Thursday, July 07, 2005

Another One Bites the Dust

Bad news from Monrovia:

Despite the pleas of a local landowner, the City Council voted
unanimously to initiate eminent domain proceedings on an auto- shop yard in the city's southeast.

. . .
"This is a very difficult issue for me,' Councilman Dan Kirby said before casting his vote Tuesday . "But I cannot in good conscience let this corner stay as it is, with all those young people living down there, fighting to get ahead just like all the rest of our children do in this town.'

Buller, 67, has owned the corner triple lot at Duarte Road and California Avenue since 1981. The auto yard faces railroad tracks and the crypt at Live Oak Memorial Park. Bougainvillea and bottle-brush trees have overgrown a chain-link fence
that hides the yard from the street.

Buller, who lives in San Dimas, said he turned down three previous offers from the city because he needs the space to
store cars he works on in his spare time. He also has a mechanic and smog-test business as tenants.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ms. Kelo speaks

She's not giving up:
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against them, but a group of New London residents are not giving up the fight to save their homes from development. People living in the Fort Trumbull area say the fight has just begun.

Susette Kelo says, "This started out just to be about me."

When Susette Kelo filed her suit against the City of New London she was merely trying to save her home, protect her property from being seized for development by eminent domain. When all this started Kelo was David the city, Goliath. Now Kelo is the face of a cause.

"Every poor person, every minority, every middle class American is in jeopardy of losing their home."

Late last month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Kelo, ruled the city could take her home and others in this neighborhood, for development which it says would benefit the entire community. You might think a Supreme Court decision would be the final chapter. But Kelo doesn't think that way.

"We're gonna go to the House of Representatives in Washington, we're gonna legislate in the legislature in the State of Connecticut, we're gonna continue to fight."

In her letter to the editor today, Susette Kelo says when the developers come here, quote, “I will chase them from my property. We will not leave our homes. We have not yet begun to fight.”

"It's pretty tough to do all this work, and continue with your life and work full-time jobs and everything else."

But Kelo won't quit now, won't even think of it. After all, she says this is not about money, it's not about principle, it's about something much more basic.

"I'm just a simple person, just trying to keep their home."

News Channel 8 asked Susette Kelo what she thinks about being the face of cause for people around the nation. She says she never really looked at it that way but she's happy to have the support from all those people, she says that has re-invigorated her as far as fighting her fight.

Proposed Amendment for Tennessee

State Sen. Mae Beavers writes:
At least eight states forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development unless it is to eliminate blight. Other states either expressly allow a taking for private economic purposes or have not spoken clearly to the question.

What about Tennessee? Could your property be taken for economic development?

We have already seen several occasions in Tennessee where private businesses have been taken to make way for private development that would bring in more tax money.

It is my intention to file a Constitutional Amendment to make sure that this does not happen in Tennessee in the future. The Constitutional Amendment is only one way to protect your rights. This route would take longer since it has to pass two legislatures.

More immediately, I intend to make sure that the laws are written in such a way that your local government cannot infringe on your individual property rights by taking your property for economic development.

In a newspaper article written by James Madison in 1792, one of our founding fathers expressed his thoughts on property rights: “If the United States mean to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just governments, they will equally respect the rights of property.”

It is shocking to see what has happened in this country. It is more than shocking to believe that you could lose your home to private developers.

The law has always allowed government to seize land for the public use. But would our Founding Fathers have considered high-end condos and big end stores owned by private corporations “public”?

IJ to Appeal Norwood, Ohio Case

The fight continues:
Less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that eminent domain for private profit is constitutional under the U.S. Constitution, the Institute for Justice will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to accept a case that could rein in eminent domain abuse and protect Ohio homeowners under state law.

“With this case, the Ohio Supreme Court has a prime opportunity to do what the U.S. Supreme Court refused to do—protect home and small business owners from eminent domain abuse,” said Bert Gall, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which is representing the Norwood property owners for free. “The U.S. Supreme Court said states are free to provide greater protection to their citizens, and given the way Ohio cities have shamelessly abused the power of eminent domain, the state’s highest court should do just that.”

IJ will file papers today asking the state’s High Court to review a decision by the Hamilton County Court of Appeals that said it was okay for the City of Norwood to condemn Carl and Joy Gamble’s home of 35 years—along with the rental home owned by small businessman Joe Horney—so private developer Jeffrey Anderson can add new chain stores, condominiums and office space to his $500,000,000 real estate empire.

