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Offline BigRog

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The supreme court got it wrong
« on: June 23, 2005, 01:21:30 pm »
Court: Cities may seize homes for economic development

Associated Press Writer

June 23, 2005, 11:57 AM EDT

WASHINGTON -- A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in New London, Conn., and other communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling _ assailed by dissenting Justice Sanday Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America _ was a defeat for residents of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

Writing for the court, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including _ but by no means limited to _ new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

"It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," he said.

O'Connor, who has often been a key swing vote at the court, issued a stinging dissent, arguing that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.

"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word."

Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result."

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.

"It was the worst decision that I've ever had to make in my life, but I am charged with doing what's best for the 26,000 people that live in New London," said state Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, who voted for taking the land when he was a member of city council. "That to me was enacting the eminent domain process designed to revitalize a city that's only six and a half square miles, with nowhere to go."

The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

O'Connor was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned in recent years, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners.

New London, a town of less than 26,000, once was a center of the whaling industry and later became a manufacturing hub. More recently the city has suffered the kind of economic woes afflicting urban areas across the country, with losses of residents and jobs.

The New London neighborhood that will be swept away includes Victorian-era houses and small businesses that in some instances have been owned by several generations of families. Among the New London residents in the case is a couple in their 80s who have lived in the same home for more than 50 years.

City officials envision a commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum.

New London was backed in its appeal by the National League of Cities, which argued that a city's eminent domain power was critical to spurring urban renewal with development projects such Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Kansas City's Kansas Speedway.

Under the ruling, residents still will be entitled to "just compensation" for their homes as provided under the Fifth Amendment. However, Kelo and the other homeowners had refused to move at any price, calling it an unjustified taking of their property.

The case was one of six resolved by justices on Thursday. Still pending at the high court are cases dealing with the constitutionality of government Ten Commandments displays and the liability of Internet file-sharing services for clients' illegal swapping of copyrighted songs and movies. The Supreme Court next meets on Monday.

The case is Kelo et al v. City of New London, 04-108.
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Offline Jerrymac

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The supreme court got it wrong
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2005, 07:59:24 pm »
Let's see here. The town wants more revenue (Tax dollars) They, for some reason, can't/won't raise taxes on the people (residents of the comunity). So they are going to force them out in order to put in private businesses that will (supposidly) generate more taxes for the small comunity, that is now moved out by force.

So, in a round about way, these people are being taxed. Right out of their homes.

Perhaps people from all over the country should protest this by sending letters to the city officials telling them that if they go through with this their small town will become a ghost town. People will boycot it to the max. There will be bad publicity spead all across the world, telling how they ran people out of their homes just to attract tourist.

This really should be done to not only stop this injustice from being done, but, if they go through with it, which city will be next?
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Offline Martha Beemom

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The supreme court got it wrong
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2005, 11:50:26 am »
I picked up my husband from work the day this came out. I hadn't listened to the radio or watched any tv that day. I think I was messing with my bees and doing "mom" stuff.

He gets in the car, "Did you hear what the Supreme Court did today?!?". This is really sad. I live in Kansas City, we have had loads of development for malls, giving the companies TIF's (no taxes for a jillion years), taking people's homes, giving them hardly anything. Oh, yeah go buy a new home with that money.

The historic neigborhoods are in danger. It used to be they HAD to prove the area was "blighted", then that defination became pretty foggy. You used to be able to hold out for a decent price for your home.

Can we "undo" a decision like this? I don't see my reps or senators wanting to help the regular little guy - just the big corporate dollar. Hey look! We brought Saks 5th Ave to KC! Guess what it closed last year. Hey look at the newest coolest mall! While the core of the city is ignored.

More parking downtown! Yeah tear down the art deco buildings rather than restore them. Love the acres of asphalt. : P

Then they tell us of the great jobs. Sure service jobs that pay less than $10 an hour - tell that to the guy who is an engineer, autoplant worker, former TWA employee etc.

This decision is a bad one.