Thursday, June 23, 2005

Real (Estate) Justice?

I know that government goes around telling people in other countries what to do, but now this. If you hadn't read the article, the Supreme Court decided to allow governments to use iminent domain to take over property for any reason. Before it was for clear use for the public good. Now, it's for the private sector as well. A Conneticut government is taking people's home so they can build office space.

This could be the beginning of the end of the what i knew as the US. The most Democratic nation in the world. Where people could live freely. It's been going on for years, but i think we have officially sold out to the private sectors. I knew the ruling elites rules the country already, but now they've taken control of everything. Now they Big Business gets to decide where people can or can't live. Grease the right hands and you too can have a neighborhood.

This is rediculous and the Supreme Court and the Connecticut government should be ashame of themselves. I guess i need to talk to Oprah and see if she could get in good with some folks in Baton Rouge. There's a neigborhood near LSU I'd like to take over.


Blogger ET said...

Okay, to be fair... the city is going to be using SOME of the seized property for public use. It sounds something along the lines of a boardwalk-type deal... shops, convention center?, etc... The issue revolves around whether or not the gov't can use eminent domain to seize property for public use when it isn't blighted and is to be used for redevelopment. The thing that breaks my heart... one woman has lived in the same house since forever (I think it said 1918??), and her husband has lived there with her for their SIXTY years of marriage!!! Living in the same house for over eighty years (it has been in her family for over a century and their son lives next door with his wife)... priceles... you can't put a value on that. Call me sentimental I don't care... running little old ladies out of their homes... now that's just plain mean. :)

11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being someone who actually works on these issues, I can see both sides of the coin. On the one hand, people don't want to lose their property, and property rights have always been at the core of a lot of American ideals. The residents of those properties have been there for a long time, and don't want to move. I can respect that. On the other hand, what about the other residents of the city who are upset at the fact that the local economy blows and they have elected officials to try and rebuild it. This developer is trying to do that, to what extent, I have no clue, but is trying to do something on that point.

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

And on top of that, it is not like this place was pulled out of the blue for economic development. The developer wasn't just walking through this place and though, "Gee, all these old homes are in a really nice place for a boardwalk development, I think I'll try and buy them regardless of what this land is set up for." No, this space was identified by the local authorities as being appropriate for development and part of a local plan for economic development, which means that it had been slated for commercial uses.

While I think that this case is sad in that these people were uprooted, New London really had only two choices. Let this space stay stagnant and continue to hope a developer would be interested in some space somewhere in town that might help rebuild the economy, or take this space, use eminent domain, and try to start rebuilding the local economy. You tell me what the elected officials of an economically depressed city are going to do.

4:51 AM  
Blogger The Underdog said...

That is great that you are trying to build the economy of an economically depressed area, but i don't think driving out long time residents is the way. I'm sure this property will be used to create something that will only be used by and for the wealthy. And that's what the supreme court ruling has given the ok for. To use eminent domain to take from the poor and give to the rich. That's what development is about isn't it. Making rich folks richer? I don't see anyone trying to redevelop economically impoverished communities. If it has been, the poor are forced out by higher rates, and the richer come in. Yes that may stimulate some economic effects, but it pushes problems into another sector of the city/town etc. No matter how it's looked at, greed still rules this country. Instead of looking for alternatives and fixing a problem, we build over and around it forcing the problem to move to a new part of town. I can imagine this happening in Iraq as well.

9:07 AM  
Blogger The Underdog said...

This is from the Baton Rouge Business...thanks dbrous!

Developer wants Justice Souter's land

"Not trying to make a point: A developer has begun the process to seize Supreme Court Justice David Souter's home for a hotel development, a move that comes after the Souter and four other justices ruled this week it was OK for government to seize private property for ecomomic development. Logan Darrow Clements wants Souter's house in the Towne of Weare, N.H., to build the The Lost Liberty Hotel that will feature the Just Desserts Caf?. "This is not a prank" said Clements. "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter, we can begin our hotel development."

Now this is real justice.

Souter Home, it's not just a wine anymore.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Have you even done anything to learn about this other than read the generic CNN stuff?

The community itself OK'd the plan for this area. I am aware that this doesn't mean everyone wanted it, but that's a public process. The plan for this area would have gone through public hearings. If the residents were opposed to this, that's the time to step up and get your voice heard. Yeah, I'm sorry the town has to condemn homes where people have been living, but would you rather that the town itself ceases to exist? I don't know where you're from, but that does happen in rural areas in this country. All of the young leave to find work, the elderly die, and the town is gone. New London apparently doesn't want to go the way of the dodo and wants to make a fight of it. So they do this.

And yes, capitalism is a part of that. At last check, it is unfortunately true that money makes our nation run.

And using eminent domain to do this isn't a new thing. Washington D.C. did this in the late '70's-early 80's to destroy a blighted urban area and rebuild it better. Detroit did this in a case that is heavily cited in the discussion on this case, when in the mid-'80s, the auto industry was drying up, and Detroit, to accomodate GM's new Cadillac plant, condemned an entire neighborhood in order to bring in about 2,000 jobs, after losing 6,000 or so in the previous couple of years. New London's got double the unemployment rate of the rest of Connecticut. What would you do, as an elected official in New London?

