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America at work

By Henry Lamb
web posted August 15, 2005

Thunderstorms were forecast for most of Northern Kentucky one recent Saturday. The temperature was in the 90s and the humidity was dripping. At a little restaurant at an exit off I-75, about 40 miles South of Cincinnati, people began to assemble from across the state. A businessman from Louisville, another from Lexington, an elderly couple from downstate, and, by noon, more than 20 leaders of a statewide coalition called Take Back Kentucky, settled in, to do the business of a great nation.

Many of these same people had met with the State Legislature's Judicial Committee last April, to express their concern about the erosion of private property rights. The legislators indicated a willingness to listen to suggestions the group might have about improving the law, to better protect property rights from creeping government intrusion. This Saturday meeting was a work session to hammer out the suggestions that will be presented to the legislature.

Sure, there were little league games happening. There were crops to attend. There was shopping to do. There were even several baseball games on television Saturday afternoon. But these people were about making America work.

Gary Thornell set up a projector and a screen at one end of the room. Norm Davis, the group's leader, opened his computer and projected the first image: "Chapter 416 KY Eminent Domain Act." The group reviewed the existing law, and began to find the problems that needed to be addressed.

What, exactly, is public use? What is the difference between "public use" and "public purpose?"

What is "blight," and is the elimination of blight a legitimate "public use" as intended by the U.S. Constitution? Can eminent domain be used to protect "open space?"

These are serious questions that neither the U.S. Supreme Court, nor the U.S. Congress have been able to adequately resolve. They are serious questions that ordinary Americans want resolved, and ordinary Americans are stepping up to their responsibility to defend their freedom by taking their concerns, their ideas, and their desires to the legislators they elect to make the laws they want.

This kind of activity is, indeed, America at work. These people are not media hogs, massing to disrupt a public meeting just to get on TV. They are thoughtful, studious, ordinary people, trying to make the law better for everyone.

And they are succeeding.

In Alabama, the state legislature just enacted a law to protect its citizens from eminent domain abuse. Prompted by another group of ordinary citizens, called Alliance for Citizens' Rights, the elected representatives responded with new laws that protect private property rights, even from the expansive recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo vs. City of New London. This group, too, works quietly, patiently, intelligently, learning the law, the procedures, establishing relationships with lawmakers, earning their respect, and by presenting solid ideas based on the principles of freedom. Don Casey, the group's leader, says they still have work to do, but its getting better.

In Missouri, a group called Citizens for Private Property Rights blocked the designation of a U.N. Biosphere Reserve, because it would have imposed international restrictions on the use of private property.

Freedom21 in Santa Cruz works diligently to see that the principles of freedom are considered in public policy in a community that boasts being the first "Local Agenda 21" community in the land.

In virtually every state, ordinary citizens are involved in hundreds, if not thousands, of local and regional groups that are involved in shaping local, state, and even national policy. They are informed. They are involved. They are determined to see that the principles of freedom are not ignored, as public policy is developed.

This is America at work. This citizen involvement is the magic that is America.

These people do not get massive grants from big foundations or from the government. They don't hire "K" Street lobbyists, they don't have Madison Avenue public relations firms designing national fund-raising campaigns. They are ordinary people, who love their country, who are willing to give up a Saturday afternoon, or a Tuesday evening, to get involved in persuading their neighbors and their representatives to honor the principles of freedom from which has risen the greatest nation on earth. These people are modern-day heroes, who are rarely known outside their own community.

This is America at work.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.


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