Sneaking Suspicions
 
Archives-- October 17-23, 2004


This page includes posts from October 17-23, 2004 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

October 23, 2004
Sea Scallops

This dish will enable you to express your inner Martha, if you are so inclined—and your guests may be suitably impressed.

I’ll explain below. 

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 bunch green onions, chopped fine, including most of the tops
1 small or ½ large white onion, chopped fine
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs butter
4 oz white wine
4 oz heavy cream
1 pound sea scallops (about 16-20 total)
1 tsp basil
pepper
creole seasoning
paprika
1/3 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions 

Rinse the scallops in cold water and set aside to dry on paper towels. 

In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat, until softened. Add to the mixture the wine, cream, and basil, and begin reducing the liquid.

Dust a large plate or similar flat surface with pepper, creole seasoning, and a little paprika until covered. Place each scallop on top of the mixture to coat the bottom surface. Lightly dust the top of each scallop with a little more pepper and creole seasoning. Melt the remaining butter with the remaining olive oil in a large non-stick pan, and sauté the scallops over medium-low heat. I kept the bottom-coated side on the heat for five minutes, and then used tongs to flip the pieces onto the top side for 2 ½ more minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the grated cheese into the reduced sauce, and spoon it onto a large serving plate (this is the Martha part), and carefully place the scallops on top of the sauce, bottom-side up.  At my wife’s suggestion, we used a bright red plate we bought from Pier One, and it looked very nice.

This went well with rice and a salad, and served four.

October 21, 2004
Dog-blogging

We recently decided that Rocky must be a Sheltie/Border Collie mix. What do you think?

October 21, 2004
Way beyond a rainy day?

One of the newest Delaware bloggers posted a story today about a new Chancery Court complaint that invokes a rarely used source of jurisdictional standing in the First State—one’s status as a tax-paying citizen. 

Under Delaware law, a taxpayer can sue to block the illegal use of government funds. See, e.g., City of Wilmington v. Lord, 385 A.2d 777 (Del. Supr. 1977):

“A taxpayer has a direct interest in the proper use and allocation of tax receipts. That interest gives the taxpayer a sufficient stake in the outcome of the suit to allow him to challenge improper use of tax funds.” 

On the other hand, this kind of lawsuit just doesn’t occur all that often around here. When it happens, however, the plaintiffs tend to win. I think that's attributable to the fact that these folks are usually financially savvy, and also know when to pick a fight. 

In one of the more famous cases several years ago, a Democratic state senator filed suit challenging the way that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control financed its operations through a variety of fees. When he won, the General Assembly was forced to scramble and pass an omnibus bill that legitimized dozens of license fees and other charges for a wide variety of agencies and departments.

The newest suit relates to New Castle County government. The current administration is under fire for setting aside millions of dollars of surplus revenue, while at the same time putting out an $80 million bond issue. The County Code permits limited reserve accounts for some surplus revenue, but the Complaint alleges that the set-aside cash is at least five times that amount.

The complaint is well-written, and deserves close reading by those with an interest in government finance well beyond this county’s geographical limits.

I won’t prejudge the merits of the case. On the other hand, I also wouldn’t be surprised if a legislative reaction to its allegations is enacted before a final judgment is reached.

October 20, 2004
It had a nice beat, I'd give it an 85 

Sometimes the robot assistants at Amazon.com can be a little too literal in their interpretation of one’s potential interests. 

This morning I went to the site to see if a live album by the musical group Weather Report was available on CD.  

I’m in luck—“8:30” is for sale there at only $10.99.

As I scrolled down the page, however, the following also appeared: 

Customers interested in Weather Report may also be interested in:
Sponsored Links ( What's this? ) Feedback

Well, maybe—but not because of the lyrics.

October 19, 2004
The limits of liability under the public trust doctrine

Today the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a very important decision about the public trust doctrine, the police power, hold harmless clauses, and takings law, and in the process overturned a billion-dollar verdict against the State.

The Court should be congratulated for restoring some previously missing sanity to this case, which involved environmental issues that began with the famous 1927 Mississippi River flood.

The Federal government’s reaction to that flood’s devastation led to the creation of much of the Mississippi River levee system. Unfortunately, the levees themselves led to unexpected consequences, namely the slow erosion of wetland areas previously replenished by silt-filled floodwaters. In turn, the loss of wetlands also affected oyster production in the shallow waters off the Louisiana coast.

After decades of debate and study, Louisiana and the Corps of Engineers worked together to create the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion Structure (Caernarvon). The project is now doing what it was supposed to do, but it had an undeniably negative effect on the oyster harvest on certain beds leased from the State. On the other hand, some other oyster beds, which had previously suffered losses from the original levee system, experienced significant improvements.

The owners of the oyster bed leases harmed by the Caernarvon project sued Louisiana for the damage to their economic expectations, and won in the lower courts.

Before the Supreme Court, however, the State finally succeeded in obtaining judicial approval of the hold harmless clauses that were part of nearly every one of these oyster bed leases.