Hey, and while you are at it, try and throw out some details on what your Iraq line means. And I'll respond. I may be an anonymous coward, but I'll fire back if you take the shot.

8:40 PM  
Blogger The Underdog said...

Remember anonymous, you called yourself an anonymous coward, i didn't. But if you would like to be apart of the fold i'll put you on. I have no problem with that. Although i may disagree with what i perceive your views to be, I like the debate and respect your opinion. Let me know if you want in. Now as for your statements...

I do generally use CNN as my main source since it is quick and to the point. Plus it's my website of choice for news right now. However, on occassion i like to read other items. While i may mostly put CNN posts on the blog, i do try to read more than just that. I've had enough classes to know that no one media outlet will give the complete story. If you can identify other websites or add articles yourself i'd greatly appreciate it.

About eminent domain...
I know it's been used before. But it's been used on a larger stage for the public good. Rebuilding a neighborhood is large scale. A huge auto factory bringing in a high number of jobs is large scale. There is a difference in using eminent domain for facilities to increase the public good and building condos. Sure condos and offices will probably increase revenues, but at the expense of another public good. This ruling, which upholds a practice used throughout the years, just solidifies that the government, and now judiciary is for the rights of the businessman over the rights of the citizen. The citizen lay clain to that property first. Was that current location barron or blighted? Could something have been done in coordination with the private homeowners? It's just waterfront property the government and rich developers wanted to take for their own purposes. Putting up a notice saying you have 4 months to leave is not a fair way to treat your people. So what i am saying is, while yes i know it's been used before (my aunt's home was taken for a highway system back in Louisiana) and yes, there could be some public benefit, but taking people's land, valuable land at that, and building condos, offices and hotels in place is not fair and not a good practice. Let the market deal with that. This sets a bad presedence for the future.

And as for my comments about Iraq, they aren't geared toward the concept of iminent domain. They speak more to what's going to happen over there. We have gone into the country in the name of freedom and justice, yet we won't solve the main problems. Yes we'll give them plumbing and infrastructure and probably even cable TV in the outlying areas, but that will not solve the rift between the US and Iraquis, Iranians or anyone for that matter. It seems that we as a country, and a people just throw money at things. No one sits down and try to figure out why people don't like us. There's no reason to be seen as this imperial superpower unless we want to. And i think many poeple play into that. We like the idea that we are the only superpower and we use this to bully people. I believe we should at least try to identify the root of the anger and work on that. But, what'll happen is we go in, spend tons of money on Iraq, and still have them hate our guts. We do so well in funding others, calling them allies. What's going to happen when we need funding? What'll happen when we need help? I sure hope all the allies we've bought over the years will help us then. In closing, you can't bully or buy your way out of a problem. That's what's happening in Iraq. Will they respect us any more? Maybe, but i doubt it.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, Underdog. I quite easily agree with you on Iraq. I'm at a loss to understand your link to the issue in this thread. As an example of stupid moves made for no real reason, I can see that. As an example of government and the people that it is composed of, I can see that. But since it seems like we're discussing eminent domain and the its consequences, I'd just assume ditch this fork in the conversation and focus in on what the initial post was about, that being eminent domain and the consequences of the Kelo vs. New London case.

Since you are obviously aware of the limitations of CNN, I'm kind of surprised that you are basing a great deal of your analysis on the anecdotal evidence that the media eats up and regurgitates for the morons at home.

As for other sites, you may want to try reading the opinion as published by the court, and checking out the referenced cases. Or see if the American Planning Association ( anything up in their non-members access areas.

Now, let's move on to the mechanics of how this worked. As I have learned, New London's elected officials decided that something had to be done about the high unemployment and declining economy in the town. I don't think we disagree that New London, since the closure of the submarine base, is in bad economic shape. Double the unemployment of the rest of the state is a concrete sign that things are bad.

What happened was Pfizer, who is a monstrously huge drug company, decided to build a facility there. In an effort to improve things and preserve some historic property, the New London government authorized the construction on the condition that Fort Trumbull would be saved and converted into a park/historic site. Off of that process, the areas around Fort Trumbull were opened up to development. Either the town or a developer (I'm hazy on this fact, but I'm pretty sure it was the developer) submitted a plan to develop this area to make it more interesting for Pfizer in an effort to capitalize off of their presence and try to secure that presence for a while. This plan went through their process, and that would generally be two public hearings and notification to residents within a given distance. Usually, that's 1000 feet, but given this is New England, and that is a huge distance there, it could be less, and all property owners in this area. They were notified and the elected officials, presumably after hearing those who came to those meetings, decided that things were still good for this, authorized the plan. Then the town condemned the area covered by the plan, and here we are. The residents who were either ignored, or were insufficient in number that were opposed to the compensation offered on their condemned property (which is usually the assessed value), laid suit.

One big issue is one you mentioned, was the area blighted or barren or something. No, it was not, but in Connecticut, the state legislature detailed the allowance for condemning for public use and decided that the definition could include economic development. So the enabling legislation would have authorized the condemnation.