The Protest

Good description of the protest in New London here:
More than 300 protesters from as far away as Maine and New Jersey packed the steps of City Hall and spilled onto State Street Tuesday to voice their opinion of eminent domain.

It wasn't good.

Ted Whittenkraus of Wells, Maine, said he came not because “this decision affected everyone in the country who owns property.”

“It devalued everyone's property,” Whittenkraus said. “It tore the Constitution apart; it's in as bad a condition as that flag at the top of the building there.”

He pointed to the dirty, tattered American flag flying on top of City Hall.

“That's in shreds. It's a disgrace,” he said.

Whittenkraus, 56, also pointed out that the median age of the crowd probably hovered somewhere around 40. There was a lot of white hair and balding heads in that angry sea of shouting people.

“If you look around, these aren't your typical protest people,” he said. “These are adults. We're not here because mom and dad are supporting us while we write our thesis on what's wrong with the country. We're middle class Americans who have jobs to go to and families to support and we care very deeply about this.”

Among them were brothers John and George Mytrowitz of the Mulberry Street Coalition of Newark, N.J., who said they are facing the loss of their family business, an auto body shop that's been in the city for 92 years, to eminent domain.

“They want to take it away and give it to a developer who's connected with city hall officials,” George Mytrowitz said.

“A convicted drug felon, also,” John added.

“They want to take it away and give it to him, and I guess they're all going to get rich off of everybody else's property,” George said.

“We're here in support of Susette Kelo,” John said, “and of anybody that's being abused by this plague of eminent domain across the country.”

Debbie Montgomery of East Haddam said she came not because she faced any such action in her town, but to support the cause.

“I'm here because I'm a new homeowner,” she said. “It took us two years to build our home. And I think I would just be devastated if they came through and said we're going to take your house just because we can.”

“I am here for the same reason,” said Karen Goyette of Danielson. “This whole situation makes me very angry, and we have to stand up for what is ours. Simple. This is America, things like this are not supposed to happen.”

Bill Downie of Oakdale was one of several people who carried bright yellow flags depicting a serpent with the words “Don't tread on me,” modeled after the flag carried by Colonists in the Revolutionary War.

“I think we were fighting against a country back then that's not even as tyrannical as our own country is right now,” Downie said. “I'm sure our founding fathers are rolling over in the grave, because that wasn't their intent to have something like this happen.”

Ted Loebenberg of Providence, a friend of one of the families in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, said he came to support the family, but not for that alone.

“This doesn't stop any city government from taking whatever they want,” Loebenberg said. “They just did it in Rhode Island. They took a gentleman's farm that had been in his family for 40 years because Fidelity wanted to expand their commercial property.”

Steve Pudlow of Norwich said, “This is an issue of what this country was founded on, and if your property can be taken away just because some large corporation or some developer manages to buy a city councilman, no property owner is safe. If a Hooters can pay more taxes, then you can be tossed out to make room for Hooters.”

Ken Smiley of Plainfield was there, he said, because of developer Gene Arganese's plans to build an auto racetrack there has had an impact on his home.

“The result of this is already being felt in Plainfield,” he said. “People have sold their property, thinking, ‘Hey, my property may be taken from me.' That kind of threat scares people all over this country.”

The protesters joined in singing “This Land Is Your Land” and shouting “Let them stay! Let them stay!” for the residents of Fort Trumbull.

John Fitzpatrick of Westmoreland, N.H., said he came down for the rally because he did not believe a 5-4 Supreme Court decision was “a mandate to throw people out of their houses.”

“It's almost surreal to me that something like this could happen in this country,” Fitzpatrick said.

Kathleen Maroney of New York City put it another way.

“It's not a New London thing, it's a national thing,” she said. “My great grandparents came to this country as immigrants, worked hard to buy their little houses. The dream is gone. They could take it from you now. The American dream is now shattered.”

But Still Some Hope?

Efforts in Connecticut:
The top Republican in the state House of Representatives gathered support Tuesday for a bill that would ban eminent domain for economic development projects.

House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, collected about two dozen signatures from House members, including Republicans and some Democrats. All of them support voting on the legislation during a possible summer session planned in the coming weeks to consider bills vetoed by the governor.

Ward's staff said he needs 76 co-sponsors for the bill to be taken up. But Democratic legislative leaders said they are not certain that would guarantee a debate on the legislation. Some Senate Republicans have also said they want a special session.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, announced Tuesday that she supports Ward's efforts to have the General Assembly call itself back into session to deal with eminent domain. Rell has not said whether she would use her powers to call lawmakers back to the Capitol.

