Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Property Rights And Eminent Domain Abuse

I hear people on the radio complaining about property rights when they can't do things they aren't zoned for all the time. It's time they learned that property rights really mean that you should be able to keep it or sell it as you see fit.

Right now everyone is talking about Kelo v New London because it is going before The Supreme Court. Unfortunately the citizens of New London aren't the first to be subjected to the heartache and hassle that a greedy government can dish out.

Dick and Nancy Saha
of Coatesville, Pa. have been fighting their city to retain the property they poured decaded of love and hard work into since 1999 when they were informed that the city wanted to take their farm for a golf course! It's been a year since they updated their site, but the legal fight has used up most of their retirement savings.

Is this right? Bankrupting people and stealing their land is something that happens in other countries like India.

I sincerely hope the Court will uphold our right to own property and go on about the business of being American Citizens.


There is another notable case of people's property being plundered at bargain basement rates to benefit a few Texas Hats, among them our very own not yet President Bush.

Thanks to Riggsveda for the reminder and the hand delivered link.

I have a stack of court documents from Arlington that portray the "sordid and shocking tale" of the Rangers stadium, as one lawsuit puts it. Essentially, Mr. Bush and the owners' group he led bullied and misled the city into raising taxes to build a $200 million stadium that in effect would be handed over to the Rangers. As part of the deal, the city would even confiscate land from private owners so that the Rangers owners could engage in real estate speculation.

"It was a $200 million transfer to Bush and Rangers owners," complains Jim Runzheimer, an anti-tax campaigner in Arlington.

William Eastland, a leading Republican in Arlington, is also outraged, and puts it this way: "You're using public money for a private purpose." Mr. Eastland was a Bush delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2000 but still believes that the Bush group behaved shadily and against the public interest.

Local voters overwhelmingly approved the deal, so maybe we shouldn't get so exercised by star-struck local officials giving $200 million to rich baseball owners. But the most unseemly part of the deal was that Mr. Bush and the Rangers' owners conspired with city officials to seize private property that would be handed over to the Bush group.

"A group of wealthy and influential people threatened and traded their way into an unprecedented takeover of government power and private property in an awesome display of greed and avarice," charges a lawsuit by the landowners, in what strikes me as a fair recitation of events. Another suit charges that the deal "can only be described as astounding, unprecedented and blatantly illegal."

A copy of the secret agreement among Mr. Bush and the other Rangers owners shows that they intended to make money not just by running a baseball club but also by land speculation.

For example, one owner found a nice chunk of land and sent a memo suggesting that it "sounds like another condemnation candidate if you want to work the site into your master plan," according to the court documents. Another of the owners' internal memos casts a proprietary gaze on a property and declares: "We plan to condemn this land."

For a group of financiers to go around town admiring properties and deciding which to seize through the government power of condemnation so that they can acquire free land and speculate on it is appalling. Even Kazakhstan would blush at such practices.

Horace Kelton, for example, owned land that the Rangers wanted. The owners got Arlington to seize it, with the city paying less than $1.50 per square foot even though it had previously paid $10 a square foot for other land nearby.

"It was an extremely low price, and that's why we had a court case that lasted seven years," Mr. Kelton recalled.

Eventually, his family got $11 a square foot.


Blogger Riggsveda said...

Remember Bush and the Texas Rangers? The theft of people's property so he and his buds could make a buck building a new stadium in Arlington?

4:24 PM  
Blogger Gordon said...

The way the early Anglo Californians stole the land from the Spanish Land Grant grandees was to institute property taxes, which the Spaniards, land rich and cash poor, couldn't come up with.

My presbyopia makes your blog hard to read, Granny. Have a care for us old folks!:)

2:49 PM  
Blogger Gordon said...

Riggsveda, that's also the way L.A. got the land for Dodger Stadium in the late fifties or early sixties, too.

2:50 PM  

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