Condemners Still Coming Up $hort

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Working on yesterday's New London, CT story, I made several attempts to confim with the New London Development Corporation that none of the revenue-generating parts of the Fort Trumbull development (hotel, condos, retail outfits) currently have any signed commitments for funding. Today I got a reply from John Brooks, development manager for the waterfront and Fort Trumbull:

The public access Fort Trumbull Riverwalk is complete (i.e. paid for). The funding came from two grants. More than $1 million in state funded Fort Trumbull Project funds were used for shoreline structural restoration and environmental remediation, as well as replacement of a 400′ long bulkhead (seawall). More than $500,000 in Maritime Heritage Park (state) funds were used for the installation of walkway, lighting, benches, etc.

Parcel 3A (Fort Trumbull Office Building Project) was ground leased to a private developer last December. This parcel (mostly former Navy land) and 88,000 sq. ft. building are now on the City's tax rolls. The building is under construction at the present time (exterior and interior repairs), and is being marketed for future tenants. City Planning & Zoning approval was obtained in late 2001.

Residences at Fort Trumbull (Parcel 2A, 2B and 2C) Project is pending approval at the City of New London Planning & Zoning Commission. These parcels (alll former Navy land) have been remediated, and are infrastructure ready for development. Funding for construction will be the responsibility of the private developer. Property will become taxable as of the date of the ground lease, which must be signed no later than construction start (anticipated next spring).

Hotel Project (Parcel 1B) design requires coordination with USCG Museum (Parcel 1A) design for parking, infrastructure easements and related issues. This coordination has been initiated, and will be ongoing during the next few months. Once these issues are resolved, hotel and museum designs will be presented to City Planning & Zoning for approval. Hotel project will be privately funded. Museum Project, as you noted, will have a mix of funds—federal, state and private. The federal legislation is in place (approximately $10 million). The "quiet phase" of a private capital campaign is now underway.

Parcels 1A and 1B are comprised primarily of three properties: former U.S. Navy (Undersea Warfare Center), a former oil terminal, a former Amtrak rail yard. All were heavily polluted. State funds were used for aquisition, environmental remediation, and installation of new infrastructure (streets, sidewalks and underground utilities). A $2 million Federal grant was applied to the infrastructure installation.

So there is no funding for the hotel, the condos, or the stores, but there is apparently a parcel leased to a private developer that is currently being taxed and developed. Everything else is coming from the state or the feds. Which, given the number of anti-eminent domain bills in Congress and state legislatures, raises a question: If politicians like Connecticut's Governor Jodi M. Rell are serious about wanting to keep people in their homes, wouldn't they be better off not giving millions of dollars to projects that involve forcible evictions? The way to end a problem is to stop funding it, yet so far the only entity that has taken this step is BB&T, a private bank holding company.

It would certainly be politically difficult for the Nutmeg State's executive to hold up funding now; people would ask why, after so many people have been kicked out of their homes, the state isn't stepping up to make it worth the trouble. But there's a simple answer: because as long as the state keeps the money coming, people will keep getting kicked out of their homes.

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  1. This suggests an approach, particularly in those states with a citizen initiative process: encode in state law (or even the state constitutions, where possible) that no state funds will be disbursed to projects that involve the use of eminent domain to take property from one private party and hand it over to another. Be sure to include long-term leases, to keep that loophole closed.

  2. One has to wonder how much of those funds wound up in the pockets of local notables too.

    Saying it didn’t make economic sense for the town doesn’t mean it didn’t make economic sense for certain people in the town.

    Not that this makes it better of course.

    Jake
    (who is cynical that way)

  3. Before you all get into it with Joe.. the last item on this subject showed people generally taking the wrong tack with Joe.

    The question might be: What kind of society do we want to live in? One that utilizes extortion to achieve goals?
    Maybe it can be shown in particular instances that such takings as Kelo can be a greater benefit to someone than leaving people be, but in the bigger picture, what kind of moral climate do we create by accepting the idea of the collective agency ganging up on people who are in the way?

    Could it be shown that slavery exhibited such a “benefit” as touted by the Joe’s of the world?

    Mere short term benefit is not a sufficient reason to sanctify collective extortion.

    That’s what I think.

  4. uncle sam,

    I asked a similar question yesterday, and joe’s response (if I can be forgiven for my reductionism) was that essentially ED abuse is down. A lot of folks disagree with him on that point.

  5. Let’s rephrase that in starker terms:
    there’s less slavery than there used to be, so it’s more acceptable than it was.

  6. Without trying to start another argument: Joe, would you kindly recommend any sources about city planners, what exactly it is that they plan and any kind of inner-planner society, like newsletters or clubs, or studies/essays, things of that sort?

  7. sam,

    Slaves aren’t paid fair market value for their labor, or anything at all. They aren’t empowered to go to court to compel additional payment. And nobody claims that the moral status of slavery changes depending on whether the field boss works in the private or public sector. Not really a good analogy.

