Property Rights

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

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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. 

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  1. “It’s amazing anyone could be so vindictive when they’ve made so much money.”

    What chutzpah! Like she’s supposed to be grateful those brigands did this to her.

  2. “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.
    =======================================

    Mr. Milne, it’s people like you, what cause unrest.

  3. Brevity being the soul of wit, if not vindictiveness, a simple “Fuck You” would have sufficed. Maybe add a clip-art holly graphic for that festive touch.

  4. “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.

    Gosh, how ungrateful – I’m sure that all of that money should be a real consolation to Ms Kelo until she has to spend it all buying a new home.

    The New London Council should be happy that Kelo restricted herself to poison-pen cards – if those bastards had taken my home, the Xmas package they would have gotten from me could very likely have been large, lethal and set to go off in the middle of their next session.

  5. Herpes on their toothbrushes = way more effective.

  6. Oops. I guess Kelo doesn’t know that in witchcraft spells come back to the caster times 3.

  7. Although I am anything but mystical, I still hope the “curse” works.

  8. I couldn’t tell from the article, but does anyone know if Kelo tipped off the newspaper about her sending the cards, or if it was one of the recipients? If it’s the latter, it seems awful petty for someone to try to make this front-page news just because they got a nasty-gram from her. I mean, suck it up, man!

  9. She not the victim of the system everyone makes her out to be. She bought that house for the express purpose of having standing to challenge the taking. Its not like she has lived there for 20 years and got kicked out.

  10. I swear to goodness that I dated that Gail Schwenker-Mayer woman right before this decision! Okay, she was in a different body (I suppose) and named Gwen (note the similarities) from Ashburn, VA.

    She was a VP at a property development firm that specialized in developing property like this and was working on a NJ shore project at the time.

    Her ‘argument’ was based on word substitution and Socialism. Rather than using the words from the “takings clause” (which she was not aware of and I asked her to ask her lawyer daughter to ‘splain it to her) she would say that it was for “the common good” and that made taking property okay. Plus “those people are just holding out for more money”.

    When I mentioned that the takings clause specifies public use, she said this was for the greater good and these communities would “die” if they did not come in and develop them.

    She also thought my attitude toward that m-word scam was “bull shit” because I had not intention of telling the government if I was married or not at any time in the future.

    Yea, the unmarried relations were good, but not good enough to put up with her arrogance and stupidity for longer than 3 weeks.

  11. Pete,

    Care to elaborate?

  12. I’ll look forward to the story about how people think Kelo shouldn;t be allowed to express her thoughts in such a manner…

  13. Pete,

    More power to her if she bought the house with the intention of taking a stand. She still has every right to be pissed off at those thieves.

  14. The “rhyme” sounds like a thinly veiled threat to me. If any of the board members contacted law enforcement about this, I wouldn’t blame them a bit.

  15. Dan T.,

    Perhaps instead of the poem she should have sent lyrics to songs by The Smiths or Steven Morrissey’s Smithless works?

  16. Damn, I’d be sleeping with one eye open if that were sent to me.

  17. GM-

    How about if she, after getting her money and name in the news, moved on with her life, and stopped being selfish and bitter about something that will benefit the community?

  18. She not the victim of the system everyone makes her out to be. She bought that house for the express purpose of having standing to challenge the taking. Its not like she has lived there for 20 years and got kicked out.

    Pete,

    According to the Institute for Justice website:

    “(Susette Kelo) purchased and lovingly restored her little pink house where the Thames River meets the Long Island Sound in 1997..In 1998, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer built a plant next to Fort Trumbull and the City determined that someone else could make better use of the land than the Fort Trumbull residents.

    That account, at least, does not jibe with your assertion. Got some different facts?

  19. “this spell I make”

    “I send this now/by the power of will”

    Sounds like too many episodes of “Charmed.”

    I wonder if she was a loonie before the case, or if that’s what drove her around the bend.

  20. The “rhyme” sounds like a thinly veiled threat to me. If any of the board members contacted law enforcement about this, I wouldn’t blame them a bit.

    Dan T.,

    This “post” of yours sounds like a thinly veiled musing of a wanker. If any of the posters on this board slapped you about the face and fanny, I wouldn’t blame them a bit.

  21. Dan T.,

    GM-

    How about if she, after getting her money and name in the news, moved on with her life, and stopped being selfish and bitter about something that will benefit the community?

    Is your real name Gwen and do you live in Ashburn, VA?

    See earlier post, search on Gwen.

    Alternate theory: you are Ezra Klein stealthing over here.

  22. There’s no guarantee that the redevelopment will result in economic prosperity, and there have been many cases where it did not. Politicians love to overstate expected benefits and income to sell their power plays to the masses. In fact, I would bet the opposite. Seeing how easy it is to lose ‘your’ property, I wonder how many people will want to opt for the risk of buying in the redevelopment zone.

