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Warm and fuzzy Heritage Area program creates de facto regional government

TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr.

October 18, 2006

In March 2004, Trackside reported on pending congressional efforts to establish the Bleeding Kansas National Heritage Area and on the impact that heritage areas have. What follows are excerpts from that Trackside.

"No matter the warm and fuzzy words, or the apparent noble purpose, the Heritage Area program designation results in creating a de facto regional government. It is an entity that is not directly accountable to citizens at the ballot box, an entity populated by The Clerks and providing narrow interest groups ... a venue for imposing their agendas without having it passed through the crucible of public debate in existing units of government and having those making the decisions subject to ballot box recall. In the process, all levels of local government, from the town to the state, lose their sovereignty and citizens lose their freedom."

"Existing Heritage Program descriptions are filled with double-speak. ... The programs are, in effect, implementing federal zoning. James Burling, Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, after analyzing the National Heritage Act, the enabling legislation for individual Heritage Areas, had this to say: "Of all the legislation that I have ever read this takes the prize for the most concentrated collection of socio-economic gobbledygook in a single page." He had no doubt that the creative reader could use the words to make a case for the designation of any area of the country - in other words, the feds could make the entire country a Heritage Area and thus further consolidate their control over society."

"There is no free lunch - the program comes at the expense of federal tax dollars, federal strings, and individual liberty. We especially do not need the National Park Service, the principal federal agency involved in Heritage Areas, to be looking over our shoulder and controlling the implementation of the management plan that has to be created, a management plan that covers all activity in the designated area that might impact the area’s theme."

What set me off, dragging out a 2004 Trackside? This session Congress passed S.203, a bill containing the authorization for the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area. (What was the Bleeding Kansas NHA became Freedom’s Frontier NHA by expanding the coverage to a portion of Missouri.) The bill was sent to the President on October 2; he is expected to sign it. (Has he vetoed anything?) The Freedom’s Frontier NHA includes 29 Kansas counties - including Pottawatomie County - and 12 counties in Missouri. The bill establishes just one more way special interest groups can tap federal taxpayers to pay for their pet projects through federal grants. I would like to hear sometime an explanation of Congress's constitutional authority to spend our tax dollars on the preservation of historical places - probably any such explanation would center on the Commerce Clause, in this case the luring of out-of-state tourists into the area, as much a stretch as the Glancing Duck theory.

The lead organization for the Freedom’s Frontier NHA as specified in S.203 is the "Territorial Kansas Heritage Alliance"- a Lawrence based 501(c)3 organization whose primary mission is to research the facts about Kansas territorial history and publish the history in brochures and pamphlets for the general public. TKHA will soon have lots of money to throw around. S.203 authorizes the appropriation of $10M, to remain available until expended, but no more than $1M can be appropriated in any one year.

The bill contains various provisions tagged as private property protections, one being that any owner of private land can unilaterally withdraw his property from the boundaries of the Heritage Area by submitting a written request to the Territorial Kansas Heritage Alliance. (It is probably a bit too early to start writing.) The bill also says that the provisions in no way affects the authority of local and state governments to regulate the use of land, nor does it impose any additional burden on any property owner. While on the face of it, private property protections are present, it has been proven over and over again that state and local governments can be bought with the dangling of federal grant money in front of them, acceding to whatever conditions are demanded in exchange for the dollars to spend - and keep in mind that what a omnipotent government giveth, it can just as easily taketh.

See you Trackside.


S.203 can be read via a search at http://thomas.loc.gov. Look for Subtitle E, Sections 261 through 269.



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