    For a moral argument about condemnation to get anywhere at all, the proponent would have to put forward a case that recognizes and explains the moral difference between taking a district of vacant warehouses that hasn’t seen a dime of upkeep in fifty years, and a street of occupied homes. The libertarian capitalists who’ve addressed this issue, on the other hand, are often at great pains to prove that there is no meaningful moral difference, because their conception of ownership is so divorced from the human experiences of place and community that give property ownership a moral dimension. Which ultimately destroys their anti-condemnation arguments by making the replacement of property worth X with a check for X seem fair.

    Actually “conception” is the wrong word – it’s quite clear that most of them understand the human relationship between a person and his home instinctively, like everyone else. “Ideology” would be a better term, because it is at the level of rational analysis that the disconnect occurs.

    This is why the reform initiative last year that started out so promisingly for y’all ended so disappointingly – because you insisted that there be no distinction between stopping blight and forced gentrification of stable neighborhoods, and of course there is a difference.

  8. Perhaps a better analogy would be conscription.

    The difference between a public-facilities taking and a public-purpose taking would be analogous to being drafted in the US Army vs. being drafted into a private security company that is contracted by the US Army.

    What would be the moral distinction here?

  9. joe, I don’t see how you’re qualified to take part in a conversation that touches on freedom in general or libertarianism in specific unless you’ve done the reading that was suggested in yesterday’s thread.

    Clearly, you don’t understand the first thing about the human dignity at stake when a person’s property is somehow claimed to be less valuable than the portion of their lives that they traded in the form of their labor for that property.

    As for slaves, in theory, they were compensated for their labor with housing and food and medical care – so what on earth could they be complaining about, right?

  10. Perhaps a better analogy would be conscription.

    Much more workable, yes.

    The difference between a public-facilities taking and a public-purpose taking would be analogous to being drafted in the US Army vs. being drafted into a private security company that is contracted by the US Army.

    What would be the moral distinction here?

    None. Both are inherently evil, and should have no place in a civilized society.

  11. Too, your analogy is flawed — case one would be being drafted into the US Army to fight invaders on US soil; case two might be better illustrated as being drafted into the US Army and then being forced to fight on Ford Motors’ behalf against General Motors.

  12. Is it just me or is the wording “All Former Navy Land”, “Mostly Former Navy Land” and “Navy, Oil terminal and Amtrak Yard” lacking details like where the 115 privately owned properties (15 of which were ED)[link] fit into this project?

  13. Fair Market Value. What a tangled web we weave…

    Forgive me, but here’s a rough draft of an essay I’m writing on so-called Fair Market Value. Forgive the length.

    If a small house in a lower-middle class neighborhood would sell to another potential homeowner who intended to occupy the property and use it in the same manner as the seller– and its price was say, $159,000, then one could argue that the Fair Market Value of the house (and property) is somewhere near to $159,000. But lets say this neighborhood is found to be well located and situated for mixed-use, commercial and residential due to changing demographics in a city. Then lets say that the property catches the eye of a wealthy developer who plans to do large scale redevelopment over the entire area, then the Fair Market Value can no longer be assessed based upon what another homeowner who intended to simply re-occupy the same property would be.

    This brings me to look at property based on two views. The first is ‘as-is’ market value which, in the first case mentioned above, the house and property is probably worth around $159,000 give or take. But the second scenario is a ‘will-be’ market value. So the question becomes, how do you assess the ‘will-be’ market value of property whose use will change dramatically once the developer takes ownership?

    My belief is that in the second case, fair market value should be assessed as what the property would be worth if the planned development had already taken place, or some reasonable percentage thereof. If multiple parcels are being taken in one action, then the sum total of the whole group should be assessed in this manner, then divided appropriately between each property holder. So, if ten parcels are taken at a ‘will-be’ fair market value of $8,000,000, then each property owner should receive around $800,000.

    The only question remaining is how does one arrive at a ‘will-be’ figure? It’s reasonable to concede that the value is in the redevelopment, so one can’t realistically value the property assuming that all developments take place. As we all know, the property gets some of its value by the actions of the owner so the compensation shouldn’t be based upon the not-yet completed development. But it should be based upon the type of property that the government zones this land as in the process of the eminent domain taking. For instance, if I buy a piece of downtown real estate in Seattle, and plan to place a 1,900 square foot rambler on it, I’m still going to pay the tens of millions of dollars for that piece of real estate. And, if this miracle occurs and I actually get this real-estate and subsequently place my small rambler on it, the property is not suddenly only worth $159,000. The property is still worth tens of millions (less what structures I had to raze to build the rambler). This is self evident.

    It is fantastically unfair that we then believe that the owner of a $159,000 lower-middle class home in a quiet neighborhood is only going to get $159,000 if the developer plans to put a glass and steel office building, restaraunt, health club and pharmaceutical research facility on it. If after the developer finishes his intended project, the property is valued at $15,00,000, it seems perfectly fair that the rezoned but undeveloped land would be worth maybe 1/4 of that value: $3,750,000. If there were ten equally sized parcels that made up the property package then each owner would receive $375,000.

