Government Reform

Kelo-a-Go-Go

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Here's good news on the eminent domain front in Ohio:

Cincinnati must pay $335,000 in attorney and witness fees to the owners of two fast-food restaurants in Clifton Heights who successfully challenged Cincinnati's right to use eminent domain.

That's the ruling by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Ralph Winkler, whose written decision included a stern scolding of Cincinnati for the way it tried to take the owners' properties.

"The City of Cincinnati should in the future be very careful when it initiates eminent domain proceedings against private-property owners," he wrote. "In this case, the city lost taxpayers' money to legal fees and expenses."

The city was trying to demolish an Arby's and a Hardee's in an area they bogusly claimed was blighted. More here.

Read reason's interview with Scott Bullock, the attorney who argued Kelo v. New London in front of the U.S. Supreme Court here.

And here's our whole megillah on eminent domain abuse.

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  1. You know what it means when you ackowledge that there is a wrong way to use eminent domain, and a wrong way to declare properties appropriate targets for eminent domain?

  2. It means the city wasn’t following the established law, not a tacit admission that the law is correct.

  3. joe,

    Probably the same thing that it means when you acknowledge that there’s a wrong way to wiretap Americans’ phone conversations without warrants.

  4. I bet this will be overturned on appeal…using logic about the compelling intrests of the government.

    I hope I am wrong

  5. crimethink,

    Nope, I’ve never said there was a wrong way to wiretap Americans phone conversations without warrants.

    But

  6. But you’re right, anyone who wrote a piece claiming that the government went about warrantless wiretapping in the wrong manner would, indeed, be acknowledging that there is a correct manner.

  7. “You know what it means when you ackowledge that there is a wrong way to use eminent domain, and a wrong way to declare properties appropriate targets for eminent domain?”

    That politicians can’t be trusted?

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Snob in Joe’s Head

  8. I wonder what it would be like to be able to think of more than one thing?

  9. I hope I am wrong

    Don’t worry, you usually are… 😉

  10. Can’t trust politicians. I’m not naive. Gotta watch Wapner. Wapner comes on at 5:00. Gotta watch Wapner.

  11. joe,
    Some of us may indeed wish to abolish ED all together. Most of us however, do make room for a proper takings. Much is made of the terms “Public Use” and “Just Compensation”. No taking someone’s home because it’s “blighted”. And NEVER NEVER take property for private development. Only the most loathsome, most despicable, lowlife scumwallowing sewer-rat would ever go along with that.

  12. What an unbearable pummelling that was. I disagree (based on the available evidence) with Joe; this makes me naive, and retarded.

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Idiot Savant in Joe’s Head

  13. Warren,

    Have you considered the possibility that the sources you’ve read about Eminent Domain issues don’t provide you with all the relevant information? And that maybe they’re doing so to manipulate you into an emotional response?

    For example, blight is a term that refers to an area. Properties are taken if they are in a blighted area. Not singling out a house that is in bad condition and taking it, but taking a number of properties in an area because the area is blighted.

    Now, tell the truth, in all of the stories you’ve read about this issue on Reason, have you ever come across that fact? Ever?

    Maybe – and keep an open mind here – the issue is sufficiently complicated that people who don’t actuall swallow sewer water could disagree with you on it.

  14. Isn’t Hardee’s de facto blight?

  15. But you’re right, anyone who wrote a piece claiming that the government went about warrantless wiretapping in the wrong manner would, indeed, be acknowledging that there is a correct manner.

    Claiming, perhaps. Acknowledging?

  16. an Arby’s and a Hardee’s in an area they bogusly claimed was blighted.

    Come on! I mean, an Arby’s OR a Hardee’s, and maybe there’s some dispute. But with both there, how could it NOT be blighted?

  17. Isn’t Hardee’s de facto blight?

    Do not dis the Monster Thickburger! Where else can you get 2/3 of your daily calories, 255% of your recommended saturated fat intake, and twice your recommended sodium in one bun?

    Also, Carl Jr’s and Hardees are the same restaurant with different names depending where you are in the country.

