Sunday, June 26, 2005

The disingenuous "Last Resort" Defense

Cities guilty of eminent domain abuse always argue that they use eminent domain only as a "last resort." Like this:

Newport City Manager Phil Ciafardini said the court ruling bolsters Newport's eminent domain case involving the proposed shopping center on the 56-acre site overlooking I-471 between 10th Street and Carothers Road. Lower courts have ruled in Newport's favor. The case is before a state appeals court. He said Newport won't go on an eminent domain spree. "It's used as a last resort and very sparingly," he said.
Or this:
"It's a very difficult decision and one that should only be taken as a last resort to reverse a negative situation in a particular area," said New Rochelle Mayor Timothy Idoni, who several years ago favored using eminent domain to acquire land for a huge IKEA store.
Great. This means that eminent domain will only be used if you refuse to sell your home. This is great comfort, right? I think this from Pittsburgh sums it up:
The mayor and Golomb try to sound nice about it by assuring us that eminent domain is only in their plans as a “last resort,” if the business and property owners don’t cooperate. This promise is meaningless. If eminent domain is on the table at all, then the city is, in fact, using the threat of eminent domain as a weapon against those local Pittsburghers. Their “last resort” promise is like a thug pointing a gun at you and telling you that he sure hopes you voluntarily cooperate with him so he doesn’t have to shoot you as a “last resort.” His enthusiasm for your voluntarily cooperation and “last resort” assurances probably wouldn’t make you feel any less like the victim of an armed robbery.