  14. Joe,

    So tell us this:

    In what way are the property rights of the owner of the vacant warehouses less important than the property rights of a home that the owner chooses to live in?

  15. Len, his explanation appeared in the psychobabble he spewed around the example — some mumbo-jumbo about the “human experience of place and community,” whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean, other than “I want that. Give it to me.”

  16. Trying to defend a position logically didn’t work out too well for Clean Hands, so now he’s reduced to putting his fingers in his ears.

    “As for slaves, in theory, they were compensated for their labor with housing and food and medical care – so what on earth could they be complaining about, right?” There was no requirement that this “compensation” be fair, or even close to covering the value of the taken labor. The whole purpose of slavery was to make a profit off the difference between the cost of maintaining the slaves and the value of their labor, whereas the condemnation of land is a break-even deal at best for the government.

    “case two might be better illustrated as being drafted into the US Army and then being forced to fight on Ford Motors’ behalf against General Motors.” No, we are all in agreement that takings without a public purpose, done purely to benefit a private party, are verbotten.

    I’ve got no argument with Paul’s point. Redevelopment takings are supposed to have benefits beyond the profit made by the developer, or else they are not “taken for public use.” If there is no benefit achieved beyond the increase in value of the taken property post-development, then it should not be taken.

    Len, their “property values,” as narrowly defined by libertarians, are the same. It is the intagible values, the ones that made the IJ decide to make Kelo its poster child, the ones Clean Hands so casually dismisses as “psychobabble,” that are different.

    Perhaps I was a little too generous to assume that libertarians grasp this instinctively, like everyone else. The rude guy who’s ass I kicked yesterday clearly don’t grasp them.

  17. How do you assign a fair market value to the loss of dignity involved with being told that due to your social class, income level, etc. you are unfit to put your property to its proper use and for the best interest of the community you should move your poor, ignorant ass out of the neighborhood so a smart, wealthy developer can make a decent profit removing the blight from the rotten cesspool that you used to call home.

  18. The same way you assess a value to the loss of dignity associated with being told that your home is less important than a bridge abuttment: you don’t.

  19. Intangible values?

    Since value is subjective, could you clarify further?

  20. “No, we are all in agreement that takings without a public purpose, done purely to benefit a private party, are verbotten.”

    Bullshit. The whole premise of the Kelo ruling is that there is no such thing as pure private benefit. All private benefit is public benefit, due to (at least) increased tax base and job creation.

    This is weasel language. If you want a statement I could agree with, here it is:

    “ED is only permitted in cases where the taking government has demonstrated a clear public-use plan, said plan to include no privately-owned property of any kind, in accordance with an apparent public need and the approval of a referendum vote on the project.”

    Anything else is corrupt kickback bullshit, politicians colluding with companies to line each other’s pockets with other people’s money and property.

  21. The whole purpose of slavery was to make a profit off the difference between the cost of maintaining the slaves and the value of their labor, whereas the condemnation of land is a break-even deal at best for the government.

    Joe, I’m not sure how many of us ever thought that this was a huge profit windfall for government. Well, ok, except for the claims that government makes as it takes the land– that it’ll be a huge profit windfall, so there goes my argument.

    The initial exchange of land is probably, yes, a break even deal for government. But government claims that it will be a HUGE benefit through increased revenues from the improved economic activity (taxed, natch) which then occurs on the property. Making, in the words of E.D. proponents, the value greater than the sum of its parts. This in turn, we are told, benefits the ‘public’ and as such, meets the litmus test of public -use-…ahem, my bad… public purpose.

    But this is not the point. We don’t wave off a taking of property as benign simply because the government has no financial stake in it (which they do, whether those revenues are ever seen… that’s another debate). We deplore this activity because it leaves property owners… all property owners including the developer who demanded (or engineered the taking) in the first place vulnerable. It creates a kind of cartel-capitalism buttressed by a ‘public-private’ partnership.

  22. This is why the reform initiative last year that started out so promisingly for y’all ended so disappointingly – because you insisted that there be no distinction between stopping blight and forced gentrification of stable neighborhoods, and of course there is a difference.

    It’s the politicians that have blurred the distinction between stopping blight and utilizing the expedience of government extortion to move people out of the way for the benefit of Donald Trump (for example).

    There never would have been much argument, from libertarians or otherwise, had politicians held to the commonly held perception of public utility rather than catering to wealthy types such as baseball team owner millionaires.

    Homeowners invest a lot in their homes and form strong attachments to the communities they have spent years in. When politicians disrespect that, they should expect the inevitable backlash when that disrespect spreads from their examples.

    The analogy to slavery is that slaves are made that way by the same extortion as used in eminent domain. Be my slave or suffer the consequences…sell me your property at the price I offer or suffer the consequences.

    The fact that a price is offered does not negate the fact that extortion has been used by a greater force against a lesser force.

  23. Funny how politiicans often demonize the business class so that citizens are made more grateful for government protection from same…then wonder that people get upset when politicians make deals for the benefit of the business class.

