Guest Spot: Property ownership isn’t paramount

08/03/2011 4:07 PM |

The Southold Town Republican Committee platform elevates property rights over all other government purposes. According to Southold Town Republicans:

• The fundamental goal of Southold Town (and the Southold Republican Party) should be to respect and embrace the fundamental American right to property.

• Property rights are more important than public health, safety and welfare.

• The rights of a single property owner are equal to the rights of all property owners.

Shortly after the Boston Tea Party, the First Continental Congress adopted a colonial bill of rights stating that “the inhabitants of the English Colonies in North America … are entitled to life, liberty, and property…”

In 1776, the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, reassessing essential rights as “life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Constitution, adopted in 1787, downplayed protection of property as a goal of government. There is no mention of property in the preamble, nor in the body of the Constitution. Not until the Fifth Amendment is it declared that the federal government cannot deprive any person of “life, liberty, or property” without due process of law.

Not until the Fourteenth Amendment was the same standard applied to state governments.

In the immortal Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln declared in 1863, “It is for us the living to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us … that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The people are not all property owners.

What is wrong with Southold Republican’s putting property rights first? Republican property rights first politicians serve only the people who own property, and protect only some of property owners’ interests.

True respect for property rights includes respecting government authority to regulate property use to prevent one property owner from violating the rights of other people and causing environmental destruction.

An example of Southold Republicans’ property rights first rule is how, after the public hearing and before enactment, town noise ordinance was changed to protect only property owners. The law measures noise pollution “from the property line of a complaining property owner.” The noise ordinance was drafted, and should be revised, to protect all people from unhealthy and dangerous noise.

I do not recall hearing any discussion to finalize the purpose of the noise legislation. The Town Board refuses to make copies of its meeting videos. No records are kept of discussions held during board work sessions. The Town Board is running our government in secret.

What happens on private property affects public property and the natural environment. As a coastal community and as part of the NYC metropolitan area, Southold Town has obvious reasons to consider and respect the feathered and elastic boundaries of private property.

Command and control legislation is only one means by which government can function. Alternative government means include precatory legislation, public service announcements and setting a good example.

Mr. Schwartz, of Cutchogue, is a Town Hall watchdog.