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Saturday, February 24, 2007

DUNCAN HUNTER Champion of Property Rights and Real Free Trade!

Those of us who have been involved in property rights battles appreciated Helen Chenoweth-Hage. What a great loss to all of us due to her untimely fatal accident last year. Talk about your dream ticket for the presidential race. Duncan Hunter and Helen together would have been too much to hope for!

A poster from Idaho, Helen's home state, on a polictical forumstates:
"We are very particular about our conservatives.We like principles and backbone. We elected Helen Chenoweth/Hage and Bill Sali. Helen loved Duncan Hunter and spoke of him often, that is why I loved him before he ever decided to run."
Helen and Duncan had a great appreciation for each other and accomplished much while they were both in congress, especially protecting private property rights.

It was announced this week that the Mt. Soledad Cross, which the ACLU sued to have removed, will in fact remain per the Supreme Court, largely due to the actions of Duncan Hunter.

From Fox News: In 2004, Rep. Duncan Hunter of San Diego, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, attached a rider to a spending measure that declared the monument a national veterans memorial. And earlier this month, the House passed Hunter's bill directing the Pentagon to acquire the cross and manage it as a memorial

In a field hearing held by COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES on the Endangered Species act in 1999 in Hemmet, California, Chenoweth and Hunter were in the forefront to protect the average American citizen property owner. They questioned, with little mercy, the bureaucrats who through archaic regulations and unnecessary paperwork were thwarting use of private land by it's legitimate owners. Hunter's comments speak for themselves.
Mr. HUNTER: I think that shows some of the misguided policies, and, Mr. Chairman, I think this falls on our back as well as those of the Administrators. In this effort that is to protect the environment and the perversion that I think we have made of some of the regulations, we have actually damaged the environment. We have massive traffic jams that are a result of people not being able to afford homes in the areas where they work.
One reason they cannot afford homes is because we are protecting their environment in the communities where they work. So we have them put out tons of smog on the freeway to get 60 miles away where they can afford a home.
So I think that working America has a real stake in seeing to it that we pull back regulation, make it more reasonable and make it more applicable to folks like the gentleman who was in here, Mr. Turecek. I do not know if you saw him, but average people that have pieces of land that they want to develop, to give them a fighting chance at it.
Mr. Kading, I appreciate all of the witnesses, but I especially appreciate you being here and laying out the perspective of a working man."
Recently, Hunter has stated this concerning property rights and the Kelo property rights/eminent domain decision by the Supreme Court:
"I am deeply concerned with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision greatly broadening local government’s use of eminent domain in Kelo vs. New London and believe it is important that Congress protect the property rights of private landowners and curb the government from excessive regulatory takings. It is for this reason that I voted in favor of expressing the grave disapproval of the House of Representatives regarding the majority opinion in the Kelo case.

Additionally, I cosponsored H.R. 3268 , the Eminent Domain Tax Relief Act of 2005, which abolished the capital gains tax on private property taken by the government through eminent domain. I also voted in favor of a legislative amendment offered to H.R. 3058, the FY2006 Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibiting federal funding from being used to improve or construct infrastructure support on lands acquired through the use of eminent domain of private property for private development."

Hunter was awarded the American Farm Bureau Federation Friend of Farm Bureau award for the 105th Congress. The "Friend of Farm Bureau" is given each session of Congress to those members of Congress who were nominated by their respective state Farm Bureau and approved by the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors.

Helen and Duncan worked on other projects such as controlling trade agreements like Nafta and getting out of the World Trade Organization.

Afta NAFTA - "GOP sponsors of the NAFTA Accountability Act in the 104th Congress included such high-profile conservatives as Duncan Hunter, Zach Wamp, Helen Chenoweth, and Gerald Solomon. In a speech before Congress on March 12, 1996, Hunter claimed that between one and five million jobs had been lost to corporate downsizing over the past three years. "We seem to be giving our own country away" through NAFTA, GATT, the World Bank, and foreign adventurism, he said: "billions and billions to other countries while our own people head for the unemployment office or have to settle for jobs in fast-food restaurants."