  24. So joe’s argument is that if the government can take property for one reason, they can take it for any reason?

    If they can listen to your phone calls for one reason, they can listen for any reason?

    Repeat using other forms of coercion as needed.

  25. Can you say “betrayal of the public trust”?

  26. joe, etc.,

    My suggestion is that you drop the discussion of slavery. A slave is a socially dead person; a victim of ED is not a socially dead person.

    ____________________________________

    No, we are all in agreement that takings without a public purpose, done purely to benefit a private party, are verbotten.

    The point of course is that takings without any real “public use” (not purpose – the 5th Amendment makes no mention of that word) under the standards influenced by Poletown, etc. are going to be far more common because the standard of those cases is so loose and subjective. At this point I am sure that you’ll bring up some argument about a “substantive due process” right, but the fact of the matter is that no such right exists in our constitutional framework.

    Perhaps I was a little too generous to assume that libertarians grasp this instinctively, like everyone else. The rude guy who’s ass I kicked yesterday clearly don’t grasp them.

    It is these sort of sophmoric remarks which basically tear down any good you do here.

  27. Len,

    “Since value is subjective, could you clarify further?”

    Without a blacklight, a Pink Floyd poster, and a bag of Cheetos, probably not.

    isulder, if you can even claim that, then you don’t understand the Kelo ruling or even the issues at stake in the case.

    Paul,

    “Joe, I’m not sure how many of us ever thought that this was a huge profit windfall for government.” I’m not claiming it was – my statement was in response to the claim that condemnation of land is the equivalent of slavery, and I was pointing out one significant difference. But I do appreciate the second objection you raise – I just put more weight on the public benefits on the other side of the scale.

    uncle sam, “It’s the politicians that have blurred the distinction between stopping blight and utilizing the expedience of government extortion to move people out of the way for the benefit of Donald Trump (for example).” Agreed. Damn politicians!

    “Homeowners invest a lot in their homes and form strong attachments to the communities they have spent years in.” Please, uncle sam, explain this “psychobabble” to Clean Hands. He doesn’t seem to get it.

    But this is just silly: “The analogy to slavery is that slaves are made that way by the same extortion as used in eminent domain. Be my slave or suffer the consequences…sell me your property at the price I offer or suffer the consequences.” Come ON! Stop at the red light, or suffer the consequences. Dispose of your waste oil properly, or suffer the consequences. Keep your hands off women who didn’t invite you, or suffer the consequences. What you’ve identified here is the existence of government power, and there’s quite a bit more going on in slavery than that.

    bago, “So joe’s argument is that if the government can take property for one reason, they can take it for any reason?” No.

  28. Hi, Phil L.

    “The point of course is that takings without any real “public use”… under the standards influenced by Poletown, etc. are going to be far more common because the standard of those cases is so loose and subjective.” Really? Your objection is only one of quantity? If there were fewer of these cases, you’d cease to object? I don’t believe you.

    “At this point I am sure that you’ll bring up some argument about a “substantive due process” right, but the fact of the matter is that no such right exists in our constitutional framework.” Funny, we often see people describing “the living Constitution” outlook as a threat to the autonomy of the individual, but here we see how an overly-strict origninalist or textualist reading of the Constitution can be even more restrictive. Were your efforts to waive away this entire field of jurisprudence effective, much of the expansion of human liberty that has occured in the past century would be undone.

  29. Basically joe sees some good out of ED used to get rid of so-called blight, etc.

    Libertarians on the other hand see it as a dangerous power to put into the hands of the government, one which has been and will be used screw over individuals in the process. If joe can’t see why we would have concerns over its existance, so be it. But our concerns are legitimate no matter how much he tries to explain them away with claims that ED abuse isn’t as bad as it used to be or that it can be “reformed.” IMHO, it can’t be reformed. Indeed, IMHO if one single home in the future is seized as a result of ED abuse, I’d say that is good enough reason to get rid of what joe favors.

    In sum, here is my position: without a strict limitation on the reach of the Kelo decision we are going to have more ED abuse in the U.S. than we had before it; happily we’re winning that battle at the state level.

  30. joe,

    No, if there were one single case I’d still object.

    Were your efforts to waive away this entire field of jurisprudence effective, much of the expansion of human liberty that has occured in the past century would be undone.

    Not really. Not if the Slaughterhouse Cases had been decided correctly. There is a reason why “substantive due process” claims have become so prominent; it is not because they really have any logical connection to what the framers of the 14th amendment. Its because the Supreme Court in 1877 cut the legs out from under the “privileges and immunities” clause of the 14th Amendment; given the conservative nature of court precedent, that decision in turn channeled jurisprudence which would have more naturally fallen under the “privileges and immunities” towards the due process clause instead.

    See, your attempt to caricature me blew up in your face. That’s really why I often have a hard time taking you seriously.

  31. Phil L,

    Far more harm has been done throughout human history by the abusive use of military forces than by condemnation of land. Yet you don’t claim that only the elimination of the power to raise an army can address that problem – you support legal and political restrictions on that power.

