Tuesday, February 22, 2005

High Court to Decide on Domain

By The Associated Press
FIGHTING CITY HALL: Seven families remaining in a New London, Conn., neighborhood are asking the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) to stop the city from seizing their property.

WHAT'S AT ISSUE? Does the principle of eminent domain allowing governments to take private property for "public use" also let them take land to encourage private economic development?
IN DEFENSE: New London officials say taxes generated by redeveloping the area ultimately will benefit the public. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed.

I pulled this off of Yahoo! just a couple of minutes ago.
The idea of eminent domain is that, for the better of the community and citizens at large, a government can take land that belongs to private citizens for public use, so long as they give "just compensation" (Fifth Amendment).

Critics have said that the local governments have misused the doctrine in recent years; tearing down nice, older houses to make parking lots for casinos, breaking up large estates to force subdivisions, etc.
I'm not sure which side I'm on. I tend to lean towards the individual rights side, where I would support the individual trying to keep their property, but I can easily see how the sacrifice of a few individuals to create a renewed urban center can benefit the majority, such as the Kansas City Speedway...
What do you think?

1 comment:

English Professor said...

I think that the right is being abused. As I understand it, it was originally used for "public good" projects such as bridges, roads, etc. In my value system, expanding a shopping mall is not a "public good." Now, I don't know Kansas City's particulars, so I can't argue about it specifically, but I do know about what happened in Hurst, Texas, when the city decided to allow expansion of the already-existing Northeast Mall. Families lost their homes to parking lots, and while the larger mall undoubtedly brings in more revenue to Hurst's city cofers, it effectively killed a mall less than five miles away in North Richland Hills, Texas, by wooing its tenants to the Hurst mall. So, in this case, "public good" was construed as "more money for Hurst, and to heck with North Richland Hills." The expansion did not substantially increase shopping opportunities for citizens of the area--it just relocated them. And families lost their homes. I think this is an abomination.