The Supreme Court decided not to argue with the state legislature on this, and there we have the decision. The Kelo attorney's main arguement was that there needed to be a better test for that. The court didn't want to usurp the power of the legislature, and there's another aspect of the case.

Really, this is more complicated than government and big money pooling resources to make more money, which is what the media seems to have it written as.

And in that plan, what I have read is that the spaces these properties whose owners started the suits was to be a park center for the Fort Trumbull park. And while there would be some tourist stuff and a hotel there, I don't believe condos were on the plan. But then, I haven't seen it, and could be wrong.

And to be quite honest on this, the needs of the many, primarily the needs of New London, in my mind outweigh the needs of these two or three property owners. This was not a '4 months and you are out' situation. People had notice on the plan, they had notice on what would happen, and they refused. That is their right, but the elected officials and the rest of the public did not get behind them and push their opinion far enough. Is that the fault of government? I don't know.

As for consequences, this isn't a blank check for governments to condemn land for whatever reason they like. It has to fit with that state's regs on condemning. Three states, Colorado, Vermont, and I think Oregon, are already developing legislation to prevent this from happening there. And knowing the way people react and how they are reacting on this, I don't think the consequences are going to be very severe. Things are not as arbitrary as they have been portrayed, but they do require some action on the part of the property owners. If you are too damn lazy to get off your fat ass and pay attention to what's going on, I'm sorry, but this sort of thing is going to happen. There was process on this, and if the property owner dropped the ball, then that is their fault. If they couldn't make their arguments to the local officials strong enough, then I'm sorry, but you voted (or didn't, given voter apathy) them into the position they are in. And next election, vote for their competitor. But they had process, and while they had a good run with the case, the arguments weren't strong enough for the Supreme Court to rule in their favor. Highest court in the land. They should be proud they got there. But that's endgame for them.

8:26 PM  
Blogger The Underdog said...

As someone who sounds like they're familiar with the law, i won't try to refute you on that level. I am not a lawyer, nor shall i try to be one here. But as someone who knows the law and things of this nature, you have to know that lawyers of big business will find the loophole (which seem to be in every piece of legislation or decision) to use it for their own benefit. Regardless of the situation, it's not fair to use private landowners homes and property to spice up a deal for another company. It will happen again. In some way shape or form, it'll happen.

As for Iraq, I used it loosely with the eminent domain issue. I think we will eventually take portions of Iraq for our own purposes in the name of freedom. It may be under the guise of a partnership, or a coalition with the Iraquis, but we will get what we want...the oil. That's a loose comparison, but one i have no problem making on the blog.

Good information anonymous. Do I know you?

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet you do. If my web browser didn't dislike all of the javascript/java driven crap on, I'd have an ID and be something other than the Anonymous Coward. On the other hand, I kinda like that.

Nope, not a lawyer. Just another faceless cog in government. Reading the comment before mine really rather set me off. I cannot stand stupidity, and I hate self-enforced ignorance. I'll willingly admit to having an opinion on a lot of things, but going only from a media-driven perspective on something that has such significant consequences for further down the road. The purpose of education, I think, is to force people to think rather than blindly accept what they are given and regurgitate it with some emotional cues.

No offense to et, but that response really seemed to be overly simplistic on something that is a lot more complicated. Yeah, it's a heartbreaker, but in the final analysis, someone's going to be unhappy, and the political satisficing to make everyone happy is a quick road to the part marked, "we are truly fucked because we can't make any decisions that have hard consequences."

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

7:18 PM  
Blogger The Underdog said...

I'm starting to get a feel for you Anonymous.

I wouldn't necessarily call out ET too soon. True her previous response was simplistic, but this is because she was probably shooting from the heart. If left to think about it, I'm positive she would come up with something better.

You sound like someone i haven't heard in a few months...probably since January.

Breaking off this topic for a second, you talked about education. I agree that education is about thinking, but in its current state, i think the education system is more about regurgetation than thinking. It's a system. Tell the prof what they want to hear and you'll do well. Vram everything in and you stand a good shot at passing. Is there room for free thought in our current education system? Was there truly free thought at Truman? Or was it just a collective of like minded people saying the same thing.

You may or may not know what i'm talking about. If you are who i think you are you'll get it.

But this may be a subjec for another post.

"signed--Lucious Brady"

9:35 PM  
Blogger ET said...

Just for the record... the source I used to obtain my information for the original post was the actual case. I simply put the link to CNN because it was a much easier read for anyone who wanted in on the discussion but didn't have time to read the entire case. I am no lawyer either (although I'm about 20 hours and one Bar Exam away), but there is a strong emotional appeal to this case so... I thought it might facilitate some lively discussion... which it seems it did exactly that.

Anyway, I do want to say... CNN (or any other news source for that matter) may be simplistic, anecdotal, generic, whatever... but the fact of the matter is... most of us don't have time to research every story we find. CNN is a quick, easy way to attempt keeping up with what is going on around us. I'm sorry you feel such animosity towards those "morons at home" who use this means of information... but some of us just don't have another choice.

8:38 AM  
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