Citizens Learn Techniques to fight Eminent Domain Abuse
(Note: This is an excellent piece, clearly illustrating the minefield that opens before us all when language and its interpretation -- including definitions -- is employed by government.)
By Mary F. Stump [email protected]
Lee County Republicans
Lee County, Florida
To submit a Letter to the Editor: [email protected]
The Institute for Justice (IJ) http://www.ij.org held a workshop and strategy session on eminent domain abuse at the Hilton International in West Palm Beach, Florida, February 25, 2006. IJ senior attorney Dana Berliner, Castle Coalition http://www.castlecoalition.org Coordinator Steven Anderson and Director of Communications Lisa Knepper were the speakers and educators.
Each shared his expertise in tactics and communication with property owners who were in various stages of losing their homesteaded property to city redevelopment. Riviera Beach residents, who enjoy fabulous views, may have to relocate to subsidized housing. However, they are bound by a common goal and were advised to stay focused and smile while looking for needles in bureaucratic paper stacks that might put a sling on the long arm of government.
All in attendance received a binder with instructional materials on how to fight back by using grassroots, the media, statutes, legal actions and by being vocal at meetings.
The abuses began in 1954 when the Supreme Court chose not to get involved in a dispute between Berman v. Parker http://www.propertyrightsresearch.org/2004/articles11/berman_v.htm, a case where developers wanted to eliminate a blighted area around the White House that imposed an unavoidable eyesore on photo shoots. The Supreme Court denial gave local government a green light. They were able to proceed by altering the phrase "public use" to "public purpose." This became significant, because it involved condemnation of non-blighted property and transfer of ownership from one private party to another.
Once "public purpose" was established, the amount of land needed to complete a plan was left to the discretion of the legislative branch, setting the stage for Kelo v. The City of New London, Connecticut http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-108.ZS.html
In this case, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the mere possibility that property may increase tax revenue or jobs is the only justification necessary for eminent domain -- literally erasing the Public Use clause from the U.S. Constitution.
The Justices who affirmed the Kelo decision were Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer.
Today, Florida is on record as one of the worst states for property rights abuses. However, reform may take place within the next three months. Contact Florida representatives and ask them to support, “Meaningful Eminent Domain Reform.”
Tucked into the multiple definitions of the government term, “blight” might be your residence. “Blight” lies in the eyes of redevelopment agencies.
Blight – Physical and economic conditions within an area that cause a reduction of or lack of proper utilization of that area. A blighted area is one that has deteriorated or has been arrested in its development by physical, economic, or social forces. http://www.mass.gov/envir/smart_growth_toolkit/pages/glossary.html
Blighted – A run-down area in a community or a neighborhood that is close to becoming a slum. – U.S. Treasury OTS (Office of Thrift Supervision, in charge of banks, savings and loan associations, etc.) http://www.ots.treas.gov/glossary/gloss-n.html