Reinventing the coastal commission

Published January 2003 in The Carmel Pine Cone - Editorial

ONCE AGAIN, the amazing prescience of the Founding Fathers has been demonstrated.

They gave us the principal of Separation of Powers, which is vital to the protection of individual liberty.

Without it, those genuises of the 18th Century knew, the public would be tempted to let one individual or group take too much power in the name of pursuing some popular cause.

Usually, it's the executive branch that is tempted to expand its reach -- to fight a war, forestall insurrection, or respond to a national emergency. The war on terrorism, for example, might tempt a President to authorize domestic wiretaps without a court order or to open somebody's mail. The public might even support such actions. But the Constitution stands in the way.

Here in California, the coastal commission is the poster child for government power run amok -- but because everything the commission does is supposedly to protect the environment, hardly anybody questions it. Especially the news media.

Does the public really support a state agency claiming jurisdiction over Carmel's parking rules? Or telling a homeowner what kind of plants he must choose for his own garden? Or declaring 50-year-old shacks to be 'historic resources'?

And does the public really want one government agency taking on the powers of the Legislature, the police and the courts in one go?

Of course not. But because the coastal commission's basic purpose is so important -- protecting the coast from serious threats such as oil spills, sea walls and Malibu-type strip mall development -- it has been able to claim popular immunity for all sorts of mischief done in the name of safeguarding the environment.

So immune is the commission from ordinary political criticism, when a lower court first ruled the commission was unconstitutional, the decision was laughed at.

Well, nobody's laughing now. Not only did an appeals court uphold the decision by Superior Court Judge Charles Kobayashi, it did so emphatically and unequivocally. There is no way the Supreme Court is overturning the splendid decision issued this week by Judges Arthur Scotland, Rodney Davis and Ronald Robie.

So get ready for a new reality, folks. The myth of the imperial coastal commission has now been blown to bits -- replaced with the shocking reality that for 26 years homeowners, local governments, farmers, businessmen and landowners have been told what to do by a government agency that was against the law!

Whatever solution the courts and the Legislature come up with, we hope they also figure out a way to get the coastal commission to refocus its attention on the important problems confronting California's magnificent coastline. And leave the small stuff to the cities and counties, where it belongs


Previous Article | CCC Articles

Coast Property Owners Association, P.O. Box 59, Big Sur, CA 93920
© 2004 by Coast Property Owners Association