Property rights, sustainability group focus of FourC forum in Clallam County

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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SEQUIM — A panel discussion on property rights this week turned into a spirited debate over political ideas and a critical look at Clallam County’s involvement with an international organization dedicated to sustainability.

The audience for the panel discussion numbered about 100 Monday at the monthly meeting of Concerned Citizens of Clallam County — otherwise known as FourC — held in the Boys & Girls Club gym in Sequim.

Featured speakers were Clallam County Commissioner Chairman Mike Doherty, county Department of Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller, Port Angeles Business Association President Kaj Ahlburg and Olympia-based Freedom Foundation Property Rights Director Scott Roberts.

Sandy Collins, one of about a half-dozen audience members who addressed the panel, received rousing applause and seemed to reflect the mood of most of those in attendance.

“I personally find it very offensive that you think I should change cars, limit how many people live on my property, [regulate] how high my fence should be if I have a fence and that you have the right to come through my property with public access if you chose to,” she said.

“However, my taxes do not go down. . . . We are the ones paying for our property, we are the ones paying taxes, and we are the ones paying you, and you are screwing us.”

Those also in the audience included 24th District state representative and county Commissioner Steve Tharinger, Port Angeles City Councilwoman Cherie Kidd, Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Jim McEntire and County Sheriff Bill Benedict.

A main focus was ICLEI, founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

Its current full name is “ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability.”

It is an association of local, regional and national governments and organizations.

A representative of ICLEI’s Washington, D.C., office did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

‘Sustainable’ defined

Sustainable is defined as “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged,” according to Merriam-Webster.

The forum’s purpose was to “address questions concerning property rights,” which many people believe “are shrinking as government gets involved,” said Pete Church-Smith, FourC organizer and forum master of ceremonies.

On her way out of the Boys & Girls Club, Collins approached a reporter.

“We just want common-sense laws,” she said, then repeated her plea.

Here’s what panel members had to say:

■ Doherty, the main focus of the audience, said the county is duty-bound to follow Washington state laws and defended the county’s membership in ICLEI.

He cautioned that what he called “philosophical disputes” were “a diversion from the practical aspects of local governments getting together and learning how to manage their assets to benefit each other.”

Doherty, who studied law at Georgetown University and taught business law at Peninsula College, said this is a time of “a convergence of major issues” including alternative energy, land use, resource shortages and population growth.

Clallam County dues

Clallam County pays $1,200 a year in dues to be in ICLEI, a voluntary organization that gives practical advice and policy suggestions, he said.

“We don’t take an oath” pledging allegiance to ICLEI, Doherty said, adding that Jefferson County and Port Townsend also are members.

Property rights laws have “evolved” over the years, he added.

As residents develop more marginal land such as that in flood-prone areas, laws need to be changed, Doherty said.

In answer to criticism that the county is looking for public-access points through private property to shorelines, Doherty said citizens of the county for more than 40 years have expressed a “strong interest” in having access to saltwater shorelines.

“This is more complex than people make it out to be,” he said to tepid clapping.

Doherty responded that “objective research” should guide the discussion.

“Too much of democracy is controlled by corporate interests,” Doherty said.

Doherty referred to a blue booklet for sale at the meeting, “A Short Course in Global Governance,” published by Sovereignty International.

The group “focuses on threats to national sovereignty in public policies, international treaties and agreements, and in educational and cultural trends,” according to its website, www.sovereignty.net.

“Someone is making money providing those pamphlets,” Doherty said.

Protect property rights

■ Roberts propped a pamphlet with the Declaration of Independence and Constitution on the table he sat at with the rest of the panel.

The primary role of government is to protect private-property rights, Roberts said.

He recalled how the Soviet Union took over a relative’s factory after invading Czechoslovakia in 1968.

“The only difference between the regulators and the Soviets were that the Soviets were honest about the taking,” Roberts said.

■ Roark Miller said property rights need to be balanced “with some long-term thinking.”

Elected to the DCD director’s position last November, Roark Miller said requirements for wheelchair-access ramps had been softened to allow merely a “courtesy review” of the structures.

In addition, the membership of a shoreline management program advisory committee includes “people with all points of views and positions and not just those that want to protect the environment,” she said.

■ Ahlburg, a nonpracticing lawyer, said property rights are “enshrined” in the Bill of Rights and “deeply ingrained in human nature.”

He reserved his sharpest criticism for ICLEI and its connection to the United Nations’ Agenda 21, an international plan that promotes sustainable development.

ICLEI’s existence is based on the impact of greenhouse gases on the Earth and, quoting from its charter, committed to “adopting patterns of production, consumption and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities,” Ahlburg said.

“ICLEI sounds a lot like a propaganda organization with a collectivist agenda that recommends staying away [from] the facts.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 26. 2011 10:37PM
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