From March 27, 2000: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has managed to win seven co-sponsors so far for a resolution that he introduced earlier this month calling on the United States to withdraw from the World Trade Organization. Responding to the congressman's call to co-sponsor the measure, issued in a letter March 10, have been Reps. Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho), Duncan L. Hunter (R-Calif.)........

This morning we read an article about Diane Alden, who has been an important journalist in the property rights battle and conservatism in general.

The bio on Adlen states, " Diane's heroes include Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Joan of Arc, St. Padre Pio, Lou Dobbs, the Minutemen, Phyllis Schlafly, Helen Chenoweth-Hage, Barbara Cubin, George Putnam, Marc Bernier, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Jeff Sessions, Mark Kirkorian, Frank Gaffney, Steve Farrell, Peter Brimelow, William Hawkins, her dad Neil Alden, as well as the unsung heroes who have blogged and supported real conservatism and American interests as opposed to the partisan or corporate variety. Most particularly her heroes include the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States who lay it on the line every single day."

Further comments by Duncan Hunter and Helen Chenoweth in the Resources hearing:

Mrs. CHENOWETH. I want to thank you and our hostess, Mary Bono, for this opportunity to delve into an issue, the Endangered Species Act, that obviously from the comments of Congressman Calvert and from our knowledge in working back there in the Congress, the Endangered Species Act has been totally misused.
It is an Act that has not succeeded in saving species, but has succeeded in dimming down the enthusiasm for a productive economy and a vibrant and growing society that is growing in the right way, not necessarily growing out as far as people are concerned, but the continued vibrancy that really has built this country.


I want to thank my colleagues, our host, Ken and Mary, for hosting this hearing, and you for coming such a long way to make it a reality, and Helen, of course, for her great contribution.
You know, Southern California used to be a place where you could dream, where a young couple could get married, and they could have children, and they could have a dream, and they could pursue that dream, and in many cases achieve it.
And a centerpiece of that dream was home ownership, and my reason, Mr. Chairman, for being here is because I think that that dream is disappearing rapidly, and I can see it very clearly in the facts and figures we're going to put up in a few minutes when we have testimony from some of our witnesses.
But, you know, the average home in San Diego County today is $265,000, and the estimates are that as a result partly of Fish and Wildlife in Carlsbad and other factors—there are other agencies that are involved—that 265, $270,000 median priced home in San Diego County is about 35 percent higher than it needs to be, and that money does not go to profit for developers. It does not go to the construction crews, the people that carry the lunch buckets and build the homes. Those are actually fairly low costs. They are basically in line with the rest of the country.
Plywood and two-by-fours cost the same across the country, but what makes our homes so expensive is the cost of regulation, and so that dream is becoming unachievable. Today you have to make about $70,000 a year to be able to qualify for the median priced home in San Diego County, and that means that our young couples are not able to buy homes.
And most of our growth now is coming from people who are having families in our districts. It is not coming from outside folks coming into San Diego and Riverside Counties. So we have a real problem. The American dream is slipping away.
And part of the answer is going to be brought about, I think, by this hearing because we are going to listen to some people who would have been able to have built those homes, and I think home building is a very honorable profession, Mr. Chairman. They would have been able to build those homes for a lot less money, sell them for a lot less money, and that young couple would not have been paying 7 or 7 1/2 percent interest on an additional 30 or $40,000 per home for the next 30 years if government had acted reasonably.

And I have said this before, Mr. Chairman. This may be a little strong, but I talked to one person who actually took a photograph of one of the bumper strips on one of the Federal employee's cars at the Carlsbad office that said essentially, ''Home Builders Can Go to Hell.'' Now, I thought about that.

What if you were a veteran and were going into the Veteran's Affairs Office to try to get your veterans check and you saw the car, happened to see the car of one of the people who was supposed to wait on you and serve you, and it said, ''Veterans Can Go to Hell. That's my attitude,'' or what if you were a senior citizen going to the Social Security Administration and you saw a bumper strip that said, ''Senior Citizens Can Go to Hell''? What kind of service would you expect when you walked in those doors?

Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, I think that that attitude has largely been manifested in real action by some members of the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife office. But let's make this hearing contribute to that most important goal for Southern California, and that is, once again, making the dream of home ownership achievable. (other comments by bureaucrats omitted )

Mr. HUNTER. I agree with that totally. In fact, there was a gentleman who is a fairly central character in the Bible who did a little home building himself. He is referred to on occasion.
You know, I think the Reverend would agree with this. You know, I do not think anybody agrees with the idea that you do not return phone calls. I do not think anybody agrees with the idea that you tell people that you are the boss, and if you were not in a meeting even though your office issued a particular position, that position is revoked because you were not there.
And to go back to the multiple, the fact that to get to be able to use an acre of your own land you have to give either in fee and give a deed in this mitigation or you have to perpetuate it as open space, which for practical purposes is giving it to the government, although you get the right to pay taxes on it for the rest of your life; the idea that that is always a multiple that accrues to the benefit of the government bothers me. It is always three to one, four to one, ten to one.

You cannot go on doing that forever. I have seen a lot of the private land now in San Diego county that is now owned by Uncle Sugar, even though Uncle Sam has 25,000 acres in Miramar. He has got millions of acres in the national forest that extend from the Mexican border north. They are taking that private property, and it is always in a large multiple.

Mrs. CHENOWETH. Well, Riverside County Farm Bureau filed a petition to de-list the kangaroo rat in 1995. They received absolutely no response on that, and you are sitting here telling this body of Congressmen there is no problem, and this is just one example.
What do you have to say for yourself?
Mr. SPEAR. We have a listing priority guidance which we follow.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I thought the law said 90 days.
Mr. SPEAR. Well, we have established the listed priority guidance.

Mrs. CHENOWETH. So your listing priority guidance overrules the law?
Mr. SPEAR. I will let the people in Washington who deal with the regulatory process determine exactly how that worked out, but there is a listing priority guidance that we have established through the regulatory process that sets the standards. We work with the courts as to how when we have limited funds we will work through the listing process.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Limited funds? Comes on now. I mean, there is a major disconnect here, Mr. Spear, and you have heard startling testimony just as we have. I came into this hearing feeling fairly sanguine that this would be like any other of the number of hearings Mr. Pombo has held on the Endangered Species Act.
As I sat here and listened to the testimony, I became utterly frustrated and shocked at what I am hearing. You heard the same thing. [Applause.]

Mrs. CHENOWETH. Do not give this body an answer that you need more money. What about the 43 biologists, some of whom may be having bumper stickers on their cars that say, ''Developers Can Go to Hell''? What do you have to say about that kind of activity on government property? Mr. Spear?
Mr. SPEAR. I do not know that the allegation indicated that that was on a government vehicle, but——
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Then you did not hear Congressman Hunter then.
Mr. SPEAR. I did not hear him say it was on a government vehicle. I do not.
Mr. HUNTER. Would the gentle lady yield?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes, I will yield.
Mr. HUNTER. The photo that was taken of that bumper strip, that was on one of the government employees who works in the Carlsbad office on their car that they drive to work. So my point was if you are a veteran and you are going into the Veterans' Administration and you see Joe Smith's car and he is going to be your case worker and he has got a bumper strip that says ''Veterans Can Go to Hell,'' you probably cannot expect great service from that particular individual.

And so if the gentle lady would yield, do you think that is a proper attitude for a government employee whose job is to process these permits?
Mr. SPEAR. I will answer the question. I just wanted to clarify that I did not think that was on a government vehicle, but——
Mr. HUNTER. No, it was on a private car of a government worker.
Mr. SPEAR. I will get to the specific question and answer your question. No, I do not think it is proper in terms of the image it sends and for exactly the reasons you have outlined.
I am not sure what I can do about it other than pass on to the fact that it is inappropriate because of people's, you know, private rights.

Mr. HUNTER. Well, we did not offer it for the purpose of getting rid of the bumper strip. They took it off when they saw that somebody had photographed it and was taking a record of it. The point is the attitude that it represents is something that I think, Mr. Spear, you do not acknowledge exists, and you might look a little deeper.
Mr. SPEAR. I think it is improper, and I will—I agree with you on that.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Spear, you asked us for more dollars, but let me say it does not take more dollars to return a telephone call, and I think you have a major mess on your hands in this Carlsbad office. It is peopled by people—— [Applause.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. [continuing] like the 43 biologists who have no respect for not only the rule of law, but the people that they are entrusted to work with, no respect, no common sense, and what we are seeing come out of this office is chaotic.

