
Presented to
Jay H. Lehr, Ph.D.
In Recognition of His Dedication to the Preservation of
Human Rights Guaranteed in the United States Constitution

 


Michael Diederich, Jr., Esq.
Diederich Law Office
Stony Point New York

Attorney Michael Diederich is photographed receiving the fourteenth annual New York State Private Property Rights Defender Award from Carol W. LaGrasse for his successful federal court appeal defending the Sherman family against the Town of Chester’s endless parade of changing requirements and additional fees as the late Steven M. Sherman and finally his widow Nancy fruitlessly sought permission for their subdivision. Mr. Diederich is especially recognized for his defense of property rights against arbitrary land use controls in the context of his broader advocacy for civil rights. The plaque is engraved as follows:

PROPERTY RIGHTS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA, INC.
New York State Private Property Rights Defender Award
Presented to
Michael Diederich, Jr., Esq.
In Recognition of His Defense of
Constitutionally Guaranteed Private Property Rights in
The State of New York


Appreciation to the
Generous Co-Sponsors and Supporters of
PRFA’s Eighteenth Annual National Conference on
Private Property Rights

Co-Sponsors
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Gardiner Residents for Individual Property Rights
National Association of Reversionary property Owners
National Center for Public Policy Research
New York Farm Bureau

Foundation Grants:
The JM Foundation
Great Circle Foundation

The grant for grassroots educational outreach from Great Circle Foundation, East Northport, N.Y., was an important part of Property Rights Foundation of Americas ability to host the Eighteenth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights at an excellent, accessible central location where members of the publicin a wide range of circumstances could enjoy and meet important speakers at an affordable price.

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