we are renters. Re the following, wither goest The American Dream?


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alan
February 18, 2006, 02:50 PM
Negotiating at Gunpoint
Cities can't be trusted with sweeping eminent domain powers
Jacob Sullum



Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson wants to dispel "innacuracies and stereotypes" about the use of eminent domain for economic development, a practice the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in last year's notorious Kelo v. New London decision. Last fall Peterson told a Senate subcommittee that when the government threatens to condemn people's property because it thinks someone else can make better use of it, "a majority of the time, most people agree to sell."

Interesting. Given the choice between selling and fighting an expensive legal battle they will almost certainly lose, after which they will have to give up their land anyway, probably on less advantageous terms, most people "agree" to sell.

"Cities use eminent domain most often as a negotiating tool with property owners," explained Peterson, who was speaking for the National League of Cities. "Just having the tool available makes it possible to negotiate with landowners." Sure it does—in the same way just having a gun available makes it possible for a bank robber to negotiate with a teller.

As the February 22 anniversary of the oral arguments in Kelo approaches, state legislatures across the country are considering bills to rein in the use of Peterson's "negotiating tool." They should not fall for the false assurances of local politicians, city planners, and developers—a powerful triumvirate determined to block meaningful eminent domain reform.

The opponents of reform say Kelo did not really change the law, since the practice of forcibly transferring property from one private owner to another had been upheld by state and federal courts. But until Kelo, the U.S. Supreme Court had never said the Fifth Amendment, which restricts eminent domain to "public uses," allows local governments to take perfectly good homes and businesses (as opposed to "blighted" property) on behalf of private developers.

By agreeing that any private use expected to increase tax revenue and create jobs counts as a public use, the Court gave a green light to politicians who might otherwise have hesitated because of the lingering legal uncertainty. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor put it in her dissent, "nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping center, or any farm with a factory."

Peterson claims "eminent domain is used sparingly." Yet the Institute for Justice, which represented the property owners in Kelo, found 10,000 cases in which condemnation was used or threatened for the benefit of private developers during a five-year period. The true number is probably much higher, since the study relied on newspaper articles and recorded cases, which reflect only a fraction of such land grabs.

But don't worry, Peterson says: Cities can take your property only if they have a plan and follow certain procedures. When politicians draw up plans to justify decisions they've already made and follow procedures they themselves specify, these requirements provide little protection for property owners.

Speaking of phony safeguards, Peterson is willing to go along with "legislation that prohibits the use of eminent domain solely to provide for private gain" (emphasis added). Such condemnations are illegal even under Kelo and in any case do not officially exist, since any private use can be said to provide ancillary public benefits.

In practice, that is all it takes to seize people's homes and businesses: the unilateral judgment of politicians that society would be better served if the property were in different hands. Peterson asserts "a natural tension...between individual rights and community needs" that wise men like him must resolve to "achieve a greater public good that benefits the entire community."

Peterson is not talking about public nuisances or about traditional public uses such as roads or courthouses; he is talking about systematically overriding people's plans for their own property. State legislators should reject this collectivist vision, which elevates amorphous "community needs" above individual rights.



Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use. Sullum's weekly column is distributed by Creators Syndicate. If you'd like to see it in your local newspaper, please e-mail or call the editorial page editor today.

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Can'thavenuthingood
February 18, 2006, 03:37 PM
Prior to Kelo their were problems.
City Managers are arrogant b**turds, okay I'll just use the term locally.

In a disscussion with our last one during and after City Council meeting. He sets the fair market value of homes he (the city) is taking. He says "utilizing the assessed value as market value determines the price."

The city 5 year plan calls for a merging lane, no homes at the time in the way. City grants developer approval to build homes. People buy the homes. Then 3 years later city (manager) sends letters to homeowners stating they have to sell under emminent domain.

This particular merging lane has been in the CalTrans hopper for years, it's been known that its coming as the city has been pushing for years. Yet its okay to build homes and uproot families a few years later.

City Council meetings are not for the timid or bashful. You have to get up to the podium and speakup when something smells or you sense an intrusion into your nether regions.

Kingdoms begin at city hall.

Vick

Fletchette
February 18, 2006, 03:49 PM
Private property is only one of the many rights urban governments are trying to destroy. The city governments think that they are above the Constitution in many areas. Witness Denver's continuing attempts at outlawing concealed carry despite a state law forbidding municipalities from doing just that.

We are witnessing (and participating in) a civil war of sorts. No shots have been fired (yet) but there are two very different political groups in this country with vastly different visions of what this country should be.

One of Many
February 18, 2006, 04:20 PM
The solution to abuse of eminent domain is the pay the dislocated property owner ten times the assessed value on the official tax rolls. That keeps the local government from low balling the 'market value' and stealing a persons home out from under them. It also allows the property owner to find alternate housing of equal or better condition amd location to compensate for being forced out of his home. It also guarantees that the replacement will truly be a better (more valuable) use of the property.

If you give a person enough money for his property, you don't have to fight him for it. Most people fight eminent domain, because the government is stealing (or more accurately robbing them by force) the property by paying less than its value to the owner.

wingman
February 18, 2006, 06:12 PM
In truth we "own" very little in modern America, due to cost most working
Americans are so in debt the bank owns most assets and those who have paid
for homes are taxed via property tax ,paying rent to county and state.

