15 July : food for thought about legal challenges, from a Westwood resident

[Note: the original e-mail text has been broken into paragraphs and fitted to this page   --paul--]

PA HB-1142 is not only important for we in the West End, but also for all citizens of Pittsburgh and all Pennsylvanians! Now that Murphy and Council has seen that a NID is almost impossible to stop without tremendous organization and financial support, can another (this time city-wide - for trash collection fees) be far behind? Other municipalities, desiring to tap PA HB-1142's taxing ability, will be watching what happens here! Brief Overview: WE-HAV was initiated using PA HB-1142 as the state enabling legislation. If PA HB-1142 or relevant parts of it are overturned, WE-HAV should be stopped, at least in its present form.

[By addressing PA HB-1142 ONLY,this avoids being drawn into a debate on the merits of WE-HAV. That de-bate can only be divisive, pitting neighbor against neighbor. It also keeps local politics out of the spotlight, which would be important in such a case. Think: Courts do not want to be drawn into local politics. Win on the case merits!] I am willing to put myself up as an initial plaintiff.

The objective should be to secure the services of a 'public interest' law firm (probably a 'conservative' political agenda law firm) such as the one from Washington DC that took on Murphy over 'eminent domain'.

The case would begin [unknown if local, state, or federal courts would be the venue] with one plaintiff or more, then the court would be petitioned to designate the case as a 'class-action' on the behalf of all Pennsylvanians. The case would be on a contingency basis (no money up front with the law firm or other 'conservative' groups paying initially) with the goal being 'class-action' designation where fees may be able to be recouped from the governments being sued.

The defendants would be the State of Pennsylvania (including the Governor, House, Senate and PA HB-1142), the City of Pittsburgh (in- cluding the Mayor, City Council, Urban Redevelopment Authority [to stop the tax anticipation bonds] and Council Resolution No.5 Of The Year 2002) and the West Pittsburgh Partnership For Regional Development (including all officers).

Case issues will be determined by law, but among them should be (1) the delegation of powers strictly entrusted to elected government to the private sector (ie: eminent domain, community police, etc.); (2) the use of tax revenue in same manner; and most importantly (3) the 'negative opt-out' voting (with lack of ballots, required letter writing, etc.).

The first two objectives, before the case itself, should be (1) an immediate court-order 'stay' of all NIDs and any actions related to PA HB- 1142 while the case progresses including during the discovery phase and then

(2) 'class-action' designation. [Note: This 'stay' would halt WE-HAV without a debate on WE-HAV's merits and a case such as this would probably take many years to wind its way through the legal system forcing WE-HAV's supporters to take a different approach such as direct state legislation for home value insurance.] This would not be an easy case and may require the courts to set legal precedent(s).

The case would also attract media attention and perhaps even national media coverage (which should be helpful in a 'class-action' case such as this one would be). It would give the local media an opportunity to review WE-HAV and its merits and drawbacks more closely without the sensationalism that shows disorganized opponents yelling at public meetings.

Additionally, PA HB- 1142 could be reviewed in the same manner, giving the local media another opportunity - to make-up for their 'sin' of failing to do these things the first time.

National media interest could come if this is the first state that has attempted to so circumvent one of our nation's founding principles - the 'consent of the governed' (Read: Voting in favor of something rather than not voting at all! This is also an issue that should resonate with women and minorities. Is PA HB-1142, which discourages voting, the intended result of the long and sometimes bloody struggles to secure the privilege of voting?).

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7 October 2002/ 24 February '03