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Communications with Peter Goldman

by John Rasmussen

Please read a disclaimer for the statements I make on this website accusing judges, politicians and activists of criminal actions.

     Peter Goldman is a "public interest lawyer", an activist. In the case of his activism in the railbanking of the East Lake Sammamish (ELS) spur line, I believe that Goldman conspired with the other participants in the East Lake Sammamish federal tax fraud scheme to defraud the American people and to harm my family. In my case, the tax fraud scheme involved the theft of my land and the loss of my constitutional rights in federal court.
    (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

     I've been told that Goldman has inherited his wealth. So in his defense, I assume that Goldman can't understand how hard common folks work to make a living for themselves and their children. If his wealth was handed to him, how can he understand the difficulties common folks face in a competitive society to provide for their families and save for their retirement?

     Peter Goldman is a board member of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the national organization that promotes the establishment of bicycle trails under the authority of the Rails-to-Trails Act. In the railbanking of the ELS spur line and establishment of the ELS trail, Goldman repeatedly lied to the public about their property rights. These lies were designed to misinform trail-side residents in order to discourage their protest. (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

     On April 26, 1999, Goldman posted a "White Paper" on a local website named the "East Lake Sammamish Trial-Two Cents Board". The white paper was titled "Facts about the Proposed East Lake Sammamish Trail".

    View the "ELST White Paper" titled "Facts about the Proposed East Lake Sammamish Trail"..
     When I read Goldman's "Facts about the Proposed East Lake Sammamish Trail", I was offended by what I perceived to be misrepresentation of the law, half truths, and outright lies. So, I wrote the following letter to Goldman on May 13th.

    Subject: Trail
    Date: Thu, 13 May 1999 22:04:15 -0700
    From: Rasmussen
    To: "Goldman, Peter"

    Hi Peter,

    I've just read your posting on the "ELST 2 Cents Page". Just wondering if you are really aquatinted with the facts of what you posted, or you copied the info from some other page, like the Bike Alliance?

    I don't know if you feel you have a responsibility to be honest or informed when you post like that, but if you do, I'd like to challenge a couple of things you wrote. On the chance you have an open mind, send me a note, and I'll give you a couple of things to think about.

    If you don't care about anything but getting a bike trail for yourself...don't bother to write.

    Regards, John Rasmussen

     Goldman responded, and we exchanged email messages until June 15th, 1999, when he wrote: "At this point, I'm going to choose not to spend any more of my time debating the legal stuff with you." In his emails, Goldman was unable to justify misleading and dishonest statements in the white paper. Those misleading statements were never retracted or revised.

    Read my exchange of emails with Peter Goldman between 5/13/1999 and 6/15/1999.

     Goldman wrote that he didn't have any more time to discuss the dishonesty of his claims, but a week later he was on the "Two Cents Board" again, posting more lies. Not to be ignored, I challenged his dishonesty again with a posting on that website. Of course, Goldman refused to reply. This "public interest" lawyer was willing to spread his lies to the uninformed, but unwilling to defend his lies when he was challenged. Here is his 6/22/1999 posting and my 7/2/1999 challenge to its honesty.
    (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

    Read Goldman's dishonest June 22, 1999, posting on the "Two Cents Board".

      Peter Goldman      Jun 22, 1999     21:04

      Posted:   Thomas Johnson wrote on May 27, 1999 that I incorrectly stated that the railroad easements would not revert to the current landowners. For the following reason, Mr. Johnson is wrong.

      First, the deeds of many of the most vocal opponents of the trail expressly state that their property does NOT include the portion of the land underlying the railway. Go ahead and ask at the next RIPRA meeting for folks to show their deeds.

      Second, even if these folks (or their predecessors in title) did own the land under the right-of-way, easements over government land grant property do not revert to existing fee owners.

      And, finally, the whole point of the federal railbanking statute is to preserve rail corridors for future use and make them available for interim use as trails. The federal law PREEMPTS state law abandonment and STAYS reversion. If they don't like the law, they should go to Congress and change it.

