It’s been one full year since Kelo v. New London, the landmark Supreme Court case which effectively said it was OK for government to use eminent domain as a meanst to take private property for private development.
The horrible decision caused a national furor. Property rights activists went beserk, and rightfully so. What’s more, state and local legislatures all over the country reacted with proposed laws to curb the abuse and help level the playing field for homeowners and merchants who too often find themselves standing alone against the rapacious Axis of Greed– unchecked developers, corporate Goliaths and craven politicians.
In her dissenting opnion, Justice Sandra O’Connor sounded the alarm: Look out, your neighborhood, too, might be seized, bulldozed and replaced with a hotel. Or a parking garage. Or a big-box store.
Or whatever the hell they want to put there.
Used in this fashion, eminent domain is constitutionally-protected theft. I’ve been saying this for years, ever since they tried to obliterate a neighborhood of homes, small businesses and churches in New Rochelle and replace them with an IKEA furniture store.
But guess what? A year after Kelo, the eminent domain scourage is getting worse.
That’s the assessment of he Institute for Justice, a libertarian organization based in Washington, D.C. that gives legal help to individuals fighting eminent domain. The institute reports that over the past year, more than 5,700 properties in the U.S. either have been seized or threatened with condemnation if the owners don’t agree to sell. Repeat– that’s in just one year.
Compare that with an average of 2,000 properties per year over a five-year period before the Kelo case was heard.
Another group fighting eminent domain, the Castle Coalition, calls New York “one of the worst states in the country for eminent domain abuse.”
“This enthusiasm for eminent domain is encouraged by the courts which rubber stamp every condemnation and seem to consider any kind of private undertaking a public use,” says the coalition on its Web Site, www.castlecoalition.org.
Sounds like they took that right out of one my columns.
Because I’ve written so much on this subject, people often ask me for advice on how to thwart emient domain. I don’t give advice as a general rule, but I do know that citizen involvement is paramount. You’ve got to organize and take your cause en masse to the people you elect to protect your rights. You have to fight City Hall, and you can win, too, as the IKEA example in New Rochelle proved.
Also, check out the aforementoned Castle Coalition internet site. Log on, and you’ll find a “survival guide” on how to fight the bad guys.
This country is waking up. It’s not just the defenseless poor who are getting screwed now. The middle class is being besieged by the power brokers, and I can’t think of a more active front in this Class War than the issue of eminent domain.