Civil Liberties

It's in the 'Pox on Your House' Section


Has Susette Kelo "gone around the bend"? That's the diagnosis of New London Development Corporation (NLDC) board member Reid Burdick, one recipient of a very special greeting card that Kelo sent to the officials she blames for using eminent domain to drive her from her home in the name of progress. On the front of the card is a picture of the house she struggled for years to save from the economic development bulldozers, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 decision siding with the city—and with central planners throughout the country who are busy thinking of better uses for other people's property. Inside the card are these verses: 

Here is my house that you did take
From me to you, this spell I make
Your houses, your homes
Your family, your friends
May they live in misery
That never ends.
I curse you all
May you rot in hell
To each of you
I send this spell
For the rest of your lives
I wish you ill
I send this now
By the power of will

The opening rhyme is weak, but on the whole I prefer this message to the saccharine sentiments usually found in greeting cards. And while I don't necessarily endorse the curse on the friends and relatives of the malefactors, Kelo's vindictiveness is understandable. Not only did Kelo lose the battle for her home, but the NLDC insisted on taking her property and that of the other holdouts even though it had no particular need for the parcels—just to show it could. "This all could have been solved and ended many years ago," she says. "They didn't have to do what they did to us, and I will never forget. These people can think what they want of me. I will never, ever forget what they did." The responses from the card's recipients show they still don't get it.

"It's amazing anyone could be so vindictive when they've made so much money," says Gail Schwenker-Mayer, former assistant to the NLDC's former president, referring to the $442,000 Kelo ultimately accepted for her house after the Supreme Court said the city had the authority to kick her out. If this fight were about money, Kelo could have settled much sooner and saved herself a lot of trouble and heartache. She believed she was fighting for an important principle—that people should not be dispossessed simply because their use of their land is not generating as much tax revenue as the govenment would like. Judging by the reaction to Kelo from state legislators and the general public, millions of Americans agreed this was a principle worth defending.

"It's sort of sad she elected to do this," says NLDC board member George Milne. "We were trying to do things for the city. It was nothing personal." That nicely sums up the attitude of too many local officials and activists, who sincerely believe that good intentions and the absence of personal enmity make it OK to violate people's rights.