Eminent Domain Abuse: President Bush finally gets it

President Bush issued an executive order "Protecting the Property Rights of the American People" on the first anniversary of the Kelo decision. The policy is simply stated:

It is the policy of the United States to protect the rights of Americans to their private property, including by limiting the taking of private property by the Federal Government to situations in which the taking is for public use, with just compensation, and for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken.

This is a good step for private property owners, but what the President should do is spend a portion of his remaining political capital to get Senator Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to act on the "Private Property Protection Act." The bill, HR-4128, passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives last November and sits dormant in Senator Specter's committee. If President Bush wants to recapture popularity, this is an issue that has enormous public support and needs to be addressed at all levels of government.

Public support of the issue was demonstrated across the nation on Friday on the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision. Rallies against eminent domain abuse were held in Asbury Park and Long Branch, New Jersey.

New Jersey is slowly moving to amend the Local Redevelopment Housing Law. Major papers such as the Asbury Park Press and the Newark Star Ledger and local papers, such as Atlanticville have all editorialized for eminent domain reform.

The Assembly passed an eminent domain bill Thursday that would make it more difficult for towns and developers to seize private property for economic development purposes. But not difficult enough. The Senate doesn't expect to act on either of its two bills dealing with eminent domain � both of which are even weaker than the Assembly versions � until later this summer. Unfortunately, there's no time to dawdle. Gov. Corzine should impose an immediate moratorium on the use of eminent domain to prevent towns and developers from pushing through projects prior to the enactment of substantive reforms. - Asbury Park Press (June 26, 2005)
The bill is suspiciously silent on pay- to-play. That's the practice of contractors making political contributions and then receiving government contracts. In eminent domain cases, it would be a builder writing a check for a mayor's campaign fund and then having the municipality condemn land that the developer needs. - Star Ledger (June, 25, 2006)

A meaningful reform effort should embrace the very sensible and important recommendations set forth by Public Advocate Ron Chen in his recent report. Those recommendations can be grouped into three categories that:

-Unequivocally restrict the power of eminent domain to truly blighted areas.

-Ensure transparency, public participation and fairness in decision-making.

-Increase compensation to private property owners when eminent domain is absolutely necessary.

The report also shapes its reforms, appropriately, to address two vital public policy matters of widespread concern in New Jersey: ethics in government, and sustainable, affordable housing. -- Paula Franzese and Marc Poirier in the Star Ledger (June 21, 2006)

Meanwhile, on the home front...

�If you believe in the private property rights guaranteed in the Constitution, your heart goes out to the homeowners who have drawn their line in the sand and sworn to fight this greedy assault to the bitter end. - Atlanticville

Critics of this bill sought a blanket ban on condemnation for private to private transfers. This bill, sadly, does not do that. Fittingly, the vote on the bill came the same week that a group of homeowners in Long Branch saw their homes condemned to make way for redevelopment. The judge in the case said he wasn't going to "second guess" the town. How horrible is that? It should be a judge's job to second guess what towns do. What happened in Long Branch is why a stronger law restricting eminent domain is needed. - Daily Record, Morris County (June 26, 2006)

Cast your vote on the Asbury Park Press is Reader Poll:
Despite a court ruling in their favor, should Long Branch and the city's redeveloper change construction plans to allow residents of the MTOTSA neighborhood to remain in their homes?

Written By:Kevin Brown On June 26, 2006 12:13 PM

Hear! Hear! Mr. President, this is a win - win issue for you. Join us, as you stood atop of a firetruck in NYC soon after 9/11; Come to Seven President's Park in Long Branch and protect us from this unconstitutional theft of property. God Bless America!

Written By:Florida reader On August 27, 2006 1:42 PM

I am afraid that you are looking to the wrong politician for assistance. While he was the president's son, a private businessman, instead of the president, Bush used his political connections to have a family farm condemned that he and his real estate partners wanted as a site for the Arlington Sports Center. The farm had been in the family for many generations, and they refused to sell. Although the courts later ruled that the farm owners had been cheated and had been paid less than a 6th of the value of the land, Bush and his partners had already made 185 million off the deal by abusing "the rights of Americans to their private property"... "merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken"!
Bush is proficient at saying the things that the public wants to hear in public, but doing just what he wants behind the scenes.

Written By:Rene Nowicki On September 26, 2006 9:25 AM

How insane is this interpretation of the law? And it goes up to the Supreme Court as well. But it is more than the question of what is legal, it's what is moral. Vote the politians out and boycott the developers who have their hands in the politians' pockets. PS- the IRS should audit Bush and the lumber company he knows nothing about. "Wanna buy some wood? Ha ha ha."

Written By:Debbie On September 1, 2007 10:54 AM

They say never fight city hall and what a battle....... Consuming 5 years of our lives. Just want to get the word out about what happens when corruption is involved. Guess we are lucky that we weren't buried in shallow unmarked graves after they stole our land.

Fighting Goliath
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
August 20, 2007 Monday
Every once in a great while, government, as a land-grabbing Goliath, gets thumped by the most diminutive David, especially when the former fails to follow its own policies.
That may cost Philadelphia $497,230 in damages, plus the plaintiffs' legal fees.
It began when Ed and Debbie Munoz, in pursuit of the American dream, put up their New Jersey home and borrowed $1 million to buy a grocery and garden center in Juniata Park. Afterward the couple learned -- secondhand through customers -- that their business was in the footprint of a planned housing development.
For more than two years, the Munozes sought answers from the city but said they received none. In 2004, with declining sales -- allegedly because of government's imminent land grab -- and Ed Munoz's declining health, the couple declared bankruptcy. The city picked up the property at a sheriff's sale.
The Munozes went to court.
City officials said it wasn't clear through 2004 whether the Munozes' lot would be needed. Yet an April 2003 letter from the developer asked the city's Redevelopment Authority to acquire the property.
Even the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reportedly warned city officials in 2005 that Philadelphia violated federal relocation law.
So, all's well that ends well? Not quite. Goliath plans an appeal.
Here's hoping these Davids, and all the other Davids facing similar battles for their rights, won't give up the fight.