      My advice, with all due respect, is, unless you like trains or trails, think more carefully before you buy a piece of property that has a transportation easement running through it. Or simply relax and enjoy this great opportunity to enjoy the lakeshore via a beautiful trail with your community.

    Read my July 2, 1999, reply to Goldman's posting.

      John Rasmussen     Jul 2, 1999     14:08

      Posted:   In his 6-22-99 posting, Peter Goldman comments that the federal law preempts state law abandonment and stays reversion. This is "true", but it's a misleading statement. Most people reading that posting would assume that the land owners along the East Lake Sammamish Trail are therefore left without recourse or compensation for the establishment of the trail. This is not so.

      If the adjacent land owner owns the reversionary rights to the land under the easement, he is due compensation for the taking of his land for the trail. This is allowed under both federal and Washington State law. (I'm sorry for the Gallers, who posted a very interesting message, but the lyrics of Woody Guthrie do not override any of these laws.)

      Peter Goldman puts great emphasis on the adjacent properties that exclude the right-of-way land in their title description, and also the land grant properties. I suspect that these lots are the exception, and do not represent the most common situation along ELST.

      Here are some thoughts about these properties.

      I believe Peter is simply trying to discredit the opponents of the trail with his comment; "...the deeds of many of the most vocal opponents of the trail expressly state that their property does NOT include the portion of the land underlying the railway." Since the original deeds were granted in 1887, most of the properties along ELS have split and been sold a number of times. It's true that in some cases, the easement land was not conveyed because of a simple mistake or misunderstanding of the law. It's also possible a previous owner may have intentionally withheld the reversionary property on the sale of the adjoining lot. Neither the railroad nor King County would gain the reversionary rights in these cases. The present adjacent owners with these situations may have reversionary rights. They definitely have a complicated legal situation to resolve.

      Peter Goldman implies with his statement that they have no rights to the easement land, and therefore no right to protest. That's wrong. Further, it seems he is trying to give the impression that this is the most common situation along the Lake. Perhaps he could explain what he means by the word "many" in the above quote. Peter, if you answer this, please give us a percentage of the properties that have this problem. My impression is that Peter is making that statement to turn the public against those of us with legitimate rights to compensation.

      Further, Peter states in his posting: "...even if these folks (or their predecessors in title) did own the land under the right-of-way, easements over government land grant property do not revert to existing fee owners." If you answer this, Peter, what are you trying to imply here? Are you saying all the land along ELS is "land grant"? My understanding is that the U.S. Government ceased land grants to the railroads in 1871. The right-of-way across my property was granted in 1887, sixteen years later. I understand there are several railroad properties along Lake Sammamish from the land grant days, but the railroad, itself, was not established under land grant law. My impression is that this footage is the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps Peter would be specific about the amount of "land grant" land along ELS. He implies by his statement that it is ALL "land grant" land. I know that's wrong, because mine isn't. Again, this statement seems aimed at discrediting the legitimate claims of the landowners next to ELST, and focusing on an exception rather than the more common situation.

      With respect to legitimate claims of the reversionary owners, there has been much misunderstanding of the effect of the "Rails-to-Trails Act. Trail proponents such as The Bicycle Alliance of Washington, The Land Conservancy, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and their allies have been very willing to promote this misunderstanding, because it furthers their cause. The more they can discourage the reversionary owners from attaining their rights, the more miles of bike trails will be developed in this country. If, later on, the reversionary owners get their compensation, the taxpayer will pay, not the trail promoters.

      The "Rails-to-Trails Act", U.S.C. Title 16 Section 1247d, was designed to delay the state defined right to reversion. Under railbanking, when the railroad leaves, the right-of-way land does not revert back to the grantor or his successor in title, but instead, the right-of-way is retained for future rail use and present trail use. Given that situation, the radical trail proponents have promoted the myth that the reversionary owners are, therefore, without recourse because their reversion has been delayed. This is not the case. It has been found in both federal and Washington State courts that railbanking causes a "taking" of the reversionary property and therefore compensation is due. The reason is that an easement for railroad use is not legally the same as an easement for a trail. Railbanking effectively establishes a new easement for the trail, and, at the same time, defeats the reversionary rights of the original railroad easement. This causes a taking. Folks along ELST with reversionary rights should therefore be due compensation as if the railroad abandoned, the land was returned to them, and then the land were condemned for public trail use by King County. King County is liable for this compensation under Washington State law.