    But yes, she should be ecstatic that some central planners decided that she doesn’t really own her property, but lives there solely at the discretion of the state.

  23. Dan T – I don’t think the government can do anything about it. Her threat relies on witchcraft, and if the government were to take action based on that, surely the ACLU would take issue with the state’s endorsement of a particular faith.

  24. I wonder if she was a loonie before the case, or if that’s what drove her around the bend.

    Yes, Joe, only a lunatic would be pissed off to lose her nice little house on the waterfront and have it moved to a crappy location inland.

    Guys, let me remind you that Dan T. is a troll who will say anything to get attention, and can be reliably counted upon to say the exact opposite of whatever is posted. If Sullum joins the dark side and starts posting that the Kelo decision was a good one, Dan T. will make a stand in favor of property rights.

  25. Mike,

    Now witchcraft isn’t real it is just ‘religion’?

    ACK! I must now re-work all of my theories on how hot chicks extract favors from me without reciprocation.

  26. Hmm…interesting. If all the religious wackos believe (’tis the season) that prayers can lead to “good” or some sort of positive divine intervention, then it makes exactly as much sense that prayers and spells can lead to “bad” or negative supernatural events.
    Thus, this would count as assault.
    I’d love to watch this case work its way through the system.

  27. “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.”

    Wow ! Mr. Milne sounds like a character right out of “The Godfather”.

  28. Jennifer,

    I’m merely expressing my opinions. I apologize.

  29. I’m merely expressing my opinions.

    Jennifer’s suggeting that these are not, in fact, your opinions.

    I have an aunt who – no matter what the topic – will disagree with whatever I say, even on matters with which she historically or by pronouncement agrees.

    I tolerate this because she’s both intelligent and funny.

    I haven’t found a similar justification yet for tolerating Dan T.

  30. Jennifer,

    Only a loonie sends spells and incantations through the mail.

    By the Power of Will.

    People with whom you agree can be loonies, too. You’d think a libertarian would figure that out fairly early.

  31. I know of some other homeless people who cast spells on the passers by. Maybe there is some sort of connection.

  32. May Dan T and his ilk have the same “opportunity” in the future to “move on with their lives” and not be bitter.

  33. “Only a loonie sends spells and incantations through the mail.”

    So, if she had shown up on their doorsteps and screamed said incantations at them, then it’d be fine?

    Plenty of people I disagree with on certain issues are loonies. I’m sure me and that libertarian crackhead who turned blue from eating nickels or some shit, would agree on a thing or two. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that this lady is “loony”. Seems to me, at least, that the “curses” were a little tongue-in-cheek, and underneath it all, she was merely expressing her undying hatred of these scumbag cocksuckers who stole her house. Her rhymin’ skillz leave much to be desired, but, Joe, I fear that your disagreement with her on this issue is clouding your ability to realize that all this talk of curses and spells was most likely tongue-in-cheek.

  34. Yeah, Dan, just see how YOU like it when the gubmint comes along and uses eminent domain to kick you and your entire troll clan out from the bridge under which you reside. Sure, you’ll get “market value” for your bridge underside, but you’ll probably end up spending that money on a brand new bridge underside, and it won’t be nearly as nice.

    Government harassment is all fun and games until they kick YOUR troll clan out from under that bridge…

  35. Evan!,

    Hold it, I thought takings for bridge replacement were, like, totally not a violation of anyone’s rights.

    Tongue-in-cheek curses would make sense on a Halloween card. They just look weird on a Christmas card. Some “Santa bring you coal” poem would have been funny, but this reads like the scripts from “Charmed.” It’s funny, but not ha-ha funny.

  36. …meaning, it’s pretty hard to taker seriously someone who gets all worked up about the terrible disruption of someone’s life, and violation of her security, when her home is taken and she’s thrown out on the street…except when it’s done for public works, and then it’s ok.

    But it’s really about how terrible it is to have your home taken. Except that it’s only terrible when your home is taken for one reason, but not another.

  37. How did the city’s decision benefit the community? Now it’s just easier for everyone else in the community to lose their houses, too.

  38. But it’s really about how terrible it is to have your home taken. Except that it’s only terrible when your home is taken for one reason, but not another.

    joe,

    is there ever a time when someone takes your house that its not traumatic? I don’t care if you’re building a shopping mall, a bridge, or a state hospital for really really sick children, the person who’s house is taken is never going to be cheerful about it.

  39. In Vin Suprynowicz’s novel “Black Arrow,” a city council member who steals an old woman’s business using “eminent domain” is sliced into three pieces by a rebel with a sword. Sounds like the NLDC scumbags got off pretty light in comparison to that fictional end (or in comparison to what they deserve).

  40. Only a loonie sends spells and incantations through the mail.

    If she sent a more to-the-point message like “drop dead,” she’d be in danger of arrest for sending threats through the mail. At least the “spell” protects her.