  18. What I find interesting here is… that a privately run business (or two, not clear) who has a vested interest in (sorry joe) making a profit, has decided that the neighborhood is good enough for it to choose to stay. The privately owned business owner feels like the neighborhood is good enough to support his business. This isn’t some poor homeowner who is too stupid or too selfish to move… this is an ongoing business enterprise.

    But the local government, in order to appease some other ongoing business enterprise (who most likley contributed more to the local government officials’ re-election than the Hardee/Arby owner) sees fit to try to steal the land… I mean, declare the land blighted.

    I don’t know. Weird. (Almost always wrong, but this one is weird).

    CB

  19. Cracker’s Boy,

    The problem here is that the government used the all-too-common, but still completely wrong, definition of blight “something we don’t think it ideal for that location.”

    They just wanted to “upgrade” from one type of business and building to another, even though the former were doing just fine, thanks.

  20. Now, tell the truth, in all of the stories you’ve read about this issue on Reason, have you ever come across that fact? Ever?

    Yes joe, many times. Why don’t you tell that to the writers of the report referenced in the article? It seems they don’t understand the concept.

    A study of that area commissioned by the city and the developer, the Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., called many of the properties blighted or deteriorating.

  21. MP,

    Properties can be called “blighted,” but that doesn’t authorize their taking. Properties have to be in a blighted area to be taken. To ascertain whether an area is blighted, one of the things people do is to survey the condition of the buildings in the area. It’s one data point.

  22. Some of us may indeed wish to abolish ED all together.

    Bob Dole certainly does.

    Question – What is up with the way the article keeps referring to “the former Hardee’s and Arby’s”? Were they operating until the cost of the legal battle made them close? Or were the two stores already closed, with no new businesses there?

  23. joe – are we agreeing here? What the local government did was wrong? And Judge Winkler’s decision was right?

    Cool.

    CB

  24. CB,

    At first blush, yeah, though the article is, as usual, a little unclear on what actually happened. I’m just taking Nick’s word for it that this was a case of a phoney blight designation.

    There actually is a thing called “blight.”

    “I don’t like the image a Hardee’s conveys” aint’ it.

  25. I think joe’s just trying to get the camel toe under the tent for ED here.

  26. “Much is made of the terms “Public Use” and “Just Compensation”. No taking someone’s home because it’s “blighted”. And NEVER NEVER take property for private development.”

    Exactly.

    REAL “public use” relates only to direct government functions such as roads, schools, etc, – not taking property from one private owner to hand it over to another because the politicians think the latter can make “better use” of it (i.e pay higher property taxes).

  27. This ain’t SimCity folks. Bulldozing an area just because you don’t like the socio-economic class of people living there doesn’t fix anything.

    My home town’s downtown as considered “blighted”, because all the stores were discount stores with 50% vacancy. They didn’t actually condemn anything with eminent domain, but they did close off the downtown for a year and spent millions refacing all the buildings, putting in a new traffic circle, sidewalks, landscaping, etc. Five years later it’s all discount stores with 50% vacancy.

  28. Brandybuck,

    I used to complain about how SimCity was an authoritarian nightmare with the worst sorts of public power, but then I figured out that double lines of residentials need a lot less railroad access than donuts do.

  29. Do not even THINK of moving into a neighborhood that’s on the dingy side, or has any abandoned buildings, because it might be declared “blighted” and then you’ll lose the home you just bought. And if the neighborhood where you already live is moving toward blight, you’d best skedaddle out of there because the government might take your home as punishment for living in a blighted neighborhood.

    No, they won’t actually call it “punishment.” They’ll call it something else in an attempt to disguise the fact that they’re confiscating your property, despite the fact that you committed no crime except the crime of being poor or living in the same neighborhood as people who don’t properly maintain their properties.

    Who was the Vietnam general who said he had to destroy the village in order to save it? He must have read the same anti-blight books Joe did. Remember when New London confiscated the homes of poor residents in order to make New London a better place for poor people to live?

  30. Jennifer? Hysterically over-reacting? No way!

    Yes, Jennifer, if you move into a neighborhood that is the slightest bit dingy, you are almost certain to have your home condemned.

    BTW, dear, I wrote the very first comment condemning the New London plan on the very first thread that Hit and Run ever dedicated to the subject. You can look it up.

