28 June 2005

Among the Creepiest Things Ever Printed

I've been trying to find an angle on the travesty that is Supreme Court's Kelo v. City of New London ruling. I keep waiting to discover some facet of this that convinces me that it's not what it looks like. Right now, it doesn't look like the United States of America.

The collectivist elites at the StarTribune ran an incredibly pompous and very telling public pacifier by Jim Miller, who is in the business of cities. I say 'the business' because Miller is but one of countless folk who believe government entities must perpetually expand, and cheer for the increased pervasiveness of influence and control:

Imagine that you live in a city -- roughly the size of Austin, Owatonna or Shakopee -- that recently experienced the closure of a major business and the loss of 1,500 jobs. Imagine that the city is in economic distress, with double-digit unemployment. Now, imagine the opportunity to remedy that distress.

Harmless enough - government only wants to do good, right . . .

The community leaders of New London, Conn., saw such an opportunity and, thanks to a Supreme Court affirmation of a long-standing legal precedent that permits cities to exercise eminent domain, those leaders will have a chance to revitalize the economy, steer their community in a positive direction and improve the quality of life for all New London residents.

Way to gloss it over. Let's get it right, Jim, this is not an affirmation. This is a new turn in the road. This is a big tilt of authority to government's side in eminent domain situations.

Eminent domain involves a city acquiring property with just compensation and relocation expenses paid to the property owner. As early as 1837, the Supreme Court recognized that eminent domain could be used to promote "the public interest." Before eminent domain is exercised, a formal process must be completed, including public meetings and a formal court action.

No, you liar. The Fifth Ammendment says "public use." You do not get to expand this to something so vague as "public interest."

Though media accounts of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. City of New London have cast a negative light on cities' use of eminent domain, the court was simply reaffirming, not expanding, powers that local governments in Minnesota and throughout the nation have had, and exercised, for decades -- the power to acquire property for development if that development fulfills a public purpose.

You have lied again. The majority (Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer & Kennedy) ruled that local government can seize an individual's home for private economic development projects. Were not talking freeway or water treatment plant. This is a hotel or Home Depot instead of your house.

While petitioners in the case argued that economic development is not a "public use" under the Fifth Amendment, in writing the majority opinion Justice John Paul Stevens clarified the definition, finding that economic revitalization is a long-accepted governmental function and furthers a valid "public purpose." The principle of eminent domain is designed to achieve the greater community good. Without eminent domain, an individual homeowner or business owner could stand in the way of, or demand unreasonable compensation to permit, a project that could lift a neighborhood or an entire city out of economic distress. This is particularly important for those cities needing to increase jobs or strengthen property tax bases, where a single project -- a factory, a retail and housing center, a business complex -- could make the difference between economic recovery or austerity.

Stop with the happy talk. The court has given government broad authority to take property in the name of loosely-defined economic development benefits. It has said that the governments 'need' for tax income supersedes private property rights. This is new, This is bad. Stop with the 'good old days' crap.

Eminent domain is a tool rarely used to achieve a city's redevelopment. Duluth, for example, was able to revitalize its downtown waterfront area without needing to exert eminent domain. However, it isn't hard to imagine a scenario where, but for the ability to use this tool, two or three homeowners could have hindered the building of the beautiful and popular Canal Park District. What repercussions would that have had for the economy of Duluth? How many then-existing jobs would have been lost and new jobs unrealized -- not only among retail and hospitality businesses, but in the construction industry?

Municipalities can now argue that transferring property from one private person to another, (not the municipality) is justified because it increases tax revenue to that municipality, thereby serving a public purpose. Practically any residential home would generate more tax dollars as a Wal-Mart and Blockbuster. That auto mechanic or family grocery provides less jobs than an industrial park. That church on the hill pays no taxes and has hardly any jobs.

Displacing residents from their homes is serious business and is exercised only as a last resort.

Let me correct you right there: Displacing residents fro their homes by force of law is serious business, and no longer has to be exercised as last resort with the new authority granted cities by this ruling.

When eminent domain is used, the law requires cities to provide fair compensation for acquired property and relocation assistance. "Fair" compensation is determined by an independent commission or a jury. Additionally, through the Kelo decision, the court has reaffirmed that cities must have a well-conceived plan for exercise of eminent domain -- it cannot be administered in an unjust or haphazard fashion.

Yea, the libraries are filled with stories of people who have been fairly compensated and had their relocation expenses cover.

Locally, the League of Minnesota Cities has worked with state lawmakers to draft legislation that would make procedural changes to further improve the acquisition and eminent domain process for all involved. The legislation would retain a city's obligation to construct a sound plan through a process of citizen involvement. Those who assert that public officials will be newly emboldened to indiscriminately "seize" property for the economic gain of private interests have a fundamental misunderstanding of local government, and of the intent of local elected officials.

For all involved? Now you're a bad liar. Are you going to expect me to believe the League of Minnesota Cities is working toward anything but a fast track to eminent domain acquisition?

Responsible cities historically have, and will continue to judiciously balance the rights of private property owners with the economic interests of the entire community.

Pardon me if I do not trust the good nature of professional public administrators and other do-gooders, be they elected or not. We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights that puts reigns on government authority; to ensure that it is finite in its scope and authority. The Fifth Amendment is not a vehicle for increasing government revenues at the expense of individual property rights.

As the National League of Cities notes in its brief on the Kelo vs. City of New London case, "Local governments do not exist to enrich a few, but to solve problems and provide services that all citizens need and demand." To deny local governments the tool of eminent domain is to deny cities the opportunities to survive and flourish, to deny jobs for citizens of economically depressed cities and towns, and to deny quality of life to our nation's city-dwellers.

Nor do local governments exist to enrich themselves. A municipality has no special right or charter to seize private property by force of law from one and hand it over to another. No matter the intention, no matter the insatiable appetite for revenue, no matter what. As Justice O'Connor noted in the dissenting opinion, "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random." Beneficiaries from the ruling would likely be "large corporations and development firms," she added.

The opportunity for corruption of public officials and the screwing of private property owners least able to fight it is a door that just got blown wide open. Let's go out with the Tenth Ammendment, which should remind us all that the people are in charge, and that government's ONLY powers are those granted to it by the people:

Amendment X - The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Keep you head in the game, America.

1 comment:

Flamer said...

Nicely put Herr Republican. It's nice to see that even your ilk haven't all drunk the koolaid.