By Jim Maisano
Since I entered public service in 1997, one of the troubling injustices I’ve witnessed is eminent domain abuse, where governments sanction the taking (or de facto stealing) of private property for private use, usually for shopping malls and commercial developments, while hiding behind the fraudulent label of “public use.” It is my view that using eminent domain in this manner is a perversion of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Please note that James Madison, the author of the Fifth Amendment, purposely chose the words “public use” instead of “public purpose”, “public interest” or “public benefit.” Unfortunately, in a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court did not agree with my view in Kelo v. New London (see http://goo.gl/8n8Ex), where it held that the transfer of land from one private owner to another to further economic development was a permissible “public use” under the Takings Clause in light of the general benefit to the community.
Here we go again – below are links to articles from the Institute for Justice (IJ) about the latest episodes of eminent domain abuse. IJ is a strong opponent of eminent domain abuse and true champion in protecting private property rights (see http://goo.gl/V7vUh). You can be sure, as a legislator and attorney, I will always oppose eminent domain abuse, and if you truly believe in liberty and freedom, you need to oppose it too.
Read here how a Greek-American immigrant could soon lose his pizza shop and seven properties in Philadelphia because of eminent domain abuse: http://goo.gl/0v1QZ.
And here is another example of governmental abuse of property owners through eminent domain, this time in Tennessee where 100 properties are being taken for a PRIVATE industrial manufacturing megasite: http://goo.gl/lOQ03.
After the Kelo decision, 44 states reformed their eminent domain laws to limit abuses of property owners, but not surprisingly, New York (my state) continues to allow wealthy, powerful and politically connected developers to conspire with local governments to use eminent domain to take the property of homeowners and small businesses through eminent domain for the construction of exclusively private developments. You can check out IJ’s review of your state’s eminent domain laws at this link: http://goo.gl/vUknd.