In distinguishing this case from a prior decision relied upon by the lower courts, the Court noted the following:

The hold harmless clauses applicable in this case, …contain stipulations that are necessary and proper to develop the oyster industry as a whole, as: (1) the clauses allowed oyster lessees, if they chose to continue to lease the property in spite of the coastal restoration efforts, to effectively risk that at some point the leases may be productive and to reap whatever other economic gains they could resulting from their status as lessees; (2) the clauses allowed the Caernarvon project to proceed without fear of economic disaster from lawsuits; (3) the Caernarvon project greatly improved oyster production on the public seed grounds; and (4) Caernarvon returned the area of productive oyster producing grounds to those which existed before the levee system began the coastal erosion process. The fact that certain leases became unproductive does not render the clauses unnecessary and improper for the development of the oyster industry.

The Court also reminded the litigants and all others that under the public trust doctrine, no one other than the State owned these oysters. (For another example of the public trust doctrine and how it works, click here--Ed.).

No one had a private property right to manage or assume responsibility for these shellfish beds, except pursuant to agreements reached with the State, on terms the State deemed satisfactory. Under these circumstances, there was no basis for liability in going forward with this project, despite the likely impacts on oystering, good or bad:

We find that the implementation of the Caernarvon coastal diversion project fits precisely within the public trust doctrine. The public resource at issue is our very coastline, the loss of which is occurring at an alarming rate. The risks involved are not just environmental, but involve the health, safety, and welfare of our people, as coastal erosion removes an important barrier between large populations and ever-threatening hurricanes and storms. Left unchecked, it will result in the loss of the very land on which Louisianians reside and work, not to mention the loss of businesses that rely on the coastal region as a transportation infrastructure vital to the region’s industry and commerce. The State simply cannot allow coastal erosion to continue; the redistribution of existing productive oyster beds to other areas must be tolerated under the public trust doctrine in furtherance of this goal.

A note in the concurring opinion by Justice Weimer also articulates a good argument relating to the state’s exercise of its police power:

[I]f the state exercises its police power to avoid a public calamity or in cases of imminent peril to the general welfare, there is no compensable taking or damage. [citation omitted]. Here, the project was commenced, in part, because of the requests of the oyster industry. The area affected had not supported oysters historically until the construction of the levee system artificially altered salinity levels. The fresh water intrusion project, which had been publicly discussed and planned for decades before its ultimate construction, benefited the entire oyster industry because the public seed grounds blossomed, thus, limiting any potential losses suffered by plaintiffs. Further, relocation of the leaseholds was offered and plaintiffs declined. The salinity level to which the plaintiffs claim entitlement was an artificial level, resulting from salt water intrusion due partially to levee construction. It is this salinity level which, in part, is adversely impacting the coast. "The destruction of property to avert impending peril or disaster ... is an exercise of the police power, and not a taking under the power of eminent domain." [citation omitted].

As for those few leases that did not include the hold harmless clauses, the owners still lost, because the claims weren’t timely filed under Louisiana’s version of the appropriate statutes of limitations.

This is a critical decision for state governments, which are often forced to balance competing environmental and property interests in managing the demand for scarce state-owned resources. The 47 pages of opinions are well worth detailed study.

Hat tip to Howard Bashman--of course.

October 18, 2004
On the money

Last Friday Josh Levin at Slate posted a frequently amusing yet perceptive analysis of my home state and its extremely modest role in Presidential politics. In Delaware: Its Up for Grabs, and No One Cares, Levin does a good job of explaining this place to unsuspecting non-Delawareans who would probably have trouble picking it out on a map of the U.S. 

I’m not kidding. Nearly every adult First State native I know has a story of personally observing the look of wonder on others’ faces as they meet a Delawarean for the first time, and then guess at where Delaware is—usually badly. 

On the other hand, quite a few folks have discovered it in the last two decades, and the state’s demographics are changing quickly. Levin’s concluding paragraphs are, as they say, spot on:

Along with long-distance commuters, retirees are also pouring across the borders. One recent Kiplinger's study ranked Delaware as the most tax-friendly place to retire in America—a much better deal, and much closer to civilization, than second-place Alaska. Retired servicemen have settled near Dover Air Force Base; former seasonal vacationers in the beach community of Rehoboth are living in their condos full-time and moving into developments for those "55 or better." If you dodge the walkers, you might hit a rainbow flag. Steve Elkins, who runs the advocacy group CAMP Rehoboth, estimates that Rehoboth is now about 25 percent gay.

Delaware has become such a popular destination that it's not Delaware anymore. There are 60 percent more registered voters here in 2004 than there were in 1992. With all the exurbanites, old people, gays, and people from New Jersey, the state's long, proud history as an irrelevant bellwether is, well, irrelevant. If you want to figure out where the First State's headed now, ask the guy from Trenton who just moved in next door.

Indeed. RTWT.

October 17, 2004
The next jazz generation
 

The Rehoboth Jazz Festival finishes up its fifteenth anniversary today. 

One of the distinguishing features of this year’s Festival is that some of the performers weren’t even alive for the first one. 

Yesterday afternoon, at the open-air bandstand facing the Rehoboth Boardwalk, the Cape Henlopen High School Jazz Band performed before a nicely appreciative audience:

 

The weather was mostly cooperative, in the mid-60s and a bit overcast. The kids didn’t seem to let the occasional brisk breeze affect their focus.  

I took our dog downtown for a walk and made it to the bandstand in time to see the last few pieces.  

Cape’s jazz band is really very good, and it was a fine addition to all the nationally-known headline acts that graced the Cape Region this weekend.


   

Contact Information:

Fritz Schranck
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE  19969
USA

fschranck-at-
sneakingsuspicions.com


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Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.

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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2004