The 4th

We all just celebrated the Fourth of July. Did you have a barbecue or go to a friend’s house for the day? Did you perhaps take advantage of the long weekend and go off for a couple of days to a relatives or some place you enjoy?

How many of you thought about why we celebrate this holiday? Did you know that 26 percent of people polled recently did not know what country we had gained independence from? I find this appalling! I guess between the revisionist history that the generation after mine has been taught, plus the fact that we call the holiday by the day it falls on rather than by its reason for being, it shouldn’t be surprising.

Taxation without representation; sound familiar? I have this exchange with my husband every year because he was born in England. I remind him that today we Americans celebrate our independence from England, and he responds that we weren’t paying our taxes anyway so they were glad to get rid of us! It is a little joke that we share but it reflects some of our serious concerns for where our country is headed.

This country is one of a kind. There is no other like it anywhere in the world. Can we keep the values going that this country was founded on? How many of our freedoms are left that we can say are truly as they were intended to be? From the national to the local level we have tiny groups of misfits who imagine themselves to be the new elite who have taken control of our local government. They have worked hard with sympathetic politicians to overturn every form of freedom we have. For example, in creeping fashion, property owners in this county have virtually lost the ability to plan or control the use of their property for which they pay taxes for the privilege of doing so.

One of the most egregious examples of this is when the unelected Valley Alliance composed of ex-Supervisor Marshall, current Supervisor Farr who was a founder and a few other individuals proposed to the Historic Landmarks Advisory Committee (HLAC) that Mattei’s Tavern be nominated as a landmark WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT OF THE PROPERTY OWNER. The HLAC, for its part, also stole the property rights of the owner by agreeing to consider the topic. Not only did they agree to discuss the potential nomination, the committee designated, with one notable exception, two individuals, the chair John Woodward and Gerry Shepherd to meet with the owners to try to work out a solution.

What’s wrong with this picture? For some odd reason, these people see nothing wrong with making a determination about someone’s property without their permission that will mean another layer of restrictions and decisions by people who have no interest in the project. This also means that any property, building or view that someone deems “historic” whether it is or not can be given that designation. It is easy to see how this power could be abused for political or personal reasons. The fact that this ordinance does not fall in line with state law that requires the written consent of the property owner doesn’t seem to bother our legislators.

It is really sad that there are those in our society who feel it is their right to deny us ours. It is, of course, their right to feel that way but not their right to abuse that right by destroying ours. We all need to be mindful of those who would try to force their wishes on us by using loose language in local ordinances to stop projects they don’t want.

This is what the goal is. There is no other explanation for it. The HLAC should be ashamed of itself, except the one individual who saw that it was wrong and voted against it. If you have the same problem with the HLAC as I do, their next hearing on Mattei’s Tavern is currently scheduled for July 17. Please write, email or call the members of HLAC and their appointers, the Board of Supervisors to express your opinions. They need to hear them.

Birds and bees

No, this isn’t a sex lecture; sorry if you are disappointed! What I would like to bring to your attention is information you may not be aware of. There are lots of ways that our rights are being stolen from us, from making all water under Federal jurisdiction to abuse of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that occurs quite regularly. In the Livestock Market Digest, June 15, 2010, there was an article written by Karen Budd-Falen. She gave a very striking description of exactly what the ESA was doing to this country. Her opening statement states it very succinctly: “In an economic time where American jobs are scarce, private property rights are being taken and the federal deficit is trillions of dollars, certainly the federal government can find a better way to spend American taxpayer dollars than lining the pockets of radical environmental groups and their ‘pro bono’ (i.e. allegedly free) attorneys and spending money on a program that by the federal government’s data is a complete failure.”

While she goes on to say that the intention to support species that were failing was a noble one, it has since been used to abuse private property rights, to shut down agriculture and to make some radical groups rich on taxpayer dollars. Additionally, all the money being thrown around is not resulting in species being recovered and removed from the endangered list.

