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GOVERNMENT: Cities Gain Greater Power to Steal Private Property

posted 7, 12, 2005



By L.K. Samuels

On June 23, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that city redevelopment agencies can seize and demolish private homes under eminent domain laws for any reason. In Kelo vs. New London, five justices argued that city governments can confiscate private property and sell it to another private owner if the new development provides more tax revenues. The property condemned no longer has to be “blighted,” it just has to produce more income for local governments.

One of the dissenting justices, Sandra Day O’Connor, wrote: “Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory."

City redevelopment agencies have confiscated thousands of homes in the past decade, according to the Institute for Justice, the organization that represented the homeowners in New London, Connecticut. But in the past, most properties acquired under eminent domain cases were “substandard.” But the New London neighborhood was not blighted.

This ruling bestows upon city governments frightening new powers to take anything they want from private citizens. They no longer have to follow the Fifth Amendment which states that private property can only be taken for “public use.” The only requirement now needed is for a majority of city council members to begin condemnation procedures. In fact, in many cases, city authorities are not even required to directly notify the property owners of condemnation hearings concerning their property. Often, citizens learned about the loss of their property after the fact.

A condemnation expert and attorney in Phoenix, Arizona, Steve Hirshe, said, “The decision has put wind in the sails of redevelopment-minded cities and developers who would get into bed with those cites.”

Government at all levels has been gaining greater control over the lives of its citizens. This is just another example of private property rights being compromised, not by thieves of the night, but by an organization that is supposed to protect citizens’ rights.

MORE ON REDEVELOPMENT: See Chris Norby’s booklet Redevelopment: The Unknown Government. Norby’s tells about the “unknown government” currently consuming 10% of all property taxes in California. It has a total indebtedness of over $56 billion. “Unlike other governments, it can incur bonded indebtedness without voter approval.”

Having 18 years experience as a City Councilman in Fullerton, CA, Norby knows first hand the problems development bring to the taxpayers and the community. This book, sponsored by Municipal Officials for Redevelopment Reform, should be required reading for every official in every state. Redevelopment: The Unknown Government can be read on line at: http://www.redevelopment.com

Since it was first published in 1996 nearly 60,000 copies of this book have been distributed. Each year an updated version is released.



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