In the villages of Frisco and Buxton on Hatteras Island, some curious campaign signs have been erected in the past few weeks.
They are big signs with “Romney/ Ryan” in big red and blue letters on a white background.
In fact, the signs are so large, they probably violate the Dare County sign ordinance, which prohibits campaign signs with more than 6 square feet of display area or that stand more than 6 feet tall – at the highest point.
Along with “Romney/ Ryan” is a patriotic-sounding slogan, such as “Romney and Ryan…..Born in America.”
The person who put up these signs obviously supports Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and of course, that part of it is perfectly fine and legal, part of the Democratic process.
However, the most offensive of these signs says, “Romney and Ryan…for open beaches.”
Now, I understand that there are reasons why folks support Mitt Romney for President, but open beach access should not be one of them.
And, in fact, it’s unfortunate that one of the most important issues facing Hatteras right now – access to the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore – is being turned into a politically charged, partisan issue.
It never has been and is not now.
Jordan Tomberlin of Hatteras village, a writer for The Island Free Press, recently posted on her Facebook page that she found the signs “troublesome”
“Even if Romney and/or Ryan could--by some stretch of the imagination and legislative process--overturn the final ORV rule for Cape Hatteras National Seashore,” Tomberlin writes, “there is simply no indication that either of them actually would.”
In fact, she notes that Romney's gubernatorial record on environmental policy would suggest the exact opposite.
In a short Internet search, she found several articles on Romney’s environmental record when he was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 until 2007, when he launched his campaign for President of the United States.
It seems that Romney was pretty green before he wasn’t.
When he became governor, he appointed Douglas Foy as the state’s first secretary of the Massachusetts Office for Commonwealth Development – a “super-secretariat” position that put him over coordination of housing, transportation, energy and the environment.
Before Romney tapped him for public service, Foy was for 25 years president of the Conservation Law Foundation, which he describes as “New England’s premier environmental advocacy organization” – sort of the Southern Environmental Law Center for the northeastern states.
He cites among his accomplishments there the lawsuit that led to the cleanup of Boston Harbor, protecting Georges Bank from oil and gas drilling, AND banning off-road vehicles on the beaches and dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Yes, Romney chose the man who claims credit for banning ORVs at Cape Cod to lead the department that oversees Massachusetts’ environmental policy.
Apparently, at least in 2003, Romney was not for beach access.
The former governor has changed his position on many matters of public policy since 2003 – from health care to abortion to cap-and-trade.
Maybe he has changed his mind on banning ORVs. But maybe not.
There is apparently nothing he has said -- or any of his surrogates have said -- that addresses how he would deal with the current attempts in Congress and in the courts to overturn the National Park Service’s new ORV plan for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
In fact, it would be surprising to find out that Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan has ever heard of Cape Hatteras National Seashore or knows anything about the beach access issue here.
And it’s just plain wrong to imply that voting for Romney and Ryan would have any influence at all here on beach access.
There is nothing since the first executive order requiring ORV plans at national parks and seashores was signed in 1972 to indicate that beach access issues fare any better under Democratic or Republican administrations.
That first executive order was signed by Republican President Richard M. Nixon.
No president since then has apparently had a position on beach access and efforts by the Park Service to restrict ORVs at Cape Cod or snowmobiles at Yellowstone moved forward – one would assume supported by the party in power – under both Democratic and Republican presidents.
Since Nixon, that would include Republicans Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
And, it is worth noting, that no Secretary of the Interior or National Park Service director appointed by any of these presidents has tried to stop efforts to regulate and/or restrict vehicles in parks.
The Office of Management and Budget did announce after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to overturn the new ORV plan on the seashore that the Obama administration supports the Park Service’s plan.
That’s not surprising. However, it would be surprising to learn that one word about beach access has ever been uttered in the Oval Office.
And I have written before that the man who is apparently Public Enemy No. 1 on Hatteras and Ocracoke, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle, is a Republican whose name was put forward for the federal bench by North Carolina’s staunch conservative Republican senator, the late Jesse Helms, on whose staff Boyle once worked.
Beach access and ORV use just have not been a partisan issue in the past 40 years, and they are not now.
So don’t look to a change in administrations to make all of our access problems go away.
Jordan Tomberlin, I thought, summed it up well when she posted on Facebook, “I whole-heartedly support beach access efforts. But I also support the truth. And those signs--claiming that Romney and Ryan are "for" open beaches or that a Romney/Ryan victory would somehow result in open beaches--are, I believe, a proverbial slap-in-the-face to both.