  41. Of course it’s not personal to the city. It’s not their land and it’s not their money. Pretty easy to be impersonal when you’re toying with someone else’s life.

  42. The State owns everything. Don’t you realize that? They just allow us to trade it back and forth, using worthless scraps of paper they issue, but in the end, if they want it back, it is theirs to have. Didn’t the 9th Circuit cover this? 😉

    – R

  43. Good for her!

    For a 100 Euros, I know a Gypsy woman who can make this dream come true.

  44. LIT,

    “joe,

    is there ever a time when someone takes your house that its not traumatic?”

    My point exactly – the going position among the “property rights” crowd is that a certain class of takings need to be abolished, and they point to the horrible effects on poor poster children like Ms. Kelo, but that another class of takings, which have exactly the same effect on the people whose property is taken, are acceptable. This is dishonest and manipulative, and I object to people who shed their crocodile tears over people whose property is taken for a parking lot that a private party would own, yet declare that everything would be ok if the parking lot was owned by the city. It’s either unacceptable to do that to somebody, or it’s not.

  45. Your argument sounds pretty specious to me, joe. How about the concept that individual property rights are valuable and should be defended, and that any takings by the state should by LAST resort– not just to benefit some other private enterprise with bigger $ plans and the ear of those in power? Don’t you remember:

    it’s all about the little guy
    it’s all about the little guy
    it’s all about the little guy
    it’s all about the little guy
    it’s all about the little guy
    it’s all about the little guy
    it’s all about the little guy
    it’s all about the little guy

    Your contempt for Ms. Kelo is obvious (“poor poster children”).

  46. My point exactly – the going position among the “property rights” crowd is that a certain class of takings need to be abolished, and they point to the horrible effects on poor poster children like Ms. Kelo, but that another class of takings, which have exactly the same effect on the people whose property is taken, are acceptable. This is dishonest and manipulative

    So when the public gets polled and majorities of people say things along the lines of, “Yeah, takings for roads and stuff are ok, I guess, we need roads…but not to a freaking developer so he can make money!”, the public is being dishonest and manipulative?

  47. Hey gang, don’t forget that you too can join in Suzette Kelo’s celebration by sending along your own special Christmas wishes:

    New London Development Corporation
    165 State Street, Suite 313
    New London, CT 06320

    The names of the board members are listed here.

  48. Just Another Lurker.

    “Last resort” and “public ownership” are not arranged along the same axis.

    You can have a desperate situation that requires a fix that ends up with the property in private hands. You can have a thoughtless, shallow process that takes someone’s land and puts it into public ownership when there were other options available.

    I agree, takings are a drastic step, and should be used only when necessary. That has nothing to do with the question of whether “public use” requires public ownership.

    “Your contempt for Ms. Kelo is obvious” Actually, it’s my contempt for people who exploited her situation for political gain that you’re picking up on.

    Although the “curse” card does make her appear a bit silly.

  49. Eric the Point Five Bee,

    It’s not the position that I find manipulative, but tactics used to advance it.

  50. It’s not the position that I find manipulative, but tactics used to advance it.

    So which tactics would meet with your approval, and perhaps plug up the spout of contempt you keep spewing toward “poor poster children” like Suzette Kelo?

  51. Yawn.

    Bad joe, thinking it’s goofy to put curses on people on Christmas cards.

  52. Bad joe, thinking it’s goofy to put curses on people on Christmas cards.

    That was a hell of a lot easier than answering my question, wasn’t it?

  53. It’s either unacceptable to do that to somebody, or it’s not.

    The exact issue of this case was that there is a flat, friggin’ difference between a city taking property for a city purpose and a city taking it from one private citizen and giving it to another.

    You know that. You’re just being contrarian and trumping this one up.

    It’s not the position that I find manipulative, but tactics used to advance it.

    Now you’re being disengenuous and engaging in needless hairsplitting.

    You refuse to acknowledge distinction of the Kelo case from other eminent domain cases because the impact on Kelo herself was the same as other homeowners in similar cases…

    …but you draw a distinction amongst tactics used by the “property rights” crowd because it might be politically motivated?

    Right, joe…I usually agree with you but lately you’ve shown a tendency to draw narrow lines to make silly arguments.

  54. em>In Vin Suprynowicz’s novel “Black Arrow,” a city council member who steals an old woman’s business using “eminent domain” is sliced into three pieces

    Ken, yes, but Vinnie never takes prisoners.

  55. I believe Kelo was rightly decided. There may be some such thing as a natural right to property, but that right is better defended in legislatures than in courts.

    And I can’t see the absolute difference between takings for public use, and takings for “contracting out” for a private development. Donald Trump might well do much more for the benefit of society in the long-run, than some geek on the planning board building a boon-doggle road or land-fill. This proposition is NOT absurd.

