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    Sunday, January 09, 2005

    Kelo v. New London: Eminent domain before high court, Transferring private land to other private hands at issue

    Story dated 09 January 2005

    "Does the U.S. Constitution allow the government to take property from private party in order to give it to another private party because the new owner might produce more profit and more taxes for the City from the land?" That is the question that Kelo v. New London is going to address this 22 February. The answer to that question to any thinking person is obviously 'no'. However, the obviousness of the correct answer does not keep me from worrying -- this case is going to be tried before a court that clearly sees an inalienable right to kill an unborn child in the Constitution, but isn't sure whether or not the Constitution allows the right of the people to keep and bear arms to be infringed. Here's what's going on: The Constitution of these United States provides that "private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation." This means that eminent domain is expressly allowed under the Constitution, but only for public use. I don't know about you, but to me 'public use' does not entail turning the seized property over to a private developer. And yet, this is what is happening all over the country. In Alabaster, Alabama, for example, the city saw fit to condemn and seize the homes and property of multiple families so they could give the land to a developer who would then build a Super Wal-Mart, which would generate a lot more tax revenue for the city. I don't remember for sure whether the property owners won their suit against the city, but even if they did, a victory would become moot if the Supreme Court rules in favor of governments and against private property owners.

    In New London, Connecticut, the city has seen fit to condemn the properties of "longtime homeowners, landlords and businessmen... for "private" use -- the construction of a hotel, health club, condominiums and offices." The supreme court of that state ruled that the government was within its rights to do this since the increased tax revenue could be construed as a public benefit. In February, the United States Supreme Court will review this case and if they uphold the ruling, any state or local government anywhere in the country will be able to seize the property of anyone -- this means you -- for the express purpose of selling to a private developer to increase the tax revenue they get from the property. You, dear reader, should watch this case very closely because if the Supreme Court rules against the property owners, they are ruling against you. And if that should happen, you should join your fellow citizens and call for an impeachment of each member of the court that voted to uphold the right of governments to take private property for private use. For those of you who might not own a lot of property, who might rent, consider the following scenario. You have found a good apartment, for a good price and very convenient to your work or your university. After you are finally unpacked, you receive notice from the landlord that the city has condemned the property to make way for a shopping center. How are you going to feel when you have to re-pack, and move again into an apartment that is maybe more expensive and less convenient to you?

    The Institute for Justice, a Washington-based public interest group, sums up the stakes in this case nicely: "This ruling is an invitation to disaster, because every business generates more taxes than a home and every big business generates more taxes than a small one. If the ruling stands, any property can be taken through eminent domain." Be sure to keep a close eye on this case and how your representatives respond to it. By their stance, you will get to see whether they really represent you or not. You may find that some of them who had you fooled really support only government and business interests. Just remember that on Election Day.


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    "If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

    --Samuel Adams

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