    Also, I may have been unclear in yesterday’s thread – I didn’t mean to claim that all urban decline must be stopped. Detroit will never be as large or prosperous as it was in 1950, at least not in the lifetime of anyone yet born. But there are different types of decline. I’ve got nothing against a large city becoming a small city, and nothing should be done about that development per se. But far more has happened to Detroit than a population decrease – it has entered a death spiral, and those need to be reversed.

  32. joe,

    Far more harm has been done throughout human history by the abusive use of military forces than by condemnation of land.

    Given my background I am well aware of that. One need only visit 14th and 15th century France to see the terrible things armies can do to civilian populations.

    Yet you don’t claim that only the elimination of the power to raise an army can address that problem – you support legal and political restrictions on that power.

    The difference is that military power is a legitimate domain of the government. Your example simply begs the question then: is ED for the purposes that you seek a legitimate extension of government power? I would answer no.

    But far more has happened to Detroit than a population decrease – it has entered a death spiral, and those need to be reversed.

    Why? *snark* Better to live in the Sun Belt. *snark*

  33. joe,

    BTW, your military power example is similar (in style not substance) to those who claim because our military can kill people we can torture them too. My rule on this sort of thing is this: a greater power, or a more awesome power, does not justify by itself a lesser power.

  34. Anyway, I’ve written what I have to say. Anything else would lead into temptation. And I’d like to remain cordial with joe.

  35. Phil, I wasn’t attempting to caricature you – I know your objections are not based on the quantity of such cases, but their quality, and I called you on your odd statement in the hope you would clarify your position.

    And whether you’d prefer that the P&I clause had been the basis of those expansions of liberty, rather than SDP, doesn’t change the fact that it was SDP that was used to expand rights and liberty – which just proves my (admittedly tangential) point that the novel doctrines and liberal interpretations of the language of the Constitution that are so often decried around here as impinging on liberty can just as easily expand liberty.

  36. joe,

    Well, that’s cool. I just misread the situation then.

    …which just proves my (admittedly tangential) point that the novel doctrines and liberal interpretations of the language of the Constitution that are so often decried around here as impinging on liberty can just as easily expand liberty.

    I’d say that such an expansion would have happened faster with the proper clause. It is in many ways a tragedy that that the main vehicle ended up being the due process clause. Happily the federal courts are beginning to look at the Slaughterhouse Cases and there is an effort to salvage the true nature of the “privileges and immunities” clause.

  37. As long as you’re cordial, Phil, I’m suspending my boycott.

    But I reserve the right to reinstate it when you turn back into a pumpkin.

  38. “I’d say that such an expansion would have happened faster with the proper clause. It is in many ways a tragedy that that the main vehicle ended up being the due process clause. Happily the federal courts are beginning to look at the Slaughterhouse Cases and there is an effort to salvage the true nature of the “privileges and immunities” clause.”

    Maybe. A bit outside my area of expertise.

  39. joe,

    Kind of a porous boycott of late, huh?

    As to cordiality, well, we could all be more cordial, right?

  40. joe,

    A bit outside my area of expertise.

    Yes, I’d say so. 🙂

  41. ” I’m just going to take this ..er..Picassio.. off your wall. That’s where the big screen T.V. is going. Superbowl is on and I’m selling tickets. Get up .. I’m going to need your couch.. and leave the beer in the fridge. You want what? Sure .. here’s some paints and a fresh canvas.. don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

    – your neighbor, improving the economic might of your neighborhood

  42. All,

    Some questions.

    I’m wondering if anyone knows how much this has cost the taxpayers and when they can realistically expect to realize the increased tax revenues that are presumably the “public purpose” of all the activity?

    Will there be some kind of imputed rate of return that compares favorably with a private investment?

    What, exactly, is to be built on Miss Kelo’s former property?

    I ask these questions because I have a suspicion that the answers are “A lot and not anytime soon”, “Probably worse than a passbook savings account”, and “Bike trail or maybe parking lot”.

  43. joe:

    I did a quick search, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you express an opinion on the Donald Trump/Vera Coking eminent domain case. This isn’t a “gotcha” type thing, I’m just curious to know your opinion on whether or not Ms. Coking should have lost that IJ case.

  44. jf,

    I’m not familiar with the particulars of the case.

    Of course something like that sets off alarms, but I’m not about to offer an opinion based on the press release of one party in a court case – particularly when that party consists of political activist lawyers.

    I believe in redevelopment plans to save neighborhoods, not replace them. If there is a longstanding homeowner who is committed to her neighborhood, that’s a serious asset for a community, and it would take some extraordinary circumstances to convince me that it’s a good idea to condemn a home like that.

  45. Come ON! Stop at the red light, or suffer the consequences. Dispose of your waste oil properly, or suffer the consequences. Keep your hands off women who didn’t invite you, or suffer the consequences. What you’ve identified here is the existence of government power, and there’s quite a bit more going on in slavery than that.

