In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a longstanding interpretation of the U.S. Constitution limiting government’s power of eminent domain to public projects, like roads, bridges and government buildings. Despite widespread opposition from most Americans, the High Court ruled that government agencies could seize private property from unwilling sellers if there was some greater economic benefit to an alternative use for the property, no matter how dubious.
Equally concerning is that the court placed absolutely no limits on what is a permissible taking of private property, and left this determination to the states and local government. As a result, eminent domain abuse is all too common as government feeds its insatiable craving for more revenue by forcibly seizing small businesses, places of worship and homes from unwilling sellers, often from property owners who do not have the financial means or political connections to fight back.
All this was predicted by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who asserted that this awesome power would be the reverse of Robin Hood, where cities and their redevelopment agencies would seize from the poor and give to the rich.
“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms,” O’Connor wrote in her dissenting opinion.
This is important for every American to consider, for our position on private-property rights defines our values and our boundaries between right and wrong. For no matter how attractive the thought may be of a larger shopping mall replacing the Golden Key Hotel to some, the people of Glendale should stand against eminent domain abuse (“Hotelier: City clipped my wings,” Dec. 21). If not, the community will send a message to its City Council and politically connected developers that for the right price, no private property in Glendale is off limits.
Now is the time to send a message to the City Council that you place greater value on protecting private-property rights than the next electronic gadget or outfit one can purchase at just about any other shopping outlet in town.
Standing up for private-property rights is the right thing to do.