Civil Rights

Eminent Domain As a Civil Rights Issue

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An event in Alabama tomorrow that looks like it'll be worth watching:

Few policies have done more to destroy community and opportunity for minorities than eminent domain. Some 3 to 4 million Americans, most of them ethnic minorities, have been forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of urban renewal takings since World War II….

On Tuesday, the Alabama Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a public forum at Birmingham's historic Sixteenth Street Baptist church to address ongoing property seizures in the state. The church was not only a center of early civil rights action, but also, tragically, where four schoolgirls lost their lives in a bombing in 1963.

Whole article here. Event details here.

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  1. How many of those 3-4 million were displaced for highways in the 60s?

  2. How many of those 3-4 million were displaced for highways in the 60s?

    Mike, I’m glad you brought that up. Leaving aside eminent domain abuse (Kelo, Poletown and scores of others) freeway developers face a no win situation. Because of fiscal restraints eminent domain claims for freeways (a legitimate public use) are routed through the poorest, almost always minority, neighborhoods. Certainly the taxpayers don’t want to pay Beverly Hills prices for freeway land acquisition when the Watts option is available for a fraction of the price. A completely racially unbiased decision will still cause disproportionate upheaal of poorer, minority property owners.

    IOW, it’s not necessarily racism as much as proper stewardship of taxpayer funds.

  3. J sub D,

    If Eisenhower (or his highway designers) had listened to me (admittedly I wasnt born yet, but that isnt a good excuse), there would have been less of that problem. They should have built a ring road around each major city (mostly done) and then only taken the interstates tangent to the cities instead of thru them. No interstates inside the rings.

    This would have also prevented the “suburban subsidization” problem.

  4. robc,

    So it’s all your fault for lingering in limbo rather than making a prompt entrance into corporal existence.

    Shame on you.

  5. Cool.

    Much more useful than the fight over the definition of public use.

  6. joe,

    Gotta disagree. If (and only if) we are going to have ED, defining public use is very important/useful. Also seems straight forward – public – all of us, use – something that is used.

    Roads, schools, parks, maybe even military bases (although that is streching public to me) fall under public use. Just about anything else is private.

    It seems SCOTUS could have come up with a restricted and straight forward definition. For one thing, if the property ends up owned by a private entity, it clearly isnt public use.

    Of course, I oppose urban renewal takings, because I dont see them as public use either. Just because my property has been condemned doesnt take away my property rights.

  7. Yes, defining public use is useful. That’s probably why there have been so many cases before the Supreme Court doing that over the past 200 years.

    Roads, schools, parks, maybe even military bases (although that is streching public to me) fall under public use. Just about anything else is private.

    This is the fight you pick if your motivation is about limiting government.

    If your motivation is to protect the well being of the poor and vulnerable, you pick a fight more similar to what’s going down at the
    Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

    It’s all a question of perspective, I guess.

  8. They should have built a ring road around each major city (mostly done) and then only taken the interstates tangent to the cities instead of thru them. No interstates inside the rings.

    You ever driven around the Washington DC area, where that’s pretty much what they did (the freeways all dead-end in the city)? It’s a freakin’ nightmare and there is still tons of traffic. That would be magnified ten-fold if highway traffic into/out of a city had to take surface streets entirely. And yes, there would still be a lot of commuter traffic even in your little version of Utopia.

  9. If Eisenhower (or his highway designers) had listened to me (admittedly I wasnt born yet, but that isnt a good excuse), there would have been less of that problem.

    All you have to do is go to Europe where freeways were built hundreds, if not thousands, of years after the cities were built. You just produce an entirely different set of problems.

  10. It’s all a question of perspective, I guess.

    You bet. As Kelo proved, all but the top 1% are “poor and vulnerable” compared with the power of the state.

  11. ChrisO,

    DC has there own set of traffic problems.

    There is nothing in my idea that would have prevented cities/states from building high access roads to downtown areas (I realize, in the case of DC, that falls back to the Feds basically, but they are a strange case).

    DC wouldnt have so many commuters if they would get rid of that silly “no buildings taller than the Washington Monument” rule. Could you imagine NYC with no buildings over 5 stories on Manhattan Island?

  12. joe

    This is the fight you pick if your motivation is about limiting government.

    If your motivation is to protect the well being of the poor and vulnerable, you pick a fight more similar to what’s going down at the
    Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

    Sometimes I wonder if you realize what website you are posting on.

    Fighting for limited government also protects the poor and vulnerable, who, as this shows, are hurt much more by unlimited government. The first does both. Win – win.

  13. Limited government also has the advantage of helping out DC’s traffic problem.

  14. Limited government also has the advantage of helping out DC’s traffic problem.

    Now *that* is something we can both agree upon.

    BTW, the rule in DC is no buildings taller than 12 stories, I believe, and the must-be-tallest building in question is the Capitol. It’s kind of a silly rule, but then I don’t think using NYC as an exemplar is a good idea in a conversation about traffic… 🙂

  15. California voters who want to limit eminent domain can vote YES on PROPOSITION 98 on the June 3, 2008 primary ballot.

    California split its primary this year, and held a Presidential contest on Super Tuesday in February. June 3, 2008 we will hold primaries for all qualified parties for Congress and state legislature. So be sure to vote June 3, 2008 YES on Proposition 98.

  16. My point, robc, was that picking the fight over “public use” didn’t do jack shit to protect the poor and vulnerable, did it?

    But then, it wasn’t supposed to. For all the yammering, that was never the point.

  17. You’re really a piece of work, Ayn Randian.

    You write about a dozen posts accusing me of facile picking and choosing in my religious beliefs, and when I dare to disagree, to point out that an unorthodox religiosity can be just as serious, just as troubling, as a more orthodox one, you tell me “come down off your cross,” as if I’ve been trying to garner sympathy.

    Sounds like the sort of cheap shot someone lets off when they’re losing.

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