Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who Would Gandhi Beat Up?

Read the email at the bottom of this post and ask yourself if the Mahatma would have gone after Charles Dalton? What about Rosa Parks? I wonder if Stephanie Buffum earns 86% of what Charles earns? The email is from the Director of the "Friends" to one of her friends working for the County. Just a few months after this email, Stephanie started going after Charles.

Gandhi, Rosa Parks, MLK were, of course, notorious law breakers of unjust laws. Since the Dalton video broke, I've heard some defend the "Friends" actions by saying that Charles broke the law, and for them, that's all that matters. We should, of course, obey just laws. However, one difficulty the average citizen faces nowadays is that our laws have become so convoluted that it can be impossible to know how to follow them. We often don't know when we're breaking the law, and we don't know that we have to disprove something just to live our lives on our own property.

When Stephanie "The Mahatma" Buffum reported Charles for building in a wetland and along a stream, that was before any report of a wetland or stream on Charles' property existed.  In other words, she claimed there was a wetland and stream, and then the wheels of "justice" turned to make her self-fulfilling prophecy stick. As for whether it is or is not a wetland and stream, there are conflicting scientific studies in that regard. One study was authored by someone with no science degree, and the other was authored by someone licensed by the State in a scientific discipline (and two scientific subspecialties) and with degrees in science. Guess which one the Department of Ecology chose?

If we are to respect the law, then we must all follow it equally. We cannot have a situation where some are more equal than others. Many feel the wheels of justice work differently for well-connected "Friends" here. They often seem to be different for County and State officials too.  When reports come in that County and State officials were trespassing on Charles Dalton's property and even inside his buildings without his permission, that deserves scrutiny. When Ecology and the County pay no attention to the Geology Licensing Laws, that deserves scrutiny. County and State officials should not be above the law.

Lastly, I would venture to say that many San Juan County residents have something out of place on their property at this very moment, and they may not even be aware of it. When the CAOs and SMP go into effect, complicated as they are, there will be many more "sleeper" violations just waiting for a complaint from our self-styled Mahatma to pick on. As the email below suggests, their cause is just, so you may be in for it, even if they have to break the law to prove it. After all, you're just a Charles Dalton, and they're Gandhi.
From: Stephanie Buffum [mailto:stephanie@sanjuans.org
Sent: Wednesday, July 08, 2009 2:41 PM
To: Barbara Rosenkotter
Subject: CAO - unplugged

It’s not often that I rant, but I need to among friends…

I went to an Anti-Critical Areas Ordinance meeting and dinner last night at the San Juan Grange...there were 90 people there! I know at least 3 of the people as we had seen each other in court a few times on landuse issues. There was a panel of 9 people representing members of the: Common Sense Alliance (Mike Carlson); CAPR(Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights – Frank Penwell, Richard Civille and Steve Cotton (the former Republic Chair for SJC), the SJ Builders Association (Gordy Peterson/John Evans); SJ Realtors Association (Sam Buck); and private landuse attorney Stephanie O'Day and her staff planner Francine Shaw.

The meeting was supposed to be a balanced discussion, but no one with alternative opinions were invited to sit on the panel. The orca, salmon, sea birds, surf smelt, eelgrass, wetlands, water were no represented on the panel.

Main presenter themes were:

· Don't bother me with the biology or facts.
· There’s no biological problem in SJ County.
· No one believes that their property is a source for pollution.
· Private property owners don’t want pay for protection of the environment.
· Write to your elected officials tell them to protect your private property.
· Govt is taking all your property without compensation.

The meeting was insightful to the human condition and the power of fear and greed...Here's what I learned:

· About 90 people took the time to attend.
· The group felt defensive and many fronts: backlash from the presidential election,

   backlash from the economic turning, personal loss at so many level;
· Most of the people were concerned about the financial burden of protecting the
· I think most people left with the same amount of information they arrived with…little.