Some of the facts cited are that currently there are 1,374 species listed with a cost of $85,000 per species and $515,000 per critical habitat designation per species. This totals $116,790,000 for species and $707,610,000 for critical habitat coming out of your pocket. As if that was not enough, $11,743,287 has been paid to attorneys for radical environmental groups because the federal agencies missed some deadline. Could it be that the agencies have been purposely overwhelmed so that they could not possibly meet the deadlines? In the last eight months, Budd-Falen reports that the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Watersheds Project have threatened the federal government with further litigation should they not list another 238 species. Of, course, if they do not meet the timelines, they will also be sued for that, meaning more taxpayer dollars will be needed.

While you may be sympathetic to environmental concerns, as most people are, let me give you an example of one company’s experience with these radicals. Even “green” businesses are not exempt from this nonsense. A solar company Brightsouce Energy in California has to spend $20 million to relocate 20 desert tortoises and create a permanent trust fund for them so that they can build a solar plant.

Santa Barbara County has more listed species than any other county with the exception of Hawai’i. I can’t begin to list all of them, but the ones that are supposedly found in the Santa Ynez Valley are the red-legged frog, southwestern pond turtle, Thompson’s bat, steelhead, least Bell’s vireo, fairy shrimp and I’m sure I am missing some. It’s hard to keep up with all of the listings. Aside from the listings the Center for Biological Diversity, located in Arizona, has been busy designating thousands of acres as critical habitat, though no one has ever made an attempt to validate whether any of the species in question ever has lived here. Santa Barbara County doesn’t seem to mind that thousands of those acres are or have been productive agricultural land producing tax dollars for the county to spend. Why is that? Don’t they care that they are personally eroding the county’s tax base? Or is that part of the plan?

I know for a fact that portions of the Santa Ynez River that are supposed to be critical habitat for red-legged frogs had numerous day and night surveys with not a single frog being discovered. Odd, huh? No pond turtles or steelhead either! I would have to agree with Budd-Falen that this would not be so bad if the environmental groups were taking that money and using it to do research on habitats or the species themselves, but that is not happening. The money is used to simply sue you and me again and make the government give them more money. It is a sick racket that needs to stop now! If you give money to any of these groups thinking that you’re helping, you are part of the problem. Please stop now. We don’t need to continue this charade thinking that we are helping to save the planet; we’re just feathering somebody’s nest and it isn’t a bird, either! Santa Barbara County depends heavily on their “environmental” friends to design and write up many, if not all, of their land use documents. This is where the silly standards of small houses on large parcels of land, invisible agricultural buildings and setbacks of hundreds of feet from dry rivers and creeks comes from. So why then is it OK for one party to build a car wash and gas station directly on the banks of a creek? How come that creek isn’t as sacred as the rest of them? Is there something weird going on here? Have you wondered about that too, as you were told that you couldn’t do something on your property because of some creek, tree or species? Doesn’t the law apply to everyone? Apparently not.

One nation

We celebrate the birth of this extraordinary nation each year and as we do so, thousands of people from all over the world are being sworn in as new citizens. I feel proud that so many see the promise that is here and they are living examples of the opportunities that are available only here. I hope that we can hold on to that but we need to focus our efforts, no matter how large or small, on doing those things that will support the continuation of those dreams. Every election, we have an opportunity to make substantial changes in the direction of our country, unlike many other countries that live under dictatorships. We have been entrusted with a very special system, one that requires attention to detail. It is not enough to vote for someone because you’ve heard the name before, they’re male or female, black, white or Hispanic.

You need to learn who they are and what they really stand for, who their friends are and whether they have actually held a real job before. If they have been a businessperson, given the mess of current and previous legislators, it might be helpful in straightening out finances.

Forget the ads: they just want to persuade you whether true or not. Political parties don’t matter either, as it seems they’re all pretty much the same because they couldn’t care less about you. Stop voting for the radicals like we did last election, though how those votes came is subject to question still. It is time to put some common sense back in our lives and stop the rampant theft of our rights. What do you think?