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Common Good or Individual Freedom?

Common Good or Individual Freedom?

I enjoy open dialogue with those who may not agree with me.  Engaging in a polite and respectful conversation, gives us the opportunity to understand the other person’s perspective and hopefully allows us to find some common ground.  I received the following comments and questions below, from fellow citizens on Facebook.  I believe the discussion is worth sharing with everyone.

Citizen Commment

I am familiar with what you are proposing to do in your position on this county commission.  You do not understand that you represent a broad spectrum of citizens in this county.  To remove environmental protections of county wetlands does not relate to the broad issues of private property rights as you claim.    Why won’t the board allow the wetlands referendum to be placed on the ballot? The First Amendment’s protections of free speech, press, assembly, and petition allows individuals the right to petition the government in order to express their views and ask for change. The decision to remove local protection regulations of the wetlands represents a small minority of county citizens and is in opposition to the will of the majority who are intended to prevail by the U. S. Constitution. Citizens who voted for you included majority and minority citizens. The minorities’ personal interests must sometimes give way to the common good. A referendum vote will clear up this issue. Please address my specific concerns as I have relayed them to you:)  Thank you.

My Reply

Thank you for your comments.  You have included a lot in this paragraph.  I will do my best to address each of your comments.  I certainly understand that I represent a broad spectrum of citizens.  To say that I do not understand, assumes that I am ignorant of this fact or that I do not care.  Neither are true.  State wetlands regulations will remain, therefore, the environment will remain protected.  I don’t understand how you can think this issue does not relate to property rights.  Anytime government or public will, proposes to trump the will of an individual property owner, it is certainly a property rights issue.  You keep asking, “Why won’t the board allow the wetlands referendum to be placed on the ballot?”  Your group is actively involved in placing the issue on the ballot, through a legal mechanism provided in our County Charter, therefore, we are not disallowing the referendum, nor do we have the authority to do so.  You are certainly exercising your right to petition the government, as protected by the Constitution.  The system is working and your rights are being protected.  Since you are concerned about your rights as protected in the Constitution, please do not overlook the 5th amendment which addresses property rights when it says, ‘‘nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.’’  Your organization is doing a very good job communicating the message that you believe leaving the wetlands ordinance in place is in the best interest of the public, but you are completely ignoring the “just compensation” portion which is also a right protected by the Constitution.  Please let me know how you plan to compensate citizens for their loss.  Our County has already paid out hundreds of thousand of dollars settling a court case that pertained to the regulatory “taking” of private property.  Our Board of County Commissioners is trying hard to protect tax payers from similar future settlements.  The efforts of your organization may thwart our efforts and leave tax payers liable for future similar settlements.  I’m not sure how you have the authority to assume that you represent the will of the majority until the majority weighs in.  To do so prematurely is merely an assumption.  Much of this discussion amounts to a difference of opinion between you and I, and that is ok, and healthy.  I must inform you of one area where you are completely wrong and not a matter of opinion.  You stated this issue pertains to, “the will of the majority who are intended to prevail by the U. S. Constitution”.  You could not be more wrong with this statement.  The constitution protects “individual liberty” not majority consensus.  Allow me to give you just a few examples to make my point.  How could you have freedom of speech if the majority could decide what you could say?  How could you have freedom of religion if the majority could decide who and when you were allowed to worship?  How can you have the freedom to control the use of your property if the public can impose a “regulatory taking” without just compensation?  The constitution provides protection of the minority and there is no smaller minority than a single individual.  Why would the majority need the protections provided in the constitution, when they have the ability to band together and impose their will upon the minority, exactly as you are proposing to do with this issue?  I am very concerned about your statement, “The minorities’ personal interests must sometimes give way to the common good.”  Your statement completely ignores the concept of individual freedom as protected by the Constitution.  The Webster dictionary defines Socialism as “a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control”.  I don’t think you claim to be a Socialist, but I hope you can recognize that you are proposing to control private property by “social control”.  Whether we agree or disagree, I still love you and I will support your right have your own opinion.  I just wish that you loved freedom as much as I do.

Citizen Commment

Mr. Thomas you have been talking a lot about individual property rights in the issue of wetlands but you are not addressing the other side of that issue. The other individual property rights that  have the land adjacent to the other property and can be affected by those choices. Isn’t the same issue? Infringement of my rights. Do we have a democracy in this country with the right for voters to decide not just 4 commissioners? The hypocrisy of the issue is very rampant.

My Reply

I agree with you.  An adjacent property owner has no right to negatively impact a neighbor’s property.  Current state regulations strictly prohibit a property owner from causing a negative impact on an adjacent property.  I will stand up to protect the rights of all property owners.  You asked if we have a democracy.  When asked by a passerby what sort of government the constitutional convention had formulated for the new nation, Benjamin Franklin memorably replied, “A republic, if you can keep it”, not a democracy.  Even in our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, we acknowledge “to the Republic, for which it stands”.  In a true Democracy the majority has the ability to trample on the rights of the minority.  Aren’t you glad we have a system that acknowledges the need to protect the rights of minorities and provides a means to ensure their protection?

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