Vail Daily letter: Supreme Court smackdown |

Vail Daily letter: Supreme Court smackdown

Karl Berger
Vail, CO, Colorado

Recently, I was thoroughly amused to read Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney’s commentary extolling the virtues of an ever-expanding and intrusive government. Granted, Mr. Stavney is up for re-election, so what is a guy to do? Of course, reach around and pat yourself on the back. Never mind that the examples he uses are flat out untrue, such as government being responsible for our rail system and his chatter about our series of damns and reservoirs (imagine trying to build the Hoover Dam in the radical environmental approval process today!).

What was curiously left out was the overreach of our own county in spending $5.6 million for Stratton Flats, or perhaps the end run the county used when we all told them no in an election to the jail expansion. They went around the voters and approved it by borrowing the money, $22 million, by using certificates of participation, or COPS. It now sits empty, but that doesn’t mean we voters have any idea of what’s best for us.

Of course, who can forget Arn Menconi and his refusal to abide by voters demanding he not fund his early childhood development program and then funded it in perpetuity through the general fund? Maybe that’s why he only got seven votes when he ran for mayor of Eagle.

In his commentary, Mr. Stavney mentioned a “drumbeat for limited government.” Well, with all due respect, sir, that drumbeat just got a lot louder, and it was the Supreme Court banging away to that tune. Today, as I write, in a unanimous decision, they smacked down the EPA for that very thing: government overreach.

If you are unfamiliar with this decision, here’s the skinny: A couple in Idaho, the Sacketts, bought a lot on a lake and proceeded to build their dream home five years ago. In spite of acquiring the necessary permits, the EPA swept in and imposed a cease-and-desist order, as well as a $75,000 fine, per day. The couple tried to sue to overturn the decision in their district court; denied. Then in federal court and were told they could not. The EPA and federal court denied them their due process.

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Why did the EPA shut them down? They were in violation of the Clean Water Act by “disturbing wetlands.” (When I grew up, we called them swamps.)

Well, today they were vindicated by a unanimous decision, and the EPA was handed a major loss in their attempt to restrict landowners’ due process and by violating personal property rights of landowners.

The EPA and their actions outraged Justice Scalia. “There is no reason to think that the Clean Water Act was uniquely designed to enable the strong-arming of regulated parties into compliance without the opportunity of judicial review,” wrote Scalia. In addition, he found that it was outrageous that citizens were denied their due process, not to mention personal property rights.

So, Mr. Stavney, take note. The drumbeat just gets louder and louder. People are just plain fed up with government overreach. If that is your re-election platform, bigger government, you might want to keep an eye out in the want ads, too, for a new job.

Karl Berger

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