Mr. HUNTER. Okay. Mr. Spear, I think this is one of our problems. Here you have got a landowner. He is a rancher. He has got, I presume, a limited amount of capital. He has put out a lot of cash, $50,000, to do three surveys, each of which is rejected by Fish and Wildlife even though they are done by credentialed biologists. They have never found any endangered species, and you tell us you need more money.
Well, they have apparently spent a lot of staff time figuring out reasons to reject Mr. Turecek's request, and don't you feel that we are not bringing these cases to closure in a reasonable way? I mean that would be my instinctive reaction to listening to this chronology of surveys.

Mr. HUNTER. But let me hold you up here because this is an important point. People being able to in an affordable way develop their property is an important factor here. You are saying he has spent 50 grand so far doing three surveys, and he has to do it before he can make the applications. I presume this guy is not made out of money, and my instincts are he probably will not have the legs or the financial endurance to get through this process, and I think part of your job is to make this process a reasonable one where average people with some money—I mean he has gone out and borrowed 50 grand and gotten it from someplace just to start the project—where average Americans can get through this process without being bankrupted.

We never intended, we never said in the Endangered Species Act we want you to set up a regulatory process that will bankrupt the average citizen before he can get through. You agree with that. That is not part of the law.
Mr. SPEAR. I agree.
Mr. HUNTER. And I think that part of the problem that we have here is that we have not made this thing user friendly where average folks can get through it. Don't you agree with that?
Mr. SPEAR. Well, we have to have the information to be able to make a determination about the species that are listed.
Mr. HUNTER. But he has made three surveys.
Mr. SPEAR. Yes.
Mr. HUNTER. And each one has been rejected.

Mr. HUNTER. Okay. Now, Mr. Spear, because I want this to be a constructive session, and I know you do, too, here is the problem. We have got an average citizen of the United States. He is not a big corporation which a lot of the environmental folks talk about. He is just a guy that has got some land out there in his county, and he has got a right to use his land. Presumably he has paid taxes on it. He has paid his mortgages. He has gone through rough economic times. He has got a piece of property in America, and he wants to use it.
We have a structure that is built up so that he has not even gotten into the initial permitting process yet, and he has already spent $75,000. So what you are saying is we have built a structure that the average person cannot afford. That is not right.
And what is not right, I think there is some fault here, Mr. Berg. If you have a system where an average guy cannot walk in and say, ''Tell me what I need. Tell me what I need. Sit down with me. Show me what I have got to do,'' and you cannot show him in a streamlined fashion, and this obviously is not an endangered species rich piece of property because you have never found a single one out there, but if you cannot show him for less than 75 grand what he needs to know, then the system is broken.
If that was your aunt and she had willed this property to you or her resources to you and she only had $75,000 in her pocket and you walked out and said, ''Aunt, how is my inheritance going?'' and she said, ''Mr. Berg, I just gave it all to the biologists and yet we are not even a third of the way through the reports,'' you would be as mad as heck.
And so I think, Mr. Spear, we have to develop a system that is user friendly for average Americans who own property to go down and learn in common language what they have to do and have the system a reasonable enough system so that you can get through it without having to make multiple reports, especially when you do not have the first endangered species found.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Hunter follows:]

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to be here in Hemet, California today to participate with the House Resources Committee to discuss the operations of the Carlsbad office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (CFWS). In addition, I would like to commend our friend and colleague, Congresswoman Mary Bono, for convening this hearing to explore what I believe to be questionable behavior by CFWS.

