The radical environmental establishment and their allies in government and in the mainstream media know how to fight with all the means at their disposal. As a California state lawmaker, I can vouch for this fact firsthand.
My own experience in fighting the left-wing environmental lobby has resulted in a "long train of abuses," to use a phrase from the Declaration of Independence.
It began when I visited with California Department of Parks and Recreation employees at Crystal Cove State Park in my district just days after being sworn into office in December 2004. I asked questions of Parks staff only to find out later that they had given less-than forthcoming answers designed to prevent my getting to the truth. Weeks later, when I discovered the extent of their cover-up, I was none too pleased.
A couple of months later I introduced legislation to generate much-needed revenue to maintain and repair our state park system. The revenue would be raised by extending the leases on almost 300 mobile homes that had occupied about one percent of the 3,000 acre park for more than 50 years. Shortly after that I was visited by representatives of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. They threatened me — ominously suggesting that things would get ugly for me unless I immediately killed my bills.
Days after the stormy meeting with the Sierra Club and their allies, every major paper in my district ran stories accusing me of all sorts of venal behavior. Even the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial bashing me (right below one bashing Gov. Schwarzenegger). In the midst of this uproar, someone at Parks "leaked" a "draft" official letter to the L.A. Times accusing me, a lawmaker, of violating state law — a cheap hit that resulted in yet another harsh article. Of course, the formal letter with the accusation was never mailed and the protocol-induced apology to me from Ruth Coleman, the Director of the Department of State Parks and Recreation, came much later and was ignored by the media.
Accompanying the smear effort by Parks employees were a constant stream of letters to the editor by environmental leftists, each blindly following the well-worn path of lies and hyperbole in their ad hominem attacks against me. The net effect of this assault was that of a well-delivered warning: mess with our agenda and we will employ every possible means to destroy you.
Such extremism in the pursuit of environmental purity recalls recent episodes of federal and state officials falsifying samples of endangered species to close off public lands to recreational use. Remember the 2001 lynx hair hoax? Such people will stop at nothing in the service of their sacred cause.
The latest example of how the government can use its virtually limitless power to exact revenge on people it views as having the temerity to make a challenge is now unfolding in my coastal Orange County district. After winning a multi-year battle to evict more than 300 people living in trailers at Crystal Cove State Park, the Parks Department is accusing about 75 families of violating their eviction agreement. The evicted families were to leave their soon-to-be-demolished trailers free of trash and in good order at the end of February. The penalty for violating the eviction agreement is $5,000 for each former resident.
The Parks department and their allies in the mainstream media immediately swung into action to win the media battle.
In recent days local newspapers extensively quoted Crystal Cove State Park Superintendent Ken Kramer as he recklessly blamed the former residents for the damage, saying:
"I think it’s a no-brainer that some of them [the trailers] lost their value due to deliberate acts."
"Who gained from this? I’m sure when people reflect on this, it won’t be one of their proudest moments."
"Why should taxpayers of California pick up the cost for picking this trash up? If vandalism was done, it was done while the agreement was in force."
"We will let a judge decide."
One mainstream media headline read: Vandalism Is Blamed on Evicted Tenants. While still another intoned: State wants payback for El Morro vandalism, A park official hints former residents may be held responsible.
But some of the former residents dispute the state’s claim as overreaching at best, and vengeful and deceitful at worst. Former residents note that inadequate security over the vacated homes is to blame for the damage. Parks itself admits to "four or five" citations issued to date for trespassing and petty theft — and that’s only for the ones they caught, of course. Who knows how many vandals and thieves broke into the vacated trailers on state property and destroyed or made off with valuables in the days after the residents vacated?
There’s one huge problem with the state’s demand for revenge cash. State officials did not maintain a chain of custody during the process when the residents handed over control of their trailers to the government. Simply put, there was no procedure for a formal handoff where the outgoing resident would walk through his or her property with a Parks official, then sign a form indicating that they did or did not comply with the legal terms of the eviction agreement.
In fact, according to a formal communication to my office, Parks personnel inspected the properties only after they had been vacated. This means it is the State’s word against the evicted residents’.
Some residents who did try to get Parks to conduct a walkthrough were rebuffed, being told by state officials that, "We don’t do that." When some of these residents asked for a receipt for the keys they had given the state, the reply was the same, "We don’t do that." In at least one case, a resident who asked for a walkthrough is being charged $5,000 because their toilet was removed from the trailer after they moved out.
But, in at least one case, a former resident was smart enough to have Crystal Cove Supt. Kramer sign an acknowledgement that their trailer was in acceptable shape. Incredibly, they are one of the 75 addresses accused of violating the agreement and are being ordered to pay $5,000!
Another former tenant reports that she called Kramer and asked if it would be okay for her to donate some of the items in her coach to Habitat for Humanity. According to the tenant, Kramer agreed to this arrangement and even opened up the door for the Habitat workers who dismantled and hauled out part of the kitchen. This former tenant is now on the state’s vandal list and is on the hook for $5,000 because, as the report properly states, the "kitchen was dismantled."
What has really been dismantled over the past 15 months is the reputation of the California Department of Parks and Recreation as a competent, truth-telling public agency.