At an early age, even before I turned 18, I recognized that the fear of liability often prevented good capable people from taking actions that would make the world a better place. I often noticed this theme coming up in family conversations with my future in-laws in discussions about their farm and factory family business. I vowed that I would not be caught in this trap. Yet, at that age I had no idea how that might be possible.
I had several eye-opening experiences with insurance companies that led to a conclusion that buying a policy means little more than paying for the right to be in a lawsuit demanding coverage in the event of a loss. This eventually led to my acceptance of a national board position on the American Policyholder Association. I have little faith in insurance companies to cover anything outside of a routine claim. Some of my organizations and activities are insured but many are not. I think it makes little difference.
I had the misfortune of stumbling into instances of government fraud and it seemed that one instance just led to another. Twice I accidently uncovered systematic fraud by large international companies. I’ve been threatened every possible way, sued more times than I can count, received death threats and survived an attempted ‘hit’.
Later, I read the biography of a New York City activist lawyer who intentionally made himself “judgement proof” by disposing of his material assets and working for a company – an entity that he did not own – that billed for most of his outspoken advocacy services. It set in motion a plan that I used over several decades. In my business and personal life, I often accept legal responsibility without the rights of ownership while acting as the authorized person for a business, individual or community project. Government and private parties often challenge this stance. I’ve been sued more times than anyone I know. I’ve been threatened by Fortune 500 companies to rural town politicians. I’ve received death threats and survived one assassination attempt. Now, decades later, I still often accept risks that most people would avoid.
I recognize that risk is the price we pay for opportunity. I recognize that the ability to accept risk is a personal freedom. The final chapter of the book “The Drowning of Money Island” covers my reflection of the measures I’ve taken to adapt to risks here. I refer to the lyric “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”. It’s absolutely true. I am free to promote environmental justice causes and talk about the past misdeeds of government only becasue I have nothing to lose.
The latest example of my willingness to accept risk for the sake of a larger positive action is the Money Island Marina Community guest policy. After many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent trying, I accept the fact that there is no financially viable way for members of the public to enjoy the resources of the bayshore under a commercial business arrangement. Most of our local marinas, including ours at Money Island, have gone out of business. We see that the future of the bayshore either belongs to the wealthy or the government. Ordinary citizens will not be able to afford to live, work and play here – at least not in the ways we have come to think of it in the past. For example, the cost of government permits to operate any aspect of a recreational marina – a dock, a fuel tank, a bait shop, for example – far exceeds the revenue that can be generated by that activity in our geographic region. That may not change for decades and so my effort to ‘be the change’ that the world needs is the focus of my life work now. As a result of this, the marina properties were donated to Baysave and became my private residence after the businesses closed. Yet I am still compelled as a steward of these resources to make them available to others. The new personal guest policy reflects these collective thoughts on government compliance , risk, reward and personal freedom to do what is possible and what is right.
It’s one small step, but a step in the right direction.