If the American dream isn't dead it is indeed wounded.:(

GoRon
February 18, 2006, 06:24 PM
My Mom lives in Palm Beach County Florida.

She bought her house, fixed it up to her standards and was "lucky" in the location she chose.

Her taxes have gone up so much that between the government and the cost of the repairs from the last two hurricane seasons she is done with Florida.

Pretty soon I will have a place to stay in NC because the "G" and mother nature have driven my ma out of Florida.

How can property taxes even be constitutional?

Kodiaz
February 18, 2006, 07:33 PM
Yeah property taxes are going up a lot and we don't get anything for that money but more useless government.

Fletchette
February 18, 2006, 09:56 PM
The solution to abuse of eminent domain is the pay the dislocated property owner ten times the assessed value on the official tax rolls. That keeps the local government from low balling the 'market value' and stealing a persons home out from under them. It also allows the property owner to find alternate housing of equal or better condition amd location to compensate for being forced out of his home. It also guarantees that the replacement will truly be a better (more valuable) use of the property.

If you give a person enough money for his property, you don't have to fight him for it. Most people fight eminent domain, because the government is stealing (or more accurately robbing them by force) the property by paying less than its value to the owner.

This sounds way too logical to ever be passed into law!

Fletchette
February 18, 2006, 10:04 PM
How can property taxes even be constitutional?

Property taxes are accepted as Constitutional as they have been in practice for that long. They fall under the Tenth Amendment (If the Constitution doesn't mention it, it is reserved to the States and the People). Many states have property taxes. It goes back to colonial times with the intent to "tax the rich (who own most of the property)". It is less understood that renters end up paying the tax too in the form of inflated rents.

The situation gets out of hand when you have a corrupt local government (often) that assesses the property unfairly and then tries to seize it (theft). Shay's Rebellion, a few years after the American Revelution, was about just that. The government of Massachusetts (some things never change) was seizing the property of rural farmers largely because the urban government was controlled by the rich merchant class (who owned businesses but little land).

Crosshair
February 19, 2006, 02:04 AM
Hmm, I can see some disgruntled homeowner "forgetting" to tell them about that dump of leaking barrels of corrosive hydraulic fluid spread all over the property. Kind of a mini-scorched earth plan. Sure they may go after the person who did it, fine them, put them in jail, etc. But the land is still useless without expensive cleanup and there is no way they are going to get the money from the landowner who by now has wisely disposed of all assets. While it would be terrible for the enviornment, one would have to try very hard to feel sorry for the person who "recieved" this land. I can see some desperate person doing something like this someday.

miconoakisland
February 19, 2006, 05:06 AM
For immenent domain to be used for anything but a public utility when no other site is suitable is criminal!

If a private developer wants land, let each current landowner set his price! If the obstinate landowner refuses, build around him! After the mall parking lot encompasses his land and he is fed up, let him sell at market price! (probably much less than initially offered). The thing is, if enough landowners object and refuse to sell to that private developer at his offered price, then it becomes a non-issue! It should be between the developer and the individual landowners to work out! Not the local government and the developer!

Any local government that abuses imminant domain to increase the tax base should be brought to trial on charges of conspiracy to defraud, fraud, theft, coercian, RICO, etc! Let all involved be sentenced as the felons they are! Government strong-arm tactics should be prosecuted for what they are!

As we all know, give government an inch, they'll find to take a mile!

Where would it stop? "we can take your lot for tax value and give it to Joe Developer so he can build a condo building and then we can get 10 times as much tax!"

This type of government sets a precedent for subjects living at the will of government whims! This type of government is exactly what the 2nd Amendment was formed to prevent!

Modern Landownership Rights:
"You can live on this parcel if you pay ever increasing taxes on the value of this land (which we determine and can change at will) until the time comes in which we decide we can get more money from someone else, then we will condemn your land and take it forcibly from you if necessary, as long as we pay you a pittance."

I say, start by building condos on all gravesites of signing members of the Constitution, then proceed with building upon the gravesites of Arlington National Cemetary! After all, won't condos bring in more taxes than graves?!

alan
February 19, 2006, 11:51 AM
Something else that gets little to no attention re how renters fair.

While "property owners" pay property taxes, they have cancelled checks to prove such payment, assuming that they actually get their checks back, oops that's another story, renters also pay property taxes, obviously the landlord computes such tax payments into the rent sought/obtained.

Interestingly, while the property owner, as a result of the payment of property taxes, gets to take a deduction for such payments, renters have the dubious pleasure of paying, but no deductions are allowed. Funny,isn't it?

Also, respecting the various tax relief scams/schemes or proposals that seem always before legislative bodies, how is it that they seem ALWAYS to forget those who rent, a segment of the population that, while it varies from one local to another, is often significant.

Of course, given that all to many renters do not really take a close look at their "elected things", property owners are guilty of this failing too, as Thomas Jefferson once observed, The People Usually Get The Sort of Government They Didn't Vote Against. BTW, this admonition applies at ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT.

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