New London Pressing Forward

In today's news:
Some Connecticut residents staged a protest Tuesday night before a city council meeting in New London, Conn.

But council members did not change their minds about a plan to seize private homes to make way for a private development.

The council heard a lot of criticism during a public hearing.

Their decision to take some homes to make room for the private development was the "eminent domain" case that made it all the way to the Supreme Court last month where the judges ruled in the council's favor.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Both Parties Support Property Rights in Texas

In Texas, both Democrats and Republicans are supporting property rights:

Saying the U.S. Supreme Court erred when it ruled recently that local governments can seize land for private development, Texas lawmakers are rallying around proposed constitutional amendments and other legislation to help prevent such seizures.

Both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats in Austin said last week that they support the proposals to allow Texans to vote on the issue this November, saying the high court's ruling undermines the fundamental right to own private property.

Remember how Nancy Pelosi looked like an idiot when she talked about Kelo the other day? People are noticing:

People Craving Liberty on July 4

This is what our country is all about:

Protestors are using Independence day to make a point about civil liberties.

Some people think freedom is at risk on this fourth of July.

The demonstrators went to the Statehouse to make their claim that citizens are letting government, and the courts, go too far.
Demonstrators at the Statehouse criticized supreme court justices, and a recent decision on eminent domain.

John Tierney on Eminent Domain

Sad stories from Pittsburgh:

In the 1960's, the bulldozers moved into East Liberty, until then the busiest shopping district outside downtown. Some of the leading businessmen there wanted to upgrade the neighborhood, so hundreds of small businesses and
thousands of people were moved to make room for upscale apartment buildings, parking lots, housing projects, roads and a pedestrian mall.

I was working there in a drugstore whose owners cursed the project, and at first I thought they were just behind the times. But their worst fears were confirmed. The shopping district was destroyed. The drugstore closed, along with the department stores, movie theaters, office buildings and most other businesses.

You'd think a fiasco like that would have humbled Pittsburgh's planners, but they just went on. They kicked out a small company to give H. J. Heinz more room. Mayor Tom Murphy has attracted national attention for his grand designs - and fights - to replace thriving small businesses downtown and on the North Side with more upscale tenants.

The city managed to clear out shops and an office building to make room for a new Lazarus department store, built with $50 million in public funds, but Lazarus did not live up to its name. It has shut down and left a vacant building. Meanwhile, the city's finances are in ruins, and businesses and residents have been fleeing the high taxes required to pay off decades of urban renewal projects and corporate subsidies.

Yet the mayor still yearns for more acquisitions. He welcomed the Supreme Court decision, telling The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that eminent domain "is a great equalizer when you're having a conversation with people." Well, that's one way to describe the power to take people's property.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Molly Ivins Sides with . . . Scalia and Thomas?

As one who cares a whale of a lot more about personal rights than property rights, let me leap right into the fray over a Supreme Court decision on the side of the property rights advocates, many of whom I normally consider nut balls. But at least they're more in touch with reality than a majority of the Supreme Court.

The justice who nailed this one was Sandra Day O'Connor, bless her. She wrote in dissent: "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result."

Condos in Monrovia

When Bernard Buller bought an old gas station in Monrovia 22 years ago, the corner lot facing railroad tracks and a cemetery must have seemed like the last place anyone would want to put houses.

But Monrovia has changed. Now, with a decades-long city agenda to upgrade Monrovia's image and property-tax values, and a red-hot housing market, Buller's lot has become a prime development site.

Buller doesn't want to sell his property, at the corner of Duarte Road and California Avenue. But city officials insist they need his lot to improve the whole block. And they're initiating eminent domain proceedings to get it.
But he's paid off the mortgage on his property. He relies on his tenants' rent for income. He can't find any other suitable place to work on cars. He just doesn't want to leave.

"I'm dug in there, big time," Buller said. "Everything in this world is not about money. This is my life. This income I have coming in, I need that to live. And what I'm doing with my life is my hobby. I like my life the way it is."

On Wisconsin

Signs of progress:
Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager says she she will hold four public hearings about the state’s power of eminent domain.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed the state of Connecticut to seize several homes to build an office complex, Lautenschlager said that she would like to explain Wisconsin’s position on the matter.

“Since the ruling, I have talked to many Wisconsinites who have serious concerns about the implication for homeowners,” she said.

“Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”

The Supreme Court decision gave the states great discretion in placing further restrictions on the taking of private property.

No times or dates for the hearings have yet been announced, but Lautenschlager said they will be held in Janesville, Eau Claire, Wausau and Milwaukee.