One issue where my legal and political views align is the use of eminent domain to take private property for private use. I am a vociferous opponent of this misuse of eminent domain and remain outraged that the Supreme Court sanctioned this property owner abuse in the now infamous case, Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005). In Kelo, the Supreme Court held that New London could legally take non-blighted private property by eminent domain, and then transfer it for a dollar a year to a private developer solely for the purpose of increasing tax revenues. In reaction to Kelo, several states enacted laws to restrict the power of eminent domain when used to take private property for private use. I will never vote to allow eminent domain to be used to steal private property from Westchester homeowners for private development as a county legislator.
The last clause in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution states, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” It is my view that the founding fathers never imagined this clause could be utilized to take private property for private use. At the time of the passage of the Bill of Rights and for the following 150 years, eminent domain was used only for clear public purposes such as building a bridge, highway, public park or government building. I do not believe the original intent of the eminent domain clause was ever to allow the raising of taxes through private development as a “public use.”
Therefore, I was interested to read an excellent post on one of my favorite legal blogs, The Volokh Conspiracy, that discussed the photos above, which show that the private property taken from the homeowners in New London still sits vacant to this day. It was supposed to be used for a Pfizer office building along with luxury condos, hotels, a conference center and retail stores. The plan fell apart, and the geniuses that ran New London left the city with vacant property producing zero tax revenue. Although, I must note the planned development was a sweetheart deal for Pfizer and developer for which they only had to pay $1 per year – what a disgraceful example of misguided corporate welfare. Here is the post, please visit the link and read it. Join me in opposing any such future abuses of property owners in our state and county.www.JamesMaisanoEsq.com
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.