    For libertarians, all property rights begin with your ownership of your life.
    A slave has had his property in his life violated, touching a woman (or a man) without permission violates their property in their body, running a red light violates the right of others to reasonable safety (but for the sake of brevity, we won’t get into the gov’t vs private roads).
    Disposing of oil improperly, in the context implied here, portends the violation of someone elses property (pollution).

    I can go on and on if you want to but if you can grasp the principle involved, then I wouldn’t have to explain it all for you.

    What we have here is the problem of visible benefits and the invisible costs.

    Collective action, such as eminent domain, proffers obvious and visible benefits, but the costs are not so obvious and may be delayed for sometime. Politicians enjoy the benefit of having people think they’re getting something for nothing and never think about the negatives, for they expect someone else to bear them.

    As you may have noticed, the reaction to the Kelo decision has come from across the political spectrum. That’s because any people who thought that eminent domain was restricted to public utility suddenly felt the threat to themselves. The decision of the Supreme court suddenly made a lot of people realize that they might someday have to bear the cost.

  46. Why we need government power:

    So people’s property rights can be violated with minimal consequence to those responsible for the violatin’.

  47. Neighborhoods often need saving because some government policy from the past has led to their demise.

  48. So people’s property rights can be violated with minimal consequence to those responsible for the violatin’.

    And certainly, the fact that those doing the violating should not have any past campaign contributions figured into the equation. This is why I am in favor of unlimited, but completely public, campaign finance. The people should know which of their presidents, senators, representatives, governors, assemblymen, mayors, or councilmen are on the take, so they can vote accordingly.

  49. I haven’t noticed anybody talking about what the key economic problem is here. When a developer of a large project, either corporate or government, wants to buy up a large number of parcels in order to build something larger, inevitably the last few landowners will figure out the plans and become hold-outs. They will use their monopoly or oligopoly power to vastly jack their prices ABOVE any fair value.

    From a libertarian perspective, I do not see why this debate should be approached any differently than pondering what the government should do about other monopolies, such as Microsoft or labor unions.

  50. When a developer of a large project, either corporate or government, wants to buy up a large number of parcels in order to build something larger, inevitably the last few landowners will figure out the plans and become hold-outs.

    Here’s how a propective buyer might deal with such a situation. Call all the owners to meet. Make an overall offer contingent upon all owners agreeing to sell, perhaps at some percentage above the going rate, and leave it at that.

    On the other side, buyers may have attempted to get the parcels cheaps, relying upon the ignorance of the property owners about the spculative, or future market value of the property.

    It is rare that one and only one lot will do for any particular project.

  51. Many well intentioned people support government’s exercise of power because they project their benevolent intentions upon it. If only the right people could be put in power.

    Even though the real world will never live up to their projected benevolence, they somehow manage to live by the hope that somewhere, somehow, sometime, government will live up to their ideal image of it.

  52. It is these sort of sophmoric remarks which basically tear down any good you do here.

    What good does he do? Look at his comments from today. Even the ones in which he wasn’t actively in a conversation, he opens with shots at libertarians. He’s a puke, pure and simple. He has no basic knowledge of economics and certainly has no knowledge taxes, growth or efficiency (he was a public employee for god’s sake). He’s a dullard, in every sense of the word and doesn’t deserve the amount of responses he gets.

  53. Sorry for dumbing down this thread a few notches, but 99% the redevelopment projects I have seen are utter crap. And the larger the project, the worse it is. The same architecture, monuments, layouts, for blocks or miles (Higlands Ranch south of Denver, is a developers utopia…. It is devoid of ALL character!)
    We should be making it harder for this types of stale, monolithic neighborhoods from being built, not easier.

  54. If I could, I’d change the 15th Amendment by changing “public” to “any” and striking the words “without just compensation” (and maybe replacing them with “whatsoever”).

    Ergo:
    “nor shall private property be taken for any use (whatsoever).”

  55. What good does he do? Look at his comments from today. ………..
    … He’s a dullard, in every sense of the word and doesn’t deserve the amount of responses he gets.

    I wouldn’t call him a dullard. He’s just a member of the cult of the omnipotent state. And he’s good exercise. IWhen I sit down and just try to write my stuff, I get distracted, but responding to the Joe’s motivates me.

  56. It seems to me that even if one disagreed with the Kelo decision (and I think every reasonable person would, regardless of party) one could find true public interest (health especially) issues where eminent domain might be necessary – a garbage landfill needs to be built or possibly the land in one neighborhood is sitting on hazardous waste of some kind and is in danger of leaking into the groundwater into other lands, etc. Or how about this: the citizens of a rural area are desperate for a road to be built through their town, which means the homes need to be moved to connect to the main highway, but there is one or two holdouts. Should everyone else be denied what they see is of vital necessity because of just one or two holdouts in a town of a thousand?

  57. What good does he do? Look at his comments from today. Even the ones in which he wasn’t actively in a conversation, he opens with shots at libertarians. He’s a puke, pure and simple.

    Simmer down, Goiter. I disagree with Joe 99.9999 percent of the time, but he was a loyal Hit & Run commenter when Paul O’Neill was still running the Treasury. I won’t have him abused by anybody but me.

