Thursday, June 23, 2005

That pesky Constitution . . .

doesn't get in the way of the Supreme Court declaring that private property is now owned subject to the whim and caprice of your local government. Think about it this way: the US Constitution (and those of the states) permits the government to condemn or "take" private property for public purposes. Generally speaking, condemnations are about roads, schools, and other public uses that are necessary to meet the needs of the locality. Today, the Supreme Court has apparently held that local governments (and, I suppose, state and federal governments) can take private property for the sole purpose of conveying it to a private developer, against the will of the owner, in order develop the property in such a manner as to increase the local tax base. (Note: I haven't read the opinion yet, because I can't seem to find it on the Supreme Court's website or Lexis. When I find it, I will update this post). UPDATE: Here's the opinion.

Your basic facts:
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.

Can you believe this? There is no blight, no