Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Eminent Domain - What's Yours Is Ours

PTG at Plains Feeder has a post about a bill before the Unicameral to create a special set of tax breaks for Cabella's to build a store in Sarpy County. The Lincoln Journal Star article linked by PTG doesn't specifically mention eminent domain one way or another, but a previous, similar Cabella's deal in Kansas (also linked by PTG) did include that. Even without eminent domain the bill looks like a sweetheart deal for Cabella's, who stand to get a juicy tax break for a retail store that "promotes tourism." What's in it for the taxpayers is not quite so clear.

In a previous post here on eminent domain at DLMSY, Tycho wrote about the Kelo v. New London case currently before the US Supreme Court. We also opined on the City of Lincoln's recent plan, which collapsed in a firestorm of opposition, to misuse eminent domain for a private development effort.

There's no decision yet on the Kelo case, but it won't be long now. The Washington Post has a review of the case with a fear that upholding property rights might hinder Governments' Power to Do Good:
Revitalization Projects Hinge On Eminent-Domain Lawsuit: "City officials around the nation are watching uneasily as the Supreme Court deliberates. D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), who is president of the National League of Cities, said he is worried that the case could interfere with 'the critical need of cities to use this tool -- reluctantly -- for public purpose and benefits.

'Williams said the success of the Kelo lawsuit represents the growing political strength of what he views as radical property-rights activists.

'Some of these people wouldn't use eminent domain to build a highway or a railroad,' Williams said.

The Institute for Justice says it accepts the use of eminent domain for roads, schools and parks and opposes it for privately owned, for-profit operations. Lawyers there say they have taken Kelo's case because they think it represents a classic case of excessive use of government power. 'It's an unholy marriage between land-hungry developers and tax-hungry local governments,' said John E. Kramer, an institute spokesman. Institute officials say they found 10,282 incidents of filed or threatened condemnation procedures in which land was given to private, for-profit parties, such as Target or Costco stores or casino parking lots, between Jan. 1, 1998, and Dec. 31, 2002."[emphasis added]
Yeah, they're "reluctant" to (ab)use eminent domain--like Planned Parenthood wants abortions to be rare. Leave it to the WaPo to try to cast those trying to defend traditional property rights against ever larger government as "radical." It's not the continuous expansion of government power into whole new areas that's "radical," it's trying to stop that.

The Institute for Justice, which brought the Kelo case to court has a long history of defending individual rights against goverment oppression. Check out their web site, and make a contribution, if you can. They are what the ACLU should be and never has been.

There's also a blog, Eminent Domain Watch, specializing in tracking eminent domain abuses.

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