Property Rights Foundation of America®
Founded 1994

Welcome — The Widespread Battle for Freedom in the U.S.A.

Carol LaGrasse
President
Property Rights Foundation of America

Twentieth Annual National Conference on
Private Property Rights
October 22, 2016
The Century House, Latham, N.Y.

 

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to our Twentieth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights. We have certainly accomplished our mission of education, which should make you proud.

We have some remarkable, specific accomplishments under our belt, even some of international interest, the withdrawal of the Catskill Mountains United Nations Biosphere Reserve application from UNESCO and the National Park Service’s rejection of Frederick Church’s “Olana” so-called castle from the Park Service’s own list for UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Thank you to our late great Congressman Jerry Solomon for the former and, for the latter, to Roland Vosburgh, here today, and Al Wassenhove, whose loss we mourn as of August this year. Yet, for all our tenacious work, the issues remain.

Local government has, by and large, let us down in bringing our issues to the halls of state and federal power, and, has, in fact, been an accomplice, if only by ineffectualness and silence in the infringements on our private property rights and on the preservation of land ownership in private hands. Jim Morgan and Sheila Galvin are to be thanked for our success in saving 220 private hunting clubs on former timber company lands up north when the state bought conservation easements; but local government keeps blowing the policy change we accomplished requiring that DEC abide by the land acquisition law and get local government approval for more forest land acquisition.

Inquirers ask what fields represented by those who attend the conferences. To me, our heroes are the people who participate in the Property Rights Foundation’s work, and especially those who find a way to join us at the annual conference.

Our heroes have been men and woman in productive industry and businesses, farming, mining, especially oil extraction, forestry, development, ordinary homeowners, and, quite notably, attorneys, who have donated their expert services to speak at the conferences, bring litigation, and act as pro bono counsel for important amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs. Frankly, people from all walks of life. You can be proud that we are probably the only grassroots property rights group in the country where urban and rural people find common ground.

I’d like to express special thanks to those participating in these conferences for many years. It makes me happy to be able to name certain people who have rarely if ever missed a conference in all of these twenty years: Sheila Galvin and Jim Morgan, George McGowan, John Salvador, Jr., Bob Drake, Roland Vosburgh, Robert Young, Pam O’Dell, and Gary Loughrey. Thank you, Tom and Pat Miller: especially, Tom, for your important speeches and long distance travel of you both today and many other times. Thank you, Robert LoScalzo and Irene Prestigiacomo for making presentations on Willets Point every October beginning in 2009.

Today, we host a long distance traveler, Jim Zeiler from Wisconsin, who is the new president of Citizens for Responsible Zoning, which my esteemed friend Marilyn Hayman led for at least two decades.

How have these events been possible? Unlike the accusation of the National Audubon Society in 1995, no big money hauled in from the West to finance the first annual conference. The attendees, co-sponsors, and many other contributors paid the way. The late New York State Senator Owen Johnson refused to back down in the face of implied threats by environmentalists and delivered an adulatory, exciting opening address; as so many freedom-loving speakers do each year, following his courageous lead.

Generosity from many people and organizations is greatly appreciated to this day.
The Co-Sponsors of this conference are Competitive Enterprise Institute, Gardener Residents for Individual Property Rights (GRIP)., National Association of Reversionary Property Owners (NARPO), National Center for Public Policy Research, New York Farm Bureau, and Pacific Legal Foundation. In addition, the JM Foundation (named for Jeremiah Milbank, who advocated for the handicapped) and Great Circle Foundation, which supports under-served populations, generously extended grants to the conference again.

I’d also like to especially thank Myra and Bob Katz, who have held forth at the registration desk almost from the beginning of our conferences.

The times keep changing, but some of our worst woes stem from as far back as our grand- and great grandparents’ days. Zoning originated in New York exactly 100 years ago. It appears good in theory, if you don’t look too closely, and very limited aspects of city planning and even zoning are sometimes essential, but zoning was and is a way to keep the poor out of sight and to enforce racism.

As the expert on racism Lolita Buckner Innis, J.D., L.L.M., then Associate Professor at the Cleveland-Marshall School of Law at Cleveland State University, and an expert on racism, said at our Twelfth Annual Conference in 2008, “What started to happen is that poorer people started coming to the cities. That was really what started a movement for zoning in this country.” Studying the then-wealthy City of Cleveland’s history in the 1920s, she said that she found that the idea was to zone out the great variety of urban industry and the mass of poor people that were getting too close in order to come work.

I’d add that here is no reason but malevolence to make zoning codes as complicated as a law book and as thick as the Bible.

And another black woman, Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D., of New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, pointed out at our 2004 conference how urban renewal destroys neighborhoods, leaving little vestiges of the age-old communities that provide a secure and stable setting for families, surrounding the people with all the places and people that they love, and spawning their culture and even their musical greatness.

She said that 1,600 urban renewal projects were directed at African-American neighborhoods. And she told how other neighborhoods were deliberately left to rot by withholding city services, so that the people would be driven out of neighborhoods and renewal could come in.

So, much of what we face and discuss at the conferences stems from the concept of zoning and its first-cousin, urban redevelopment.

Not much more than a half century after zoning, environmental regulation quietly sidled up into both New York State and the United States governments, most notably the National Environmental Policy Act with its EPA and the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. It is my opinion that those who framed these laws understood their potential fully, as opposed to Congress and President Nixon who passed and signed them into law. It didn’t take long. Our conferences have brought frank and disheartening information forth about these ill-conceived laws and their overextended enforcement.

Realizing that you are part of a cadre that extends back much further than the first of these conferences in 1995, enjoy the day with pride. And thank you for coming!

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