Regarding the property fairness initiative

Letter to the Editor

Why is it we have to pass an initiative (I-933) to uphold a right we already have under our state constitution? Article I, Paragraph 16, as paraphrased, states:

“Private property shall not be taken for private use, except for private ways of necessity, and for drains, flumes, or ditches on or across the lands of others for agricultural, domestic, or sanitary purposes. No private property shall be taken or damaged for public or private use without just compensation having been first made …”

It couldn’t be any clearer than this – Patrick Henry said: “… the Constitution is not an instrument for the Government to restrain the people, but an instrument for the people to restrain the Government.”

So, for those of us who look to restrain government, we find solace in our constitutions. But if “we the people” can’t get politicians to follow the constitution, then we must resort to another right we have in our state constitution under Article II, Sections 1(a) and (b), the right of initiative and referendum. Thus, as was the case in Oregon after 30 years of environmental assault on property rights, Ballot Measure 37 was passed by 61 percent of the voters and was unanimously upheld by the Oregon State Supreme Court. Washington landowners, under the same relentless assault on their property rights by environmentalists and government, had no other recourse but to draft and file I-933, the Property Fairness Initiative.

For more than 30 years, government has been taking our private property by ordinance and yet in a “Fifth Amendment” treatise by State Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders (Dec. 10, 1997), he writes that:

“Property in a thing consists not merely in its ownership and possession, but in the unrestricted right of use, enjoyment, and disposal. Anything which destroys any of the elements of property, to that extent, destroys the property itself. The substantial value of property lies in its use. If the right of use be denied, the value of the property is annihilated and ownership is rendered a barren right.” (The framers of the constitution intended to protect property rights, which are worth protecting; not mere empty titles … among those elements is, fundamentally, the right of use …)

Even a layman can understand that when “use” is severely restricted or “taken,” ownership becomes a “barren” right. If property ownership is a barren right, then private citizens have no right to own property. If the private citizen has no right to own property, then it follows that government owns all property.

We believe that I-933 will go a long way toward holding politicians accountable to our state constitution. We fully expect that I-933 will qualify for the November 2006 ballot and pass handily, in spite of what the environmental community will come up with to defeat it. I-933 is long overdue. For more information visit

Ron Ewart, president

National Association of

Rural Landowners