Duelling editorials: CI-154

Today the Billings Gazette offers up two guest editorials on CI-154, one “representing” each side of the debate. Actually – and the quotes may tip you off – I found Terry Anderson’s defense of CI-154 to be maliciously misleading, confusing, and…well…bad. Budge should have written this thing. At least he admits it’s a regulatory-takings initiative, not an initiative dealing with eminent domain.

So let’s look at the editorials.

Anderson’s defense starts with the SCOTUS decision on Kelo, which allowed a Connecticut town to take private property under eminent domain laws, and give it to a private developer. Anderson:

Though the Kelo ruling was a legal set back for property-rights advocates, it has since sparked a nationwide movement to limit eminent domain powers, specifically, and land-use regulations, generally.

The comparison of Kelo to CI-154 is completely irrelevant. 154 is not an initiative that limits the government’s power of eminent domain. In fact, if passed, it would place developers under fewer restraints. Kelo might have been stopped by a citizen’s initiative making environmental regulations stricter at the development site, for example, a citizens’ tactic for controlling development 154 would basically eliminate.

Got that? CI-154 would actually make eminent domain seizures of private property for private development easier. Anderson pretty much admits as much:

True, if taxpayers have to pay for regulatory takings, they may demand fewer of them. But this is just the law of demand telling us that raising the price of regulation will reduce the demand for it – “derail it,” if you will.

So…CI-154 will bless our communities with either higher taxes or an inability to pass land-use regulations. As if to further the illogic, Anderson uses Governor’s Schweitzer’s recent comments on water use in support of CI-154:

Reflecting on a district court’s ruling that the Mitchell Slough running through private land is not a natural water course and therefore not open to public access, the governor said, “If you want to buy a big ranch and you want to have a river and you want privacy, don’t buy in Montana. The rivers belong to the people of Montana.”

Of course, CI-154 means that the Governor would have to accept the court’s ruling and close off access to our public waterways so a few wealthy out-of-staters can enjoy their views and pretend they’re “real” Montanans. Is this support for 154? Do Montanans really want right Hollywood stars closing off access to our public lands and waterways? Somehow Anderson believes we do.

As if the editorial were confusing enough, Anderson ends with an outright lie:

A vote against allows government to take property without paying and leaves all property owners vulnerable to the tyranny faced by Susette Kelo.

Um. Current laws require the government to compensate owners for land taken under eminent domain laws. CI-154 has NOTHING to do with eminent domain!

Or, as CI-154 opponent William Mattice writes in his guest editorial,

Terry L. Anderson and other writers keep bringing up the Connecticut case where New London condemned private land and gave it to a developer. That is a dishonest scare tactic. That cannot happen here because Montana law wisely does not allow it.

What Anderson and the out-of-state money people who paid to collect the signatures for I-154 want is to eliminate all land regulations. They will not mind if the developers cover all of Montana with asphalt subdivision roads and asphalt roofs. They say they have a right to develop their private property and that regulations should not stop them.


As Mattice notes, the Montana Constitution says that property owners – having the right to acquire, possess, and protect private property – must recognize “corresponding responsibilities.” That is, you shouldn’t develop your land if it negatively impacts your neighbor’s property. Environmental regulations are our community’s expression of how we want to treat our natural spaces and our health and well-being; “derailing” it – as Anderson admits 154 will do – seems to ignore this little facet of the Constitution. And that New Testament stricture, “do unto others” as well.

Mattice notes the west was built on neighbors agreeing to commonsense regulations, and ends with this cautionary note:

I said once that high-density subdivisions should be limited in remote areas to avoid depleting the water table for existing uses and avoid pollution of wells like we read about in the North Helena Valley. Someone answered, “We have plenty of water and our well isn’t polluted now, so why worry about it?” Should we wait until the water table drops and all the subdivision wells are polluted and then worry about it? It is too late then.

The West has a fragile ecosystem. Unchecked development aiding a rapidly growing population will only mean we’ll all have to pay for CI-154 later.


  1. 1 Dave Budge .com » Misinformation on I-154

    […] Jeeze, where to start. Touchstone, I think, still hasn’t studied the language of I-154 very carefully. He posts on two opposing guest editorials in the Billings Gazette. I think he’s right, I should have authored the “pro” case. You can link through if you care to read them – both of them poor arguments in my opinion. […]

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