The Sierra Club is planning to distribute more than a million door hangers in every region of the country during Earth Week to tell "communities to protect our environment for our families and our future." Along with the hangers, the Club plans a major media buy, including a radio spot called "Mouths of Babes" featuring children talking about their environmental concerns. Another Reason for Defense Down-sizing? This week's "Corporate Hall of Shame" includes several defense contractors --including the Boeing Company -- perhaps pointing to a need for continued, though more targeted Defense Department down-sizing. The Relief Report's "Hall of Shame" includes those corporations that give to opponents of regulatory reform. The information comes from the Winter 1996 issue of Environmental Action, published by the Environmental Action Foundation.
Friends of the Earth received funds from Apple Computer and Boeing; the National Audubon Society received contributions from Boeing and the Martin Marietta Corporation Foundation; National Parks and Recreation Association received money from IBM, TDK Electronics, and Boeing; the National Wildlife Federation accepted donations from IBM and Boeing; the Sierra Club was supported by IBM, the World Resources Institute was partially subsidized by Eastman Kodak Company and Boeing; and the World Wildlife Fund received contributions from IBM, MCI Telecommunications, and Boeing.
If you own a telephone, you may soon be a regulatory takings victim. The Federal Communications Commission is considering a new rule that would require local telephone companies and companies offering wireless telephone services (e.g., cellular) to provide free access to each other's networks. But the plan -- called the "bill and keep" approach -- would force local telephone providers to subsidize wireless providers to the tune of $440 million per year, according to a study by Strategic Policy Research. This would occur, in part, because there is an imbalance in connections between wireless and local telephone networks, with approximately 80% of the telephone traffic between wireless and local telephone networks terminating on local networks. Local telephone companies would also be at a disadvantage in that they could not recover the costs associated with wireless connections through usage-based charges. Unlike cellular telephone providers, they are required to offer flat-rated calling to their customers. Because "bill and keep" requires local telephone companies to dedicate some of their facilities -- the switches and wires -- to handle wireless calls without compensation, the proposal could constitute a takings under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. And who do you suppose would be forced to pay the price of these uncompensated takings? Everyone with a standard telephone. Ironically, the plan would also have the perverse effect of forcing average working Americans to subsidize the relatively well-to-do -- cellular telephone users.
Mary Smith of Glenolden borough, a Philadelphia suburb, wanted proof that borough officials had the authority to violate her right to privacy by searching her home without her permission -- and without a warrant. As a result of that demand, Smith now has a criminal record. Smith's problems began on October 8, 1993 when she received a letter from her landlord informing her that a borough inspector would be by on October 18 "to inspect" her home. It seems that Glenolden requires annual inspections of all rental properties ostensibly for the purpose of protecting public health and safety. Some of the community's more cynical residents believe the inspections are really motivated by the revenue stream generated through inspection fees. Having received no notification from the borough as to the nature or extent of the inspection, Smith wrote a letter to the president of Glenolden borough in which she announced her intention to deny access to her home until she could determine the validity of the inspection demand. Smith then requested a copy of the pertinent "regulation or ordinance" describing the "primary governmental authority and total purpose, scope and procedures that are applicable" to the inspection. The borough responded by sending her just five select pages of the law. She again requested a complete copy of the law. The Glenolden borough solicitor refused, writing, "It is my position that I have sent you everything you are entitled to... I trust that further letter or court hearings will not be necessary." Smith tried one more time to get a copy of the law by personally visiting the borough hall to view the code. Again she was denied access. Within two days, the borough had a criminal complaint filed against Smith and on December 14, 1993 she was convicted and fined -- all for daring to ask "why?" The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit later found, "that the Borough Council improperly denied Ms. Smith access to the code... The Council's response to Smith's requests, barring her access to the law, was inappropriate." Nonetheless, the conviction stands, but Smith is prepared to take her case all the way to the Supreme Court.
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