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Court: Homes Can Be Seized For Private Development

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- -- 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.

The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

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

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Connecticut, filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.

Justice Sandra Day 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.

The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

"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 H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Amazing. How is this possible in a "free" country? Upon reading this, how do you feel?

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Amazing. How is this possible in a "free" country? Upon reading this, how do you feel?

not very differently than before about a country that will even go to war mainly cause it suits corporate interest -> this remark isn't directed at Americans in general! I realize how many of you didn't vote for that president...and I'm sorry if this statement is too political and feel free to remove it if it endangers the nice atmosphere here on MDCF


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all depends on the context, i think. in my neighborhood in portland, or - a local property owner signed a long-term lease with walmart in an area known for it's local artists, great restaurants, and antique stores (not to mention strong community spirit). in oregon, an initiative passed whereby a property owner can now be compensated if governmental action diminishes his/her property value (or money gained from property usage). so, here we have an under the radar lease with walmart, which the community has come out strongly against but since governmental intervention has been strongly curtailed by passage of the initiative, the walmart will likely go in, providing low-paying jobs with poor (or no) health care, congest our streets, and harm local businesses.

so, i'd say that in this case, i'd definitely prefer governmental intervention to stop the property use that the owner desires. not quite what the original topic is, but closely related - i think. the supreme court ruling does seem weighted to moneyed interests, which is unfortunate. what we need is more community involvement and awareness! i mean if the government is going to intervene, it should at least do so to further the best interest of the majority of people in the affected community. instead, it always works out to the best interest of the moneyed elites...

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Guest NRen2k5

Considering this is the same country where midle-class families are forced into hundred-thousand-dollar debts for vital medical care, college students are arrested for protesting the War, teenagers are kidnapped and indoctrinated by the military......

No, I'm not surprised by this turn of events.

I am saddened.

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It's like the Supreme Court has collectively pushed us off our bicycle and ridden off with it, laughing at us. dry.gif

This makes me feel kind of sick to my stomach. Not so much the desision, but the steady slide into a dictatorship and the American public's willingness to go along with it so they can ignore the government, watch reality programming and eat fast food. We are so freaking sedentary.

It didn't start with the Bush regime, but Junior and the War Machine are the first administration who really don't care how obvious they are about their shady dealings.

What also burns my butt is that I first heard this report on Fox News, the right wing mouthpiece. They mentioned it in passing as breaking news (not even a "Fox News Alert"), then immediately went on to report about Oprah being turned away from a French boutique and yet another pretty white Christian girl who's gone missing. For the rest of the hour that I could stand to watch, Fox never brought it up again.

And I don't have big money, so I can't do a single thing about it. mad.gif

Sorry about the bile. I'll clean up before I leave.

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Sadly, it's the price we pay for living in a corporatist society. Politics will always be subserviant to industry - who will provide campaign funds to political parties otherwise?

amen to that!!! a few states in the usa have implemented laws completely banning corporate campagin contributions. of course, the corporate elites are still free to contribute, but usually states with corporate restrictions also severely restrict the dollar amount an individual citizen can contribute. in the state of oregon, we're working on campaign to put a hard limit on the amount of money any one entity can contribute in total to campagins per year.

some municipalities in the usa are wrking to severely restrict corporate charters so that they have a detailed definition of what the corporation will accomplish and the time frame for dissolution of the charter. this is the way in which corporations were viewed by the "founding fathers" in the usa - time-limited and task-specific.

also, us corporations are given the full rights of an individual citizen here in the usa - including free speech rights (of which campagin contributions are the primary use). this right was given to corporations by a us supreme court clerck in the late 1800's and was not in the actual ruling of the us supreme court - only in the abstract summarizing the case. coincidently, the court clerck was a railroad man (if my memory serves me correctly) and would have benifited greatly from this in his business dealings.

i hope people partaking in this discussion have seen "the corporation" (a great documentary on the powers of corporations in the usa and around the world) and are following the bludgeoning of workers aorund the world through use of wrold bank and international monetary fund so-called "economic reforms".

i also suggest checking out www.counterpunch.org and www.zmag.org as two great resources for activism in the fight against the corporate leviathan!!!


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I guess people in the US who have always been against communism don't know the definition.

"A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people."

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As a follow up to the topic of discussion, please read the follow Opinion piece from today's Wall Street Journal.

They Paved Paradise

Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jun 30, 2005. pg. A.12

Column Name: REVIEW & OUTLOOK (Editorial)

Publication title: Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jun 30, 2005.  pg. A.12

Last week's Supreme Court ruling that local governments have more or less unlimited authority to seize private property has had us thinking of an old Joni Mitchell lyric: "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot/With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swingin' hot spot."

"The Big Yellow Taxi" ought to be the theme song for the grassroots movement that is springing up in reaction to the Court's ruling in Kelo v. New London. Many people aren't too familiar with the government's power of' "eminent domain." But when they learn that five Supreme Court justices believe New London, Connecticut, was justified in trying to evict homeowners in order to make way for a private hotel and corporate offices, the reaction is: How can I keep that from happening to me?

As it happens, the Court's ruling offers a way out, inviting states to take remedial action. "Nothing in our opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the 5-4 majority.

At least 10 states -- Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, South Carolina, Utah and Washington -- already forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development (while permitting it for legitimate "public use," such as building a highway). Six states -- Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, New York and North Dakota -- expressly allow private property to be taken for private economic purposes. The rest haven't spoken on the issue.

But just wait. In Connecticut this week the house and senate debated legislation to forbid the taking of private homes for private economic development except in the case of blight. The bill failed, but Robert Ward, the Republican house minority leader and the bill's sponsor, says he plans to widen it to include takings of all private property and re-introduce it next month. He already has indications of support from Democrats who have been hearing from constituents outraged over Kelo.

In Washington, Senators John Cornyn (R., Texas) and Bill Nelson (D., Florida) introduced legislation this week to bar the feds from using the power of eminent domain for private economic development as well as prohibit states from using federal money for that purpose.

Scott Bullock, a lawyer who represented the New London homeowners in the Supreme Court, says his clients have been "besieged with expressions of support." Yesterday the Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm for which Mr. Bullock works, announced a $3 million "Hands Off My Home" campaign. It will work with local activists to fight government seizures of private property and pass state laws limiting the use of eminent domain.

Meanwhile, Justice David Souter may soon get an up-close-and- personal lesson in how Kelo can affect ordinary homeowners. An outraged citizen announced this week that he is starting the application process to build a hotel on property owned by the Justice in New Hampshire. The "City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land," Logan Darrow Clements said in a press release. Mr. Clements plans to call his new development the "Lost Liberty Hotel."

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all that reaction is hopeful, but the outright statement of 6 states already that they will let economic purposes (=read 'money') outweigh other rights is simply scary!

The "City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land," Logan Darrow Clements said in a press release. Mr. Clements plans to call his new development the "Lost Liberty Hotel."

now this is my kind of civic action laugh.gif it clearly illustrates the surrealist character of the law and does it in a darn funny way too ... hope he gets the hotel!


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