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Letter: Adding a dose of humor to the Copar saga

Since the last time I commented on the “Surrender of Bradford,” with regard to the town of Westerly’s legal settlement with Copar Quarries and its landlord Westerly Granite Co., I have gained a copy of the agreement. The alarm sounded by The Westerly Sun has been confirmed.

The people of Bradford have held a meeting to consider what course of action we should take. Typical of most New England town meetings it was a noisy affair. As we waited for the meeting to start, opinions were shared freely and loudly. Terms like ipso facto, lack of due process, eminent domain and police power were heard above the chatter. However, the term that captured the moment and most frequently expressed was “Hoodwinked.”

When the meeting came to order the first argument offered came from supporters of the Second Amendment. They advocated declaring war on Quarry Land, as it seems that they feel that there is no problem that cannot be solved by the use of musket and ball. I must admit that I am drawn to their positions because they are always so simple, direct and final. After hours of thoughtful discussion, we settled on the following argument.

Eminent domain and police power are the foundation of sovereignty. As my former math teacher, who was fond of quoting Euclid’s principle of transitivity of equality, used to say; “Things which are equal to the same thing are equal.” A principle by the way that predates “ipso facto.”

Eminent domain/sovereignty is achieved through conquest, protected by the threat of the use of force and enforced by battle. As early as 450 B.C., the Romans used the concept of eminent domain and its intrinsic police power to establish orderly governance in its empire. For those legal advocates who toss around Latin phrases like popcorn in a movie theater, I would like to offer two more for their consideration. Sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas (use that which is yours so as not to injure others) and salus populi suprema lex esto (the health of the people shall be the supreme law).

These two principles are the fundamental justification for the use of police power. President George Washington affirmed the substance of these statements when he declared, “When any great object is in view, the popular mind is roused into expectation, and prepared to make sacrifices of both ease and property.” In a conflict that some in Westerly still remember, President Lincoln sent men into battle to consecrate these principles. Sovereign states hold these principles sacred. They delegate the authority to use them to local governments for the purpose of maintaining a fair and orderly community. These powers may never be surrendered!

This agreement must be vacated. It is invalid because it assumes an authority that may never be granted to local government. It creates two classes of property in Westerly: the rogue property at issue, which is a “Class I” unregulated property, and all other properties which are regulated and therefore “Class II.” The value of all “Class II” properties has been diminished and that lost value has flowed to the unregulated “Class I” property. This transfer of wealth was accomplished without our knowledge or consent. We have been deprived of wealth without due process. The members of the Town Council must answer the following questions in a public meeting:

1. Was this agreement signed without physical or emotional duress?

2. Will this agreement be binding on future council members?

3. Was this agreement made solely with the current owner?

4. Will the attributes garnered by this property from this agreement be recorded on the title?

5. Will subsequent owners be able to exercise these privileges?

6. This space is reserved for all future questions. Please add yours.

Finally, as our meeting was about to close, my neighbor rose to disclose how this agreement had affected him. I relate the following:

“The other day I went to town to plead my case to build a privy for my mom. As I waited for my turn, I heard a man, who seemed a nervous wreck, ask to add three meters to his deck. I could not help but wonder why it was that not three miles away, a man could plant the leafy green for medicine and fun. And when the sheriff came to call, have no regret for what he’d done. The story grows in local lore that in Quarry Land a man can live completely free of licensing and law.”

Al Clemence


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