Sunday, October 25, 2009

Regulation Without Reprensentation on Beaver Lake



One of the main things that led to the American Revolution was that the colonists could be subjected to taxes imposed by the English Parliament, but could not vote for Parliament. Founding father James Otis spoke for many when he said, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” How would James Otis feel about regulation without representation? My guess is exactly the same. Yet many property owners in northeast Benton, Washington, and Madison counties feel like that is exactly what they are facing in their struggles with the Beaver Water District.

Regulation is where the government allows you to retain title to your property, but restricts the ways in which you can use it. Regulations have their place, but it is my belief that in the balance between too little regulation and too much, most areas of our lives these days are over regulated by the government. Bob Kossieck of the NWA Property Owners Association (of which I am a member) wants to call to our attention that the Beaver Water District is seeking the enforcement of more, much more, regulation over the freedoms of property owners in the Beaver Lake Water Shed.

As I have said, regulations have their place, and ensuring safe quality drinking water is one of them. Kossieck showed me data indicating that the quality of the drinking water in Beaver Lake has actually risen over the past 25 years, not fallen. He attributes this to better manure management in the poultry industry and improvements by city water and sewer departments so that their effluent into the lake is cleaner. The bottom line is that we don’t need more onerous regulations enforced on Beaver Lake property owners to get clean drinking water. We already have it.

Kossieck also claims that the Madison County Water District eliminates the odor associated with lake turnover by the use of inexpensive additives. Why doesn’t the Beaver Lake Water District employee the same techniques? Kossieck believes it has been taken over by radical environmental interests who would rather keep people on edge about water quality in order to press for unneeded additional regulations. An easy way to do that is to leave a problem that could easily be fixed hanging around.

But we just now get to the really interesting part. When the Beaver Water District first started pushing for enforcement of radical restrictions on the use of private property the NWA Property Owners Association decided to use the democratic process to protect their rights. They backed one of their own, Herb Hawkins, to run for the Board of Directors. Hawkins won the election. The other directors are mostly bankers and lawyers who defer to the CEO of the district, Alan Fortenberry. Still, Hawkins was a voice for rural landowners.

At that point Kossieck told me that the district lobbied for and had approved a change in state law concerning the election of their board members. The district gets $1.50 a month off of all of the water bills in the four large cities they sell to, so the money potential to make things happen is there. Now, instead of all citizens in the county voting on who runs the water district, only residents of the cities that the district sold water to are allowed to vote or hold office. Mr. Hawkins will not be eligible to run for re-election to the position on the board that he now holds. Voters in the rural areas of the two counties now have no vote against a board that has allowed the district to push for onerous regulations on their land.
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