Dems wisely chose to sit out oyster farm fight

Letter to the Editor


Editor, Index-Tribune:

I am writing in response to the Friday Valley Forum piece, by Yannick Phillips, on Drakes Bay Oyster Co. The legal battle will continue – the oyster farm has made no secret of their desire to take the battle to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they can afford to do that because their team of powerful attorneys are working pro bono. On that, both sides likely agree.

With strong support from Chairman John Burton, at the California Democratic Party’s November executive board meeting, the CDP wisely chose to stay out of an issue that is in the courts and is highly divisive in both Marin and Sonoma counties. Indeed, to some observers with long standing in our community, it appears that the fight to create the National Wilderness along the California coast is being re-fought.

At the CDP’s July E-board meeting, I moved that the CDP postpone consideration of a resolution that Ms. Phillips was attempting to rush through the statewide body without allowing time for the two counties most aware of the issues to consider the merits.

I made the motion to postpone, as chair of the Sonoma County Democratic Party, and Paul Cohen, chair of the Marin County Democratic Party, seconded the motion so that both county parties could consider the issue. After deliberations, the Marin Democratic Party voted to take “no position” and the Sonoma Democratic Party reaffirmed our long-standing support for protecting the environment.

I strongly support local, sustainable agriculture. I also strongly support federal and state efforts to protect wilderness areas. The oyster farm is embroiled in a lengthy legal battle that is well supported by attorneys who have a record that speaks for itself. Democrats wisely chose to sit this one out – no matter how Ms. Phillips seeks to “spin” that outcome.

Stephen Gale

Santa Rosa

  • Phineas Worthington

    The democrats cannot seem to step up to defend individual rights of property owners like the Drakes Oyster Co. because they seem to have rejected the ideas of property rights altogether.

    • Stephen Gale

      The 2012 California Democratic Party Platform includes the following plank addressing protecting existing homeowner property rights:

      “Protect existing homeowners’ property rights by limiting eminent domain to reasonable public uses, and oppose the practice of abusing eminent domain to take homes without the consent of the owner and convey property from one private person to another or to any corporation merely to increase tax revenue;”
      Local Democrats carried the Homeowner Bill of Rights through the legislature & into law — protecting every persons rights to seek and achieve the American Dream of home ownership. We strongly advocate for individual homeowner rights — yes, that means “property rights.”

  • Chris Scott

    Pro Bono work is not free. It comes at considerable cost to the legal firm providing the services. It is not a tax deductible expense for the law firm or lawyers themselves. Pro Bono services do not necessarily cover all expenses associated with a case. Each situation is under its own terms.

    At this point the legal expenses associated with continuing the legal battle are very very high, particularly if attempting taking it to the Supreme Court. The court would also have to agree to hear the case. The 9th Circuit three judge ruling include the conclusion that Drake’s Oyster Co’s argument was unlikely to prevail. This makes it even less likely the case will go further.

    Drakes Bay is not private property. Drakes Bay belongs to the United State Government, aka the people of the United States. The framer’s founding principles of a government of the people for the people and by the people. The again it is fashionable to dismiss “the government.” as them or the other. The issue of eminent Domain is irrelevant to Drakes Oyster Co. and their oyster farm in Drakes Bay.

    Drakes Oyster Co had a permit from the US Dept of Interior to farm oysters. A permit is a legal document, considered a contract in this case a lease, to farm oysters for a specific period of time and conditions. The permit/lease expired. Int Dept decided not to renew the permit/lease on environmental grounds.

    As for the CA Homeowners Bill of Rights, “The California Homeowner Bill of Rights became law on January 1, 2013 to ensure fair lending and borrowing practices for California homeowners. The laws are designed to guarantee basic fairness and transparency for homeowners in the foreclosure process. The Drakes Bay issue does not involve foreclosure.