    Joe, back to the original point of this post and my preceding article: To my mind the problem with these “economic development” takings is that the government is a lousy economic planner, and the evidence can be found all over the country, in the high-vacancy white elephants that have resulted from previous takings: Japantown in San Francisco, the unloved shops of Bunker Hill, the vast number of convention centers that are being built in dozens of cities in defiance of all evidence about how much business they might bring in.

    So how does this sound: A state legislature could pass an actual eminent domain reform by outlawing public funds for anything other than traditional public-use projects (bridge abutments, canals, highways, and though they are generally privately operated, “common carrier” stuff like railroads or airports) that involve eminent domain condemnations. You wouldn’t even necessarily have to outlaw economic development condemnations; you’d just have to ensure that all costs related to them-including the fair market value of the taken properties-must be paid by the private entity that’s looking to develop the property.

  58. uncle sam,

    “running a red light violates the right of others to reasonable safety”

    Actually, usually not. Most people are perfectly capable of slowing down and figuring out if there is a car coming before proceeding through the intersection. But the red light rule is enforced anyway, because of the secondary and tertiary safety and efficiency benefits of having predictable, orderly outcomes at high-volume intersections. Reckless driving laws are about protecting the rights of other drivers not to be unduly endangered. Stop on Red laws are an exercise in government regulation that achieves goals other than protecting rights.

    coarsted, that’s not at all a dumb comment. “99% the redevelopment projects I have seen are utter crap. And the larger the project, the worse it is.” First of all, most of the redevelopment projects you’ve seen, you probably didn’t realize were redevelopment projects. They just looked like ordinary construction projects. It’s the giant clearance projects that stand out, and are crappy, for exactly the reasons you point out.

    Adam W., I have a lot more respect for your anarchist argument than for those, like the IJ and Reason, who put on the mourning garb for one group of people having their homes taken, while supporting takings for public infrastructure. As I mentioned earlier, if it is an intolerable violation of rights to take someone’s property for the public good, then the final disposition of the property is morally irrelevant.

  59. Tim,

    What developers do you think are watering at the mouth to get their hands on the former industrial rust buckets in upstate New York? Your question assumes that economic development projects are developer-driven, when in reality, they are most needed in cities that would give their eye teeth to find a developer who’s willing to invest there.

    For a certain subset of projects, your suggestion makes sense, but not for the most necessary and important ones.

  60. Wel I didn’t want to get into all that because of the property ownership issue.

    With a private road, the property rights of the owner authorize said owner to establish the rules for usage, and liability issues tend to make it a practical necessity for the owner to make such requirements of users.

    In the case of the government, we might say that everyone owns the road through the collective agency, and ownership establishes liability and authority to regulate the usage of the property accessable to the public.
    Even red light runners will (for the most part) acknowledge the reasonability of having rules for safety on the road, they just allow themselves special exemption from time to time.

    See it IS a property rights issue.

  61. In fact, we might speculate that having government enforcing the rules of the road tends to lull people into a false sense of security when they appraoch an intersection. Regardless of the law, you are still responsible for your own life when encountering a dangerous situation.

    There’s is a law and people still run red lights.

  62. In addition to the economic problem of hold-outs, a developer might face two more unfair problems. One is simply irrational land holders. The others are people who hold some sort of grudge against the developer or someone associated with the project. Both types of people might refuse to sell, regardless of whether the offer is fair or not. I am not sure which of these Vera Coking is, but she must be one or the other. She turned down a million dollar offer in the early eighties for a house appraised at a quarter million in 1994. Even if you do not trust the appraisal, it is unlikely it is off by a factor of four (ignoring inflation). For what reason is Coking trying to mess up everyone else’s plans? Lord only knows.

    Now the libertarian in me says this is none of the government’s business. If some irrational idiot wants to play massively negative-sum games just to spite the world, well, that is tough-titty. However, relative to other government interventions in the economy, smacking a stupid fool like Coking upside the head, giving her a million bucks (four times value) and putting her up in a nice condo a couple miles away seems like small fry to me.

  63. OK, we’re in the weeds now.

    Regardless of all of that, the use of red lights (which are almost always installed for reasons of efficiency, not safety) is an exercise in govenrment power that has nothing to do with protecting the rights of other drivers.

  64. Your question assumes that economic development projects are developer-driven, when in reality, they are most needed in cities that would give their eye teeth to find a developer who’s willing to invest there.

    I’m not from Missouri, but show me the bright line between the two. If you want, chew on this equation: Is your home in Buffalo with a partial view of the Niagara river more fit for sacrifice than my home in New London with a full view of Long Island Sound?

    And as a matter of policy, shouldn’t we assume a purely economic project that is not developer-driven does not enjoy a sufficient probability of success to justify the human costs? What kind of shopping mall/condo/funhouse is it anyway, that is so massive it can’t coexist peacefully with local residents?