    Also it’s a crappy poem…doesn’t anybody know how to scan meter anymore?

    May all my enemies go to hell!
    Noel, Noel, Noel Noel!

    Hillaire Belloc

  56. Add this…”takings” occur in a context involving a long history of land-use and zoning laws which were already a severe deviation from true market outcomes.

    Not to mention all of amenities of governance which very probably made Kelo’s house the attractive total package it was. If some of those amenities were mortgaged to the future…would she be better off if her property taxes had gone uo 1000%?

    We live in a society, for Christ’s sake…that’s been a rough deal from the beginning. There was no private property in the Cro-Magnon cave. That was a PRODUCT of civilization. Kelo’s house would have been worth nothing without the civilization around it.

  57. “There was no private property in the Cro-Magnon cave. That was a PRODUCT of civilization. Kelo’s house would have been worth nothing without the civilization around it.”

    I’ve heard some batshit insane justifications for ED before, but…this just might take the cake.

    In essence, Andrew, you’re asserting that, since property rights wouldn’t exist without “civilization”, then “civilization” has the right to do what it wants with property? What the fuck? What were you on when you posted that nugget @ 2:30am?

    By your ridiculously absurd logic, you could easily say that the state is justified in taking anything it wants. Before civilization, you had no “right” to wear green pants. So, now, if the state wants to ban green pants, it should be able to.

    Please tell me you’re not this vapid. Please tell me that you, at least, understand the most basic concepts of a constitutional republic. Please. I need my faith in humanity restored a little bit.

    Here’s a suggestion: do some reading on natural rights. The state didn’t “grant” me my rights. Your notion of positive rights (you’re norn with no rights, and the State doles them out as it sees fit), rather than negative rights (you’re born with natural rights, and the state restricts them based on ideals regarding human conflict), runs contrary to the foundation upon which this country is built.

    We do indeed live in a society—but we also have natural rights that the government cannot abridge…regardless of what cro-magnon man did.

  58. Joe:

    My point exactly – the going position among the “property rights” crowd is that a certain class of takings need to be abolished, and they point to the horrible effects on poor poster children like Ms. Kelo, but that another class of takings, which have exactly the same effect on the people whose property is taken, are acceptable. This is dishonest and manipulative… (emphasis added)

    …It’s not the position that I find manipulative, but tactics used to advance it.

    Joe: Seriously – what the Hell?

  59. madpad,

    I understand the difference quite well, thank you very much. Probably a lot better than you, given my professional background.

    Why, I understand that distinction so well that I realize that the “it’s for the poster children” gambit is completely irrelevant to that distinction.

    Evan!,

    Exaggerating Andrew’s argument to the point of absurdity is not a rebuttal. You can make anything sound foolish with the liberal use of the words “any,” “absolute,” and “whatever.” And that’s all you did.

    Getting back to the original point of the thread, how could exactly the same action – the taking of someone’s property through eminent domain – be a violation of someone’s natural rights if it is disposed of in one manner, but not if it is disposed of in another manner? If you take the stereo out of my car, it doesn’t really matter whether you use it, sell it, donate it, or destroy it – you’ve violated my rights. Yet in this case, if New London decides tomorrow that Ms. Kelo’s land is to be used for a highway ramp, then her rights have retroactively not been violated?

    There’s an argument about whether a taking that ends up in private hands is an abuse of the government’s power, but there simply is no merit to the argument that whether or not her rights have been violated depends on the government’s motivation.

  60. O.K., O.K. I got you, joe (though since I have no idea what you background is, I don;t get your reference to it.)

    Yeah, in stark terms, eminent domain is generally a trouncing of an individual’s rights. No getting by that one. I…we ALL…get that.

    But we also understand that, occassionally, individual rights take a back seat to some public good. It’s enumerated in the last sentence ot the 5th amendment to the U.S. constitution and it reads…

    …nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    So there is, at least, some constitutional basis for it. We may not like it, but over the past couple of centuries, we’ve gotten used to it when it comes to widening a road or building an overpass. We’ve learned to accept it.

    Kelo turned that on it’s ear. It, in a sense, ‘rationalized’ that since a development plan benefitted the community, taking private property and giving it over to another private entity was allowable if it was for a “public purpose.”

    Yes, taking someone’s property is a violation of their rights. But one that was apparently deemed acceptable by the writers of the constitution.

    Kelo, however, broke with a common understanding of the limits of that violation opening up opportunities for abuse and a higher volume of eminent domain situations.

  61. Well three plus years later, there has been NOTHING built on all that land… not a friggin thing. Public good? REally? (and why are people calling them “Christmas” cards, she didn’t mention it and there was nothing on or in the cards that implied or referenced Jesus Christ. Snow is not religious. Anyway, I stumbled across this and thought,hmmm. those receipients STILL don’t get it.

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