Today, Mr. Chairman, this Committee will hear testimony by a wide array of witnesses, some of whom being just ordinary citizens, who will highlight a consistent pattern by CFWS of misusing the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We will hear from private developers, local officials and even a construction-site foreman, all of which will detail how the misapplication of the ESA has impeded growth and development in Southern California. I believe that it is important, however, to emphasize that most of our witnesses will not necessarily be advocating the rescinding or minimizing of the ESA, but will instead only call for the appropriate implementation of this law.
As all of us know, the ESA was passed to ensure that endangered or threatened animals, plants and fish are protected from human activity so as to avoid their ultimate extinction. While I believe that the goal of this law is commendable and certainly well-intentioned, the overly broad discretionary powers it gives to the enforcers of the ESA, specifically CFWS, have created an atmosphere in Southern California where our landowners and developers are routinely forced to meet redundant, time-consuming and very expensive ESA compliance requirements before any construction can begin. Mr. Chairman, it is my earnest hope that today's hearing will provide CFWS the insight and incentive to pursue a more compromise-oriented approach when administering the ESA.
Among other witnesses, this Committee will receive testimony from a number of individuals from my home area of San Diego County. These good people represent an even larger number of San Diegans who have absorbed the impacts associated with burdensome and costly environmental compliance. The impacts that I have referenced, speak to the built-in, artificial expense factored into housing costs for home buyers. In fact, in San Diego County, roughly 30 percent of the cost associated in purchasing a home is the direct result of the developer having to finance the environmental compliance efforts. I think that everyone here will readily agree that inordinately high home costs were not the intent of Congress when the ESA was enacted into law.

As many of us are aware, San Diego County is expected to realize an increase of 1.5 million new citizens within the next 10 years. Unfortunately, estimates show that new housing construction is woefully behind in meeting this expected influx, with many of our young, new families having to live in high density apartment and condominium complexes. While I cannot overemphasize the importance of protecting the environment for our future generations, this effort must be pursued in a reasonable and realistic fashion if we are to provide sufficient housing for the multitudes of expected new residents.
Mr. Chairman, one of our initial witnesses will be Mr. Bruce Turecek, who is currently seeking to develop part of his property in eastern San Diego County. After three years, thousands of dollars and numerous consultations, Mr. Turecek has conclusively determined that his property is devoid of any endangered species. Unfortunately, CFWS will not provide Mr. Turecek with a definitive plan to as to whether or not his efforts will suffice and allow for the development of his property. Instead, CFWS has repeatedly engaged in a practice of only providing critiques of his biological surveys and vague directions to Mr. Turecek. I would submit that this behavior legitimately can be interpreted as a conscious effort to delay and ultimately derail his project. Sadly, the circumstances surrounding Mr. Turecek's situation are too often the norm rather than the exception in our region of California. We must work to rectify the situation before Mr. Turecek and others like him can no longer build homes that average, working families can afford to buy.
Finally, I would remind the Committee and our audience that Southern California used to be a place where one could work hard and save their money and achieve the American dream of owning their own home. Unfortunately, because of the outrageous costs associated with exhaustive environmental compliance requirements, this dream is rapidly becoming a thing of the past in our area. Recognizing that this costly and burdensome practice has become the standard by which CFWS operates, I am hopeful this hearing will provide the insight and incentive necessary to rectify the problems that I have already referenced.

Mr. Chairman, one point that has come out that I would like to pursue is the ratio of taking, and I do not know, Mr. Bragg or Mr. Woolfolk, if you have comments on this, but one thing that bothered me is that we have a mixture, obviously, as all counties do in San Diego County of public and private property, and we have got huge national forests. The Cleveland comes down almost to the Mexican border in my district and also state reserves, state parks, tens of thousands of acres of military land that will never be developed, and it for practical purposes amounts to a refuge for species.

And then mixed in among that we have private property, and every time I talk to somebody who wants to use their property and they will say, ''I finally got permission from Fish and Wildlife to use three acres, but in return for that, I had to go out and buy nine acres,'' a ratio of three to one, or, ''I had to buy 50 acres,'' and the ratio is always skewed in favor of government. If government lets private people use one acre of their own land, they always get a multiple of that for government use.
And one thing that I am concerned about is the amount of money or the amount of land that is being acquired by government, taken over by government as a result of this mitigation.

You can hear Duncan Hunter on podcast from January, 2007 about property rights and immigration here:


Congressman Duncan Hunter - The Advocates 1/6/07
California Congressman Duncan Hunter on control of illegal immigration, construction and expansion of a border fence on the US-Mexico border. (part one - 32 minutes)

Congressman Duncan Hunter - The Advocates 1/6/07
California Congressman Duncan Hunter on control of illegal immigration, construction and expansion of a border fence on the US-Mexico border. (part two - 18 minutes)


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