Bush and Eminent Domain

February 12, 2004

By Dan Kennedy


126 Brookline Ave.

Boston, MA 02215


Fax: 617-536-1463

To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@phx.com


If you search the LexisNexis database for the past two years, you will ... not find is a single reference to what Bush did in Arlington, Texas, in the early 1990s, when he was the part-owner of and principal glad-hander for the Texas Rangers baseball team.

Bush ... had an entire 13-acre neighborhood moved -- well, flattened -- so that he could build a new ballpark for the Rangers.

He did this by persuading the Texas legislature to create an independent authority to take the land by eminent domain and use it for a stadium -- a remarkable piece of sports socialism that the former owners of the Red Sox unsuccessfully tried to replicate a decade later. (Note: that plan, apparently dead and gone, would have displaced the offices of the Boston Phoenix, which opposed it strenuously.)

The Arlington property owners, who were pretty well-off themselves, went to court and tried to fight back.

But Bush and the Rangers got their way.

Eventually the authority -- that is, the taxpayers -- paid $4.2 million for the land, and another $191 million to build the stadium itself, or more than three times the contribution that the Rangers themselves were required to make.

As Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose put it in Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (2000), "Here in the Great State, the son of a sitting president served as what Mexicans call a prestanombre -- a small player who lends his name to a project run by a big player. Our prestanombre got the taxpayers to provide a big chunk of added value to his business, was elected governor, and made a $15 million profit on a $600,000 investment and his family name."