Tuesday, February 22, 2005


So You Think You Own Your Property?

Neal Boorz notes this about the eminent domain case coming up before the Supremee Court:
On one side, you have the government of New London, Connecticut. They argue that confiscating land and selling it to a private developer under eminent domain serves the public good because it provides much-needed government revenue. Don't you think that you should read that again? This city is saying that a person's right to their property ends when the government figures out that that property in the hands of another private owner would generate more tax revenue. When does this concept arrive at the doorstep of your local city council or county commission? How do you like the idea that your home is yours only so long as some developer doesn't convince a politician that if he could get his hands on that property he would build something that would be so much more valuable and pay many more dollars in taxes? What country do we live in again?

Here are some other writers talking about this story:

Mark Noonan says:

Anyone can make a reasonable argument that any particular property can be "better" used by some other person or group - my home is just my house, but gather my property and that of my neighbors together and you can build a new Las Vegas megaresort which would generate far more tax revenue than the individual property owners will ever pay. My home "ownership" under such a rule would merely be my right to use the property until someone comes up with what goverment officials consider a better use.

Timothy Sandfer, at Pittsburglive.com, tells us:

Consider the infamous Poletown case. In the early 1980s, the General Motors Corp. persuaded Detroit -- which was reeling from recession -- to condemn a neighborhood called Poletown (due to the large number of Polish immigrants living there) and sell it cheap to GM to build an auto factory. The Michigan Supreme Court held that the condemnation was legal: If the government declared that a condemnation would benefit the public, the courts would not stand in the way.

In a whirlwind of litigation that lasted only a few weeks, neighbors watched as their community was pulverized.

The Poletown decision led to an epidemic of eminent domain abuse. In 1999, the city of Merriam, Kan., condemned a Toyota dealership to sell the land to a BMW dealer instead. That same year, Bremerton, Wash., condemned 22 homes to resell the land to private developers. In one notorious case, billionaire Donald Trump persuaded the government of Atlantic City, N.J., to condemn the home of an elderly widow so he could build a limousine parking lot.

Unfortunately, the victims of eminent domain are most often the elderly, the poor and minorities. They lack the money and political power to persuade the government to respect their rights. But corporate lobbyists are very effective at persuading cities to give them someone else's land on the pretense that it will create jobs and improve the neighborhood -- especially when it will increase the city's tax base.

Fortunately, things may be changing. Last year, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned its Poletown decision. "If one's ownership of private property is forever subject to the government's determination that another private party would put one's land to better use," the court said, "the ownership of real property is perpetually threatened by the expansion plans of any large discount retailer, 'megastore,' or the like."

Now it's up to the U.S. Supreme Court to put an end to eminent domain abuse nationwide. When Kelo is argued before the court, the justices will be asked a simple question: Does "public use" mean the government can take people's homes and small businesses and resell the land to Pfizer, Donald Trump or other private parties?

The court needs to make a definitive ruling on this. The areas condemned frequently house the poor and the elderly, but are also neighborhoods that are run down and unsafe. The temptation to use eminent domain on these areas will remain high until this issue is settled.

Another step closer to communism, how sad it is! Don't stop fighting!
You really don't own your property anyway, you just rent it for whatever you pay in property tax. There was a local case where an old lady owed $23.00 on her property because about %0.5 of her land crossed the county line so she owed tax to both counties but she didn't know that. The government started the process to take possession of her property.

But I guess there are places you don't have to pay property tax, then I guess you own it, unless someonw comes by with a bigger gun.
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