    Of course, by that point, I’d already been arguing against it for years, going back to when I’d first heard of the case in grad school during the 1990s.

    You display all the dedication to truth, facts, and nuance of Dick Cheney being interviewed by Bill O’Reilly.

  31. BTW, Jennifer, you’ve been spouting off at me about the Kelo case for years, and you still think the homeowners were “poor people?”

    You’re one of those “creating our own reality” people, aren’t you?

  32. I agree with this ruling, but I can understand the decision to invoke eminent domain. For years, the University of Cincinnati has been buying up land around the school, and they have transformed much of the area already. My guess is that the organization that tried to buy these places is somehow connected to the school and thereby, at least indirectly, part of a public entity (IANAL). And recently, I was back there to see a friend and much of Clifton heights–the area around the school–can arguably be said to be a blight; the Arby’s I saw had been boarded up for some time, as evidenced by the graffiti on its plywood windows, and few of my old haunts were more than just fenced in lots or similarly boarded up buildings. Admittedly, that might not have been the restaurant in question, but it seems likely. Of course, just across the street is a shiny new dorm, part of the development I am sure the University wants to extend even further.

    None of this should justify allowing the city to take someone’s land, but it does provide some context for the decision to make the attempt.

  33. Chances are that the developers tried to buy a number of properties on the sneaky, but the two store owners got wind of it and held out. The local city folks probably got pissed at the ‘greed’ of the store owners (but not the developers) and took action. Illegal and immoral action. I’m not sure the area was so great for fast food as it seems to me that private developers tried to create an end run around the real estate market. Of course, maybe that only happens in Orlando.

  34. I’d already been arguing against it for years, going back to when I’d first heard of the case in grad school during the 1990s.

    Still, though, you believe eminent domain as a cure for bad neighborhoods is fine so long as it’s done “right.” (Communism’s never really been done properly, either. If the Soviets just had the right guy in charge it really would have been a worker’s paradise.)

    Joe, accuse me of overreacting all you wish; it doesn’t change the fact that the use of ED to “cure” “blight” pretty much ensures the free market can’t; who would be dumb enough to buy in a blighted neighborhood when they know the government might condemn it? Pity, that, since such places are also most likely to be the sort of places where poor folks can afford to live.

    As for the New London folk, they admittedly weren’t “poor” by libertarian standards; these people had enough money to buy all life’s necessities and likely some luxuries as well. But their town government considered them not merely poor, but unacceptably so. Remember? The only reason they lost their homes is that they didn’t owe enough taxes for New London to figure they deserved to keep the homes they bought. And New London did this with the weapons that you insist government MUST be allowed to wield.

    Also, Joe, sneering at me about hysteria and Dick Cheney won’t change the fact that anti-blight laws do, in fact, hurt the poor and lowest of the lower-middle-class; of neighborhoods declared “blighted” over the last however-many years, how many were the areas where the rich folks lived? I’d guess none.

  35. Still, though, you believe eminent domain as a cure for bad neighborhoods just as long as it’s done right.

    Nope, I don’t believe that, either. Maybe a little more work with the ears, a little less with the mouth.

    Communism’s never really been done properly, either. Yes, and neither has the free market. Or so I’m told.

    Joe, accuse me of overreacting all you wish; it doesn’t change the fact that the use of ED to “cure” “blight” pretty much ensures the free market can’t; who would be dumb enough to buy in a blighted neighborhood when they know the government might condemn it? Pity, that, since such places are also most likely to be the sort of places where poor folks can afford to live.

    You still don’t know what blight is, do you? You’re here, mouthing off about how it can be cured, and what curing an area of blight means, and you can’t even give me a working definition of blight, can you?

    But their town government considered them not merely poor, but unacceptably so. Remember?

    No, I don’t remember that, because that never happened. You do love the little dramas in your head, don’t you?

    The government in New London decided that the single family residential neighborhood in question should be turned into a mixed commercial/residential/retail/hotel district, with a much greater building- and unit-density. None of this had anything to do with their wealth. Not that I’d support such a taking, but would it kill you to know what you’re talking about before you start waging these jihads against heretics?

    anti-blight laws do, in fact, hurt the poor and lowest of the lower-middle-class

    If the only thing I knew about the subject was what was written by political activists arguing one side, I might draw that conclusion, too.