      I've stated that the radical trail proponents have intentionally misrepresented the right to claims by the reversionary owners. A person can confirm that by reading The Bicycle Alliance of Washington "fact sheet" posted on this website on 4-26-99. Read the section titled "3. RAILBANKING IS NOT A "TAKING" OF PRIVATE PROPERTY". This paragraph is full of half-truths and misrepresentations, misdirection and lies. The overall impression given by that paragraph is that the reversionary owners are a small minority along ELST, and without rights to a taking claim. That is a very ugly, and intentional, lie. That whole document is a monument to dishonesty.

      As to the question of what the ELST easement land is worth; Burlington Northern Santa Fe appraised the value of the land under the easements at about $41 million. Of that amount, BNSF actually owned only three or four lots worth about $1 million. These three or four lots were sold to The Land Conservancy, and then King County, with the railbanking transactions. In the spirit of the "robber baron" days, BNSF claimed that they owned all the easement land under the tracks, instead of just the three or four lots, and that they were donating that land to TLC/King County. TLC and King County acknowledged this phony "donation" in the papers of sale. Of course, BNSF couldn't donate this land because the land wasn't theirs to donate. It is reversionary land, and they only had a right-of-way across those lots. It's safe to assume they then took a $40 million write-off on their taxes for this phony "donation". This returned about $15 million in cash to the railroad, probably for BNSF executive bonuses, paid by the American taxpayer. Perhaps Peter Goldman would like to explain his part in this criminal action, because he was a lawyer for TLC at the time this transaction.

      Using BNSF's value of the right-of-way land, and dividing by the length of the track, the average value is about $620 per foot of track. This means an average 100 foot wide lot, with 100 feet on track crossing, would be worth $62,000 in compensation from King County for the establishment of the East Lake Sammamish Trail. Of course, there is no actual average lot. The value would vary from about $11,000 to $340,000 for a lot with 100 feet of BNSF track. Since these numbers are based on 1996 property values, the claims will be higher today. Needless to say, King County is not knocking on people's doors and offering a check for this taking. Instead the County has decided to just ignore Washington State law, steal the land for the trail, and not pay compensation. If this seems wrong, it's more than wrong, it's criminal. I believe King County is taking the advice of the lawyers for TLC in this crime.

      If King County dealt with this honestly, and advised its constituents of the potential $40 million liability for the taking of land under the East Lake Sammamish Trail, the taxpayers of the County would likely decide to not have a trail rather than tax themselves for the enormous true cost. Parks are very important to this community, and we can get a lot more park for our money with land purchases elsewhere, and still afford a nice bike path next to the road on ELS. It is important for the radical trail proponents to establish as much trail as possible before the public catches on that a gigantic bill looms in the future to settle the takings. This is why they are pushing so hard for an interim trial which does not fully address issues such as public safety and ecology.

      If the County can get the trail established now, under dishonest conditions, the taxpayer will have no choice about being taxed for the legal compensation later. This will be another giant cost overrun for King County with the politicians claiming they couldn't foresee it coming. It's difficult to foresee things when one chooses to close his eyes to the truth.

      Peter Goldman's posting on 6-22-99 gives the overall impression that the land owners along the lake are not due compensation. That's a lie. We don't need to change the law as Peter suggests, we need to elect politicians in King County that try to honestly obey the laws already in place. Peter, if you chose to respond to this posting, please explain what knowledge you had of the $15 million rip-off of the U.S. taxpayer by BNSF at the time of the ELS rail line sale to TLC.

     Of course, Peter Goldman didn't reply to my July 2, 1999 posting. He lied to the public, and then refused to respond when he was publicly challenged to justify and defend his dishonest statements.
    (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)