Susette Kelo’s Land Fill

About once a generation SCOTUS whiffs it beyond belief. Dred Scott (blacks are property, not people), Plessy v Ferguson (separate but equal), Katzenbach v. McClung (providing Congress under the auspices of The Commerce Clause the ability to pass any damn law they want), all good examples. But for me the decision that really stunk up the joint was Kelo, which basically shot to hell any private property protections. Where as in the past the government could imminent domain your property for the good of the community, extending a highway, a railroad, or deciding that public school in the works can’t be built anywhere else except smack dab in your back yard. Kelo pushed that land grab one step farther, permitting a private entity to compel the government to evict you and sell your property because that private investor promised a better return to the community. If some carpetbagger decided that your farm would make one hell off a strip mall, creating a higher tax base for the city, out you go, don’t matter if your farm was in the family for 200 years, economic development trumps any sentimentality you might have concerning your property. So now, under the guise of “redevelopment,” local governments across the country often condemn property for the purpose of transferring it to politically favored interests, with those interests promising big bucks in the form of tax receipts to those in the government complicit in the theft.

Incidentally, although Justice Sotomayor was not a part of this travesty, don’t think that she would go weak at the knees in extending this further into the realm of lawlessness. in Didden v. Village of Port Chester she introduced mafia style extortion into the law of the land:

In 1999, the village of Port Chester, N.Y., established a “redevelopment area” and gave its designated developer, Gregg Wasser, a virtual blank check to condemn property within it. In 2003, property owners Bart Didden and Dominick Bologna approached Wasser for permission to build a CVS pharmacy on land they own inside the zone. His response: Either pay me $800,000 or give me a 50% partnership interest in the CVS project. Wasser threatened to have the local government condemn the land if his demands weren’t met. When the owners refused to oblige, their property was condemned the next day.

Didden and Bologna challenged the condemnation in federal court, on the grounds that it was not for a “public use,” as the Fifth Amendment requires. Their view, quite simply, was that out-and-out extortion does not qualify as a public use.

I bring all this up because you would think that the government knows what it is doing, that if it took land and property from poor Susette Kelo it would have to be for the betterment of the community, oops:

As regular readers of this blog know, the redevelopment project that gave rise to the wretched U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, never came about. In spite of the city’s boasting about the quality of its plans, nothing was ever built on the Fort Trumbull site from which the city displaced an entire unoffending, well maintained lower middle-class neighborhood. Though the formal taking took place in 2000 and the U.S. Supreme Court gave its approval to it in 2005, the city’s project has been a failure, with 91 acres of waterfront property sitting there empty and overgrown by weeds.

Empty, nothing there to employ people or provide tax revenue, nothing. But don’t think that this will be a permanent problem, those clever city planners have come up with something novel, a dump. After Irene, the locals need some place to dispose of their refuse. I wonder if this is what Rahm Emmanuel meant when he talked about never letting a serious disaster go to waste, the Kelo decision qualifies.

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  1. Miguelito

    The thing that finally got me involved with my community groups (I’m on our officially recognized planning group board) was a development boondoggle. This really old, rich guy (that so fits the C. Montgomery Burns caricature so well it’s crazy) who owns damn near every commercial property in my neighborhood, wanted to redevelop a prominent corner area. I’m not anti-development in any way, as long as it’s not crazy growth or has obvious dirty dealings involved.

    It was going to remove a long established shopping center and gas station on the corner and cram in way too many condos with barely any commercial to make up for the loss. It also had no where near enough parking. The guy did things like having buddies on the city council delay the item (when it finally went to it) from the morning until late at night, so that most people gave up and left. Then he had all these people speak up in favor of the project, almost none of which live or work in the area and were bussed in.

    11 or so years later, the place is still completely empty. I’d rather the thing be built now vs left looking like leveled shit.

    Oh and I love the whole planning group thing. We’re in the city charter (or whatever) and are officially recognized advisory bodies.. which essentially means they can ignore us if they want.

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