  65. Regardless of all of that, the use of red lights (which are almost always installed for reasons of efficiency, not safety) is an exercise in government power that has nothing to do with protecting the rights of other drivers.

    Granted, I was just wanting to avoid the extra writing at the time. Toddler in the house.

  66. two more unfair problems. One is simply irrational land holders. The others are people who hold some sort of grudge against the developer or someone associated with the project. Both types of people might refuse to sell, regardless of whether the offer is fair or not. I am not sure which of these Vera Coking is, but she must be one or the other.

    Yeah, an old lady who wants to remain in her home of 36 years rather than completely disrupt her life (which won’t last much longer) by selling out to Donald Trump has to be either irrational or a total bitch.

    Y’know why Atlantic City is kind of a suck-ass place for those who live there? Because it doesn’t have enough casinos! Especially ones owned by Trump. Damn Vera Coking for preventing Atlantic City from becoming a true worker’s paradise.

  67. The lines not terribly bright, Tim. That’s why I’m cautious about the reform you advocate. If there were reliable tests to distinguish between the good and the bad, it would much easier to address the problem without throwing babies out with bathwater.

    I don’t get the Buffalo/New London question. Of course being in Buffalo doesn’t make your home more ripe for the taking, but I don’t think that’s really what you’re asking.

    “And as a matter of policy, shouldn’t we assume a purely economic project that is not developer-driven does not enjoy a sufficient probability of success to justify the human costs?” No. I laid out the example of an urban renewal plan in the last Kelo thread that was carried out in my city, and it was not developer-driven at all. It has been a roaring success, and the neighborhood is much better off as a result. I’ll repost below. But I think your question displays a bias towards profit as THE measure of a plan’s success, when there are many more important reasons why a neighborhood may need a redevelopment plan.

    “What kind of shopping mall/condo/funhouse is it anyway, that is so massive it can’t coexist peacefully with local residents?” I share your skepticism of large clearance plans like New London’s. Successful urban renewal plans use as light a touch as possible, and look a lot more like weeding than plowing under.

  68. Tim, consider this:

    “My own city did this successfully in a neighborhood in which dense residential uses and small-scale industrial uses were jammed together cheek-by jowl, leaving both unviable. The homes were blighted by the presence of smelly industrial operations, metal shops with barren yards full of rusting materials, and heavy truck traffic. The business environment was deteriorating because there was no opporunity to expand operations, poor access, and small lots that made parking and expansion impossible.

    The plan worked by buying up the industrial properties in part of the neighborhood and helping the businesses relocate to land in another part of the neighborhood, made available by the acquisition of that section’s residential properties. The vacant land created by the removal of businesses and by the decades of abandonment by commercial, residential, and industrial property owners in the area where the plan called for housing when then used to construct higher-quality affordable housing, to make up for that lost in the industrial area.

    The key here was that the acquisitions were site-specific, with the majority of existing buildings untouched. Compared to large-scale clearance plans like Ft. Trumball, this resulted in much less disruption of people’s lives and of the neighborhood’s established ways of life.

    Of course, there is a major conception difference behind this: the goal was not to turn the area from one type of neighborhood to another – that is, it was not an attempt to wipe it out and start over – but to remove locally-specific problems that were preventing it from succeeding on its own terms.”

    A reliable method of preventing abusive clearance plans without eliminating the possibility of public redevelopment plans like the one I just described would be great.

    But in order to formulate one, you’d have to first be able to recognize the difference. Too many of your admirers seems unable or unwilling to do so, because they’re so much more concerned with abstract property rights – spitting venom at me for suggesting that condemning a vacant warehouse is different than condemning a street of occupied homes, for example – than with the well being of the communities that people live in.

  69. Pictures as well as an economic analysis (all costs and benefits) comparing the situation before and after your wildly successful project would be more convincing than bald assertions.

    I accept that you value the abstraction of the community over actual people. We have a difference of philosophy so you have to convince me with actual evidence that the practical effect of your philosophy. Otherwise, it is perhaps one of only a few examples of success to pit against centuries of failed examples.

  70. I’ve sat in the room with those actual people and discussed how to go forward with the plan they helped write, Freak.

  71. joe-

    Slaves aren’t paid fair market value for their labor, or anything at all.

    They were getting “3 hots and a cot”- and free health care!

    All that other money? Just consider it a ‘highly progressive’ income tax…

  72. That’s what I get for not reading all the commnets…

    As for slaves, in theory, they were compensated for their labor with housing and food and medical care – so what on earth could they be complaining about, right?

    Okay! “Clean Hands” beat me to the punch, but I still think I was ‘pithier’… :o)

  73. Barstow freak–

    I ask these questions because I have a suspicion that the answers are “A lot and not anytime soon”, “Probably worse than a passbook savings account”, and “Bike trail or maybe parking lot”.

    You forgot the two years in which one branch of the city government is in litigation with both the county and the state(…big billing hours for all!)— then it goes back to the city council- who then decide to commission a $250K ‘study’- to be done by a company who also just happened to donate ‘large bux’ to the council president’s last election campaign…

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