Kelo No Go

The eminent-domain-abuse-lovin' NY Times has a front page story about the inability of the controversial project in New London, Connecticut to get underway:

Wary of public disapproval and challenges from groups like the Institute for Justice, the law firm that represented the holdouts in court, the state and the city have halted plans to evict the remaining residents. Investors are concerned about building on land that some people consider a symbol of property rights. At the same time, contract disputes and financial uncertainty have delayed construction even in areas that have been cleared.

With so many complications, some people are unsure whether the city's initial vision for the property - a mix of housing, hotel and office space intended to transform part of its riverfront and bolster a declining tax base - is even realistic anymore.

"Winning took so long," said Mayor Jane L. Glover, "that the plan may not be as viable in 2005 or 2006 or 2007."

That's one way to look at it. Another way is to acknowledge that the project was misguided from the get-go, which is one of the reasons why the city had to resort to eminent domain in the first place. If there had been a true market demand for the luxury hotel blah blah blah, you'd figure the developers would have bought the people out fair and square.

Deeper in the Times story comes this chestnut:

One point of contention: [Developer] Corcoran Jennison is resisting pressure from the city to build a waterfront hotel first, as was initially planned, out of concern that there is no market for one.

Oh, come on, boys, just build it on mostly on the taxpayers' dime and they will come. Whole thing here.

Reason has been covering the Kelo case since the get-go, back in 2001, when the then-mayor of New London was saying nobody wanted to live in the Fort Trumbull area anyway because it smelled so bad (which of course makes it a great site for a posh resort). Our interview in the November 2005 with the Institute for Justice's Scott Bullock, who represented the good guys in front of the Supreme Court, is online here.

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  • Scott Ferguson||

    The obvious question is: Why is Jane Glover still mayor?

  • ||

    So here we have an interesting situation: the supreme betrays its fundamental commitments and approves a course of action that practically everyone else thinks is depraved and untenable (except the NY Times). Then, because everyone thinks it sucks, the parties involved decide it may not be possible. So, we have a legal act that nobody wants make. I just think it's kind of neat.

  • ||

    The New York Times, as quality reporting papers go, has an editorial section as bitch-ass as the Wall Street Journal's. I Hope all their editors get eminent domained out of their homes and then get AIDS when an HIV+ moving guy cuts himself and spills a few drops of blood in the Editor's drinks.

    Other than this douche bag mayor, is there one politician in America who has come out in favor of the Kelo decision (other than a few other mayors I suppose)? Maybe outlawing eminent domain might be a position that could help the Libertarian party get over that vaunted 2% mark.

  • Stephen Macklin||

    In the Declaration of Independence the founders of this great nation wrote, "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." They also built into the structure of our government a process by which we the people can seek to change the nature and function of our government without abolishing it and beginning again.

    We the undersigned agree with our founders that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed and feel that our government has exceeded the bounds of that consent. We believe that the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding the exercise of eminent domain was reached with complete disregard for the plain language of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

    We the people therefore ask that the Constitution of the United States be amended to include the following language:

    The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, no government, or agency thereof, within these United States shall have the authority to take property from any person, corporation, or organization through exercise of eminent domain for other than a public use without just compensation.

    Public use shall be understood to be property the government owns or retains the paramount interest in, and the public has a legal right to use. Public use shall be understood to include property the government owns and maintains as a secure facility. Public use shall not be construed to include economic development or increased tax revenue. Public use of such property shall be maintained for a period of not less than 25 years.

    Just compensation shall be the higher of twice the average of the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months, or twice the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions. Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.

    Sign the petition

  • ||

    The government and rent-seeking developers take away, but the free market balks. One can hope this will be enough to kill the project and let those people stay.

  • ||

    Here's an even better version of Stephen's amendment:

    "The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, no government, or agency thereof, within these United States shall have the authority to take property from any person, corporation, or organization through exercise of eminent domain."

    Why leave the "public use" loophole that started the problem in the first place? What legitimate public uses are left? Governments at all levels already own more than enough land for roads, courthouses, capital buildings, etc. Let's just stop eminent domain for good, and stop worrying about eminent domain "abuse" -- it's always abuse to take something someone doesn't want to sell.

  • Stephen Macklin||


    i agree completely. But the reality is that getting government to give up that power - or any power for that matter - is a fight that likely cannot be won. Just trying to reduce the reach of that power is already tilting at windmills.

  • Rich Ard||

    "What legitimate public uses are left?"

    We still need wider roads and more highways.

  • R C Dean||

    But the reality is that getting government to give up that power - or any power for that matter - is a fight that likely cannot be won.

    Not peacefully, no.

    Just curious, but has any government had its power rolled back on a semi-permanent basis without blood in the street?

    I used to think New Zealand, but I understand they've gone back to their cradle-to-grave nanny state.

  • Stephen Macklin||

    R C Dean,

    You may be right, but I would prefer to at least try to do it peacefully first. If not with eminent domain perhaps with campaign finance.

  • ||

    We're Europe, guys. Get over it.

  • ||

    Why does New London hate America?

  • ||

    Europe? I wish! (In some ways.) It would be nice if abortion, religion, drinking, "morality" and sex were not huge issues here, either.


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