At last it happened. Two California courts, a Superior Court and an Appeals Court, declared the California Coastal Commission unconstitutional. The L.A. Times covered the story suggesting that the commission was out of line, something we as a city have been saying for some time. One person was quoted, “This is a rogue agency.” Another pointed to the tyranny of the commission and the violation of the separation of powers as set out in the Constitution. This is the Marine Forest Case. The courts haven’t even seen our case yet.
Talk about violation of the separation of powers! The Legislature and governor agreed to take away Malibu’s Local Right to create its own coastal plan and gave that Local Right to the California Coastal Commission. The commission then created our local plan for us (legislation), approved the plan (executive power)and then when we wanted any changes, they put on their judgment faces mostly to deny our requests (judicial). Put all three powers in one body responsible to no one and what do you have?
Founding father John Adams was clear about the result when he said, “Failure to separate and balance governing power invites tyrannical abuse.” John Madison said, “The three powers must be separately and independently exercised. As we know, power corrupts and honesty is an early casualty.”
Freedom, according to one historian, flamed briefly in Athens and then disappeared for thousands of years until Thomas Jefferson created the Declaration of Independence that set forth the rights of free human beings. A declaration in itself was not enough. The Revolution had to be won, and the new government built. It was Adams and the others who sought to protect and structure freedom with separation of powers.
For 227 years we have been engaged in one of the great struggles of history as to whether this freedom will be ours or not. World War II, we said at the time, was to make the world safe for democracy. Freedom’s light went out in Athens. It could go out again here. It is our job to see that it doesn’t fail this time. It is for that reason that separation of powers and all of this fuss is so important.