After attending meeting like last night, I can better understand…

· why some took to arms to preserve slavery
· how Germans in WWII sat in complacency against their own government while millions

  of Jewish people were killed.
· how Japanese Americans were detained during WWII while non Japanese American
  stood idle.
· why people were moved to take action in 1968 and assassinate MLK, Jr and Kennedy.
· why women still make 86 cents to the $1 that a man makes.

I can better understand why Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus and MLK, and Gandhi sat in, sat down, and Rachel Carson and Terry Tempest Williams took to the pen.

I appreciate you and your service to preserve this amazing place we reside.

The opposition is well organized, we need to get ourselves better organized. We are trying to get letters into the editor weekly and calls to elected councilors. We need to communicate common values and common sense to protect this place for another 40 years. Our values are so closely tied to human preferences which are manifested wholistically. An integration of place, ethics, religion, sexuality, beauty and economics. Attempts to focus exclusively on an “economic” value that value monetarily will generally fail to adequately represent culture, community and aesthetic values.

The future needs all of our voices…. Calls and letters to friends, family, neighbors, and our elected officials.

The County council especially needs to hear from all of us often and frequently through November on why we value living here in the San Juans and what we want in our community.

And we support the CAO with some modifications. The CAO is a C+ and meets the minimum standards. It needs some modifications for sure, but we can articulate that it is something worth defending.

· Lovel Pratt (Dist 1 SJ South) 370-7473 LovelP@co.san-juan.wa.us
· Rich Peterson (Dist 2 SJI North) 378-2898 richp@co.san-juan.wa.us
· Howie Rosenfeld (Dist 3 Town of Friday Harbor) 378-5788 howier@co.san-juan.wa.us
· Richard Fralick (Dist 4 West Orcas) 370-7473 richardf@sanjuanco.com
· Gene Knapp (Dist 5 West Orcas East) 378-2898 genek@co.san-juan.wa.us
· Bob Myhr (Dist. 6) 378-2898 or 468-2258; myhr@rockisland.com or BobM@co.san-juan.wa.us

Cheers, Stephanie Buffum


  1. I have been fascinated about the special status that "wetlands" have in the first place. I'm convinced "wetlands" have no greater value than "drylands" (dry land is often highly sought after!)

    I think the real answer is that "wetlands" has acquired a special legal status that can be used as a cudgel by illiberal control freaks against whomever it is they happen to want to control. If we can reverse the premise, we might put an end to this arbitrary over-criminalization of normal human activity.

  2. You bring up an interesting point. Legally, it came about because the Clean Water Act included wetlands in its definition of "waters of the United States." But that provides little explanation and little comfort because it is no easy task for individual property owners to know whether their property is actually “the waters of the United States.” In the Sackett case currently before the Supreme Court, one of the Amicus Briefs put it this way:

    This Court’s decision in Rapanos produced five separate opinions on what constitutes the “waters of the United States” for purposes of the Clean Water Act—none of which commanded a majority of the Court. The Chief Justice noted in his separate concurring opinion that the Court would grant substantial deference to EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers if they exercise their rulemaking power to issue regulations defining the terms at issue in the case. In the nearly five years since the Rapanos decision was issued, the agencies have declined to issue such a regulation. Instead, they have chosen to issue a “guidance” which they emphasize is not a “regulation” and does not “impose legally binding requirements on EPA, the Corps, or the regulated community, and may not apply to a particular situation depending on the circumstances.”

    “Waters of the United States,” it would seem, have now reached the status of Justice Stewart’s definition of hard core pornography: “I know it when I see it.” Justice Stewart and his colleagues were attempting to draw a line between what was protected by the First Amendment and what was not in the context of those who sought to push the boundaries of prior rulings. The Court was struggling to protect the liberties included in the Bill of Rights. Here, however, we are confronted with enforcement officials using their power under the law to compel surrender of private property rights on the basis of an “I know it when I see it” definition. The ambiguity in the definition increases the agency’s power at the expense of individual liberty. The danger to those fundamental rights is only heightened by a refusal of the courts to review agency action.

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