Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Stinking Decision

For once the Right was indeed right; the most conservative justices supported property rights, and the liberals all voted to give your house to Wal-Mart. Prepare to move, peasants!

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses — even against their will — for private economic development.

It was a decision fraught with huge implications for a country with many areas, particularly the rapidly growing urban and suburban areas, facing countervailing pressures of development and property ownership rights.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as handing “disproportionate influence and power” to the well-heeled — represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex.
O’Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random,” O’Connor wrote. “The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”

She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Thomas filed a separate opinion to argue that seizing homes for private development, even with “just compensation,” is unconstitutional.

“The consequences of today’s decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful,” Thomas wrote. “So-called ’urban renewal’ programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted.”

Yep, I agree with the minority on this one. Remember, our buddy Dubya was enriched by just such a sweetheart deal, when peoples' homes were seized to build the new ballpark for the Texas Rangers. Eminent domain is such a powerful tool that it should be used very carefully, with moderation. This ruling ensures that it's now Katy-bar-the-door. Bought and paid-for politicians now have a new favor to hand out. Expect poor people's homes to be bulldozed for mansions, office parks, gated neighborhoods...there is now no limitation so long as a locality can claim it's doing it to "raise revenue." Kiss your property rights goodbye, friends. You no longer have any.


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