Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Eminent Domain, or Illicit Claim?

The unconstitutional abuses of government has long been a hot button issue for me. Eminent domain is one area of potential abuse, although in and of itself it is not unconstitutional. Two recent stories which I link to below show the government at its abusive worst.

First, a little background, and a story from a few years ago.

The fifth amendment of the constitution says, in part:
nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation
It was always my understanding that "public use" meant things like roads, or power plants, or maybe even a park; something that was not there before, that the government decided was necessary for the good of its citizens.

A couple of years ago, the issue came up prominently here in the Twin Cities. It concerned Best Buy, the city of Richfield, and a couple of car dealerships located in Richfield.

Best Buy's headquarters was located in Eden Prairie, a suburb in the southwest part of the metro area. Richfield is a suburb in the southern part of the metro; and the two car dealerships were less than 6 miles to the east of Best Buy's headquarters. Apparently Best Buy thought Richfield was a better location for its headquarters, and Richfield was willing to offer up the land on which the car dealerships were located. So they forced them to move, and Best Buy got a new home.

I'm sure Richfield justified this by saying they could get more property tax revenue from the rich owners of the big new shiny building, and they would of course spend this money on projects that would benefit the public.

Of course, they are right that they will get more revenue. Will they spend it wisely? Maybe. But the real problem I have is this. What they are doing in effect is telling one business they're not good enough. We want this other business in our city. So therefore, you have to leave. Not because we need a freeway here. Just because your business isn't as profitable as this other one.

Is that enough abuse for you? Maybe you don't care because it's businesses that are involved. They're rich, right? Who cares about their problems?

What if they did it to your house?

This story on the local news last night, and this national news item, shows government doing just that.

As these two stories show, it does happen to individual homeowners. And again, they're not condemning them to make way for a road, or because they're garbage houses. They're just saying, "You're not really well off enough for us. Your house isn't very fancy. We want rich people with big houses to live here."

Too strong a wording, you say? Here's a quote from the first story:

Mayor Boynton says eminent domain laws allow city officials to redevelop areas considered to be blighted, “This area has substandard housing, substandard parking, and aging housing stock. I think it is just prime real estate that is ripe for redevelopment.”

From what I hear, there's no blight in the neighborhood in question. Aging housing stock? Aren't all houses aging? Sounds like a code word for what I said earlier. They want newer houses that contribute higher property tax. His last sentence confirms that, let me repeat it:

I think it is just prime real estate that is ripe for redevelopment.

It's just real estate, not someone's home. A home someone has lived in for 28 years in their persuit of happiness, which, as I recall reading somewhere, is our right.

I don't care how much extra money the city could raise with this tactic; it's just not right. It's evil. It's another example of government arrogance, and in my opinion, unconstitutional.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Eminent domain is one area of potential abuse, although in and of itself it is not unconstitutional."
Really? Where in the US Constitution is the federal government granted power to take private property for public use?
Justice Stephen Field, in Boom v Patterson (1878), approved of eminent domain but made no pretense that it is a constitutionally granted power.