Hit & Run

Kelo v. Complexity

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John Norquist, a former mayor of Milwaukee and president of the Congress for New Urbanism, offers PBS a liberal case against Kelo.

Norquist found the Court's decision "shocking, really. The founders of the country put the word 'public use' in the 5th Amendment for a reason, because they wanted property rights to be part of our democracy. And there are really legitimate reasons for condemnation . . . But [Kelo] opens it up to virtually anything; any municipality could say 'Well, the land will be more valuable.'"

The "real problem," thinks Norquist, "is that municipalities haven't been that good at predicting what actions will increase the value of property. I mean, there's empty lots all over urban sites in America where cities have condemned land and then it just sits there idle."

That's Norquist the ex-mayor, of course. For Norquist the New Urbanist, Kelo is a threat to the "complexity of cities" championed by preservationist, pro-pedestrian planners. "The key to revitalization of American cities," he said, "is the complexity of cities, the form of cities, the streets and blocks that were being ripped apart [by urban renewal projects] in the '60s and '70s and '80s. Cities have finally started to figure out that the urban form is actually valuable and they don't need to tear cities down and try to turn them into the suburbs. And that's really what this decision -- the majority opinion sort of implies, that somehow cities automatically know what adds value."

Back in 1999, Randall O'Toole wrote about New Urbanism for reason here. [Note: I've shortened and simplified this last reference since putting up the post.]