    As for sneering, you’ve proven yourself impervious to reason and interested in an honest conversation. You’d rather descend in a howling rage and insult everyone who dares to disagree with you. Fine; just don’t be surpirsed when I choose to insult you back.

  36. As for sneering, you’ve proven yourself impervious to reason and interested in an honest conversation. You’d rather descend in a howling rage and insult everyone who dares to disagree with you. Fine; just don’t be surpirsed when I choose to insult you back.

    You described yourself to a tee, joe. Too bad your own bloated egocentricity will never allow you to grasp that.

  37. That Arby’s and Hardees really are sties, not that I agree with taking them via ED. Both of the buildings have been boarded up for years, presumably because of the pending litigation. The Arby’s moved down the street to the bottom floor of a small retail building, and there hasn’t been an operating Hardees in the Cincinnati area for years. Really, the whole area has been going down the tubes for years. It’s currently being held up by the University of Cincinnati (Across the street from where the two restaurants in question were).

  38. “Maybe a little more work with the ears, a little less with the mouth.”

    What? Who the fuck are you, Abe Simpson?

  39. No, I don’t remember that, because that never happened. You do love the little dramas in your head, don’t you?

    She went on to explain that in the sentences immediately following.

    Here is why Jennifer contends that the City of New London considered the New London residents unacceptably poor:

    They did not generate sufficient tax revenue or or economic activity per acre to keep their land.

    Jennifer, joe’s more-or-less on our side now. He’s quibbling with us over language, not end results. He’s stated several times here that he opposes economic development takings (I don’t recall hearing this from him around Kelo times, and I think he was in favor of the Kelo decision at the time).

    Indeed, I think it’s possible to be opposed to economic-development takings and still be in favor of the Kelo decision on federalist grounds, anyway. Basically, states and municipalities can impose stricter requirements on eminent domain without a federal mandate. This clearly wouldn’t be joe’s opinion, since he’s not exactly a booster for the federal system, but it’s not an inconsistent libertarian position. Just as I know pro-choice libertarians who are nonetheless opposed to Roe v Wade based on federalist arguments.

    It’s a crazy world out there, folks.

  40. BLIGHT IS WHERE SERFS LIVE.

    YOU CAN LOOK IT UP. IT’S ALL IN THE DEFINITIONS, PEOPLE. AVE NABISCO

  41. Exhibit One in my case that the fast food dudes were unpopular holdouts is a quote from the right and honorable AMK:

    “[Sale of the buildings and/or development of the area is] currently being held up by the University of Cincinnati (Across the street from where the two restaurants in question were).”

    There’s nothing like a university to get holdouts seeing green. And, oh yeah, it’s their property, so long live the holdouts.

  42. As for sneering, you’ve proven yourself impervious to reason and interested in an honest conversation. You’d rather descend in a howling rage and insult everyone who dares to disagree with you.

    Said the man who thinks comparisons to Dick Cheney, accusations of hysteria and references to my sex life as a teenager are valid debating techniques.

    The government in New London decided that the single family residential neighborhood in question should be turned into a mixed commercial/residential/retail/hotel district, with a much greater building- and unit-density. None of this had anything to do with their wealth.

    Nonsense, as Lunchstealer already explained: New London wanted more tax revenue than those people paid. And New London could have simply changed the zoning laws to allow mixed use and let the residents choose to sell their land to developers, rather than declare, by fiat, that the residents would lose their homes so that developers (with more money to spend on taxes) could have the land instead.

    Jennifer, joe’s more-or-less on our side now. He’s quibbling with us over language, not end results. He’s stated several times here that he opposes economic development takings

    Great, but he’s still arguing in favor of condemning an entire neighborhood on grounds of “blight.” For the record: I can definitely support takings of individual blighted properties: if a piece of property has been abandoned for X amount of time (the exact nature of X is debatable) then ED might be quite reasonable. But that is for individual pieces of property, not the entire neighborhood. Condemning the entire area punishes those homeowners who stayed in their homes rather than leave once the neighborhood started to decline. If I buy, live in and maintain a house that happens to be between two blighted properties, why should I have my house confiscated, too?

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