03 Mar 2003 Shattered Dreams – New Book Details 100 Stories of Regulatory Abuse
To highlight the staggering degree to which government regulations can harm average Americans, The National Center for Public Policy Research’s John P. McGovern, M.D. Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs has published its fourth compilation of stories of victims of regulatory and government abuse. The publication, entitled Shattered Dreams: 100 Stories of Government Abuse, highlights how regulations that are poorly written and/or inflexibly enforced can overwhelm, intimidate, bankrupt or otherwise harm average Americans.
“Egregious and sometimes arbitrary implementation of rules and regulations can destroy people’s lives,” said Chris Burger, program coordinator for the John P. McGovern, M.D. Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs, who helped compile Shattered Dreams. “Often, no one is held accountable. We hope that putting a human face on these problems will help bring about reform.”
The publication includes situations related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, building codes, civil asset forfeiture, the Department of Labor, education policy, eminent domain, the Endangered Species Act, the Food and Drug Administration, free speech infringement, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Indian affairs, the IRS, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, property rights, public lands, rails-to-trails programs, small business, smart growth, water issues, wetlands and zoning.
Examples of five of the 100 stories of regulatory abuse featured in Shattered Dreams include:
* Property owner Jack McFarland, his wife and three young daughters must travel by foot over three miles to get to their home near West Glacier, Montana because the National Park Service closes Glacier Route 7 every year for about five months following the first snowfall. The McFarland family and others owning private property near Glacier National Park have been denied motorized access to their property on the theory that vehicles threaten wildlife and cross-country skiers. For 90 years, the NPS recognized that two federal laws prohibit it from blocking homeowner access. Contrary to its prior position, it now argues that its new regulation doesn’t violate established federal law. These families with children, after all, are still permitted to walk — in wolf country.
* Pastor Fred Jenkins formed St. Luke’s Pentecostal Church in North Hempstead, New York in 1979. For years, the church leased space as it saved to buy a permanent home. In 1997, St. Luke’s purchased a property with a partially constructed church already built. It then spent two years seeking government permission to complete construction. Shortly after St. Luke’s finally obtained the necessary permit, the town condemned the property, and offered, as compensation, $80,000 — $50,000 less than the Church paid for it. Adding insult to injury, the government said St. Luke’s had no right to appeal the loss of its property, claiming it lost that right when the government first decided that it might later condemn the land — in 1994, three years before St. Luke’s even owned it.
* The president of New York’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum wants the museum to expand into the building next door. She wants space to teach English to immigrants and local history to residents. She’d like “state of the art” storage space. She’d like an elevator. She’d like more room for “immigrant artists” who are “searching for places to express their experiences.” She also would like to hold programs to “promote tolerance and teach citizenship skills.” Tolerance and citizenship skills notwithstanding, she’s asked the state government to take Lou and Mimi Holtzman’s building — an apartment building the Holtzman family has lived in since 1910 — and turn it over to her museum. Since the Holtzmans don’t want to sell their recently-remodeled apartment building, and their tenants don’t want to leave, the state may confiscate the property against their will, give it to the museum and compensate the Holtzmans with taxpayer money at a price set by the government.
* After he removed illegally dumped tires and abandoned cars from a property he purchased, a Pennsylvania man was told by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers that his clean-up efforts were a violation of the Clean Water Act. After the man served a year-and-a-half in prison for allegedly destroying wetlands and subsequently filed for bankruptcy, three environmental groups filed complaints with the government that the man’s punishment was too lenient.
* In 1923, the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement agreed to allow the federal government to run the Maine-to-Georgia Appalachian Trail through a portion of its Greymoor Monastery. However, given an inch, the government wanted a mile, and the friars may regret their generosity. The National Park Service demanded an additional 18 acres of the monastery’s land in 2000, with the threat that the land could be condemned and taken under the government’s power of eminent domain if necessary.
“American children are still taught the stirring words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth,'” said Amy Ridenour, president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. “It’s a lesson some government officials need to re-learn.”
The John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs is a project of The National Center For Public Policy Research, a non-partisan, non-profit education foundation located on Capitol Hill. For more information, contact Chris Burger at 202-507-6398 or [email protected], or David Almasi at 202-507-6398 x106 or [email protected] or click hereto purchase for $15 to to download a free PDF copy.