ITWASSOOTED: <span style="color:#ffcc00;">"Governments are now out of control,"</span>

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"Governments are now out of control,"

Robert Schulz, a nationally known constitutional activist, stands on the property that he may soon lose for withholding Washington County taxes. Schulz is protesting because he believes Washington County is improperly spending tax money by funding the Hudson Falls trash plant.

FORT ANN -- The region's leading government watchdog is putting his land and life on the line to defend his constitutional beliefs.

Robert Schulz is getting ready for two showdowns -- one in upcoming weeks with Washington County government over its payment of trash plant expenses with property tax revenue. The second will come in April with the U.S. government over what he and thousands of his supporters nationally say is an abuse of federal authority.

"Governments are now out of control," he said. "And it's our job to bring them inside the boundaries that are set by the Constitution."

In one instance, his homestead is at stake and in the other, he's planning what could be the nation's largest hunger strike ever.

In the local face-off, he's facing foreclosure on his house after refusing to pay his property taxes until a court rules the county's actions constitutional.

In the April showdown, he will be leading hundreds of other people enrolled in his national civic action group -- We the People Congress -- in a two-week hunger strike in Washington, D.C., he said.

Such actions aren't out of character for Schulz.

He captured statewide attention when he was drafted in 1994 as candidate for governor -- after radio personality Howard Stern dropped out of the race -- and garnered national notoriety in 2002 when he launched a hunger strike to force government officials to respond to his concerns that the federal income tax had no basis in law.

Washington County started foreclosure proceedings Tuesday, with initial actions to seize Schulz's family home and its surrounding acreage that he's owned since 1964.

The home and land, worth more than $550,000, will be taken over by the county if he doesn't relent.

It's not that he doesn't have the money to pay the tax bill.

Schulz has deposited about $7,800 in a trust account that is payable to the county if the county stops subsidizing the Hudson Falls trash plant or when a court rules that the county's financial support is constitutional.

On Thursday, he was at his home, awaiting a phone call from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan, with news on whether they ruled in favor of his request for an emergency stay to halt the foreclosure proceeding.

County Attorney Roger Wickes confirmed Thursday that Schulz's house and land are at risk, and that he, indeed, set up a bank account with the county as beneficiary.

But Schulz must still pay his taxes in cash. he said.

"We've started proceedings to take title to the property and we'll be selling it at a June auction for back taxes," he said.

Wickes said Schulz is on a list of about 250 property owners with delinquent taxes in the county whose properties are at risk. In several weeks, a list of these delinquent taxpayers will be handed to a county judge, who will likely rule, as is routine, that the county is the new owner, he said.

Schulz's activities Thursday included planning for the hunger strike among members of his We the People Congress, which boasts approximately 64,000 members representing all 50 states.

In April, following a convention of the group in Washington, group members will join Schulz on a hunger strike as they demand answers to their grievances -- which they formally presented to government officials in 2003.

These complaints include that the government went to war with Iraq without a formal congressional declaration of war, that the government has overstepped its taxation authority, is improperly abridging citizens' rights through the Patriot Act, and has violated constitutional debt-limiting provisions.

Schulz and about 1,700 other plaintiffs have sued the government, demanding that under the Constitution, the government must not only accept their petition of grievances, but must respond.

The case is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington awaiting a decision. Schulz said the court case was the first in the nation's history to call for the Constitution's petition clause to be fully defined, and he expects the case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mark Lane, the nationally renowned attorney who wrote the book "Rush to Judgment," is attorney for all the plaintiffs but Schulz, who is representing himself.

Those 1,700 plaintiffs signed a pledge not to pay taxes until their grievances were answered. Schulz has not paid federal income taxes nor filed returns since 2001, he said.

"Its the only effective nonviolent way citizens have to holding government responsible to our individual rights," he said.

Schulz, however, has a more concrete, immediate concern -- losing his house in the upcoming weeks.

Schulz said Wednesday he wasn't going to back away from the showdown with the county.

"Do I say I give up and the government can do whatever it wants to do, or do I stand on my principles?" he said. "It's been a tough choice, because we raised four children here, our roots are here, and it's our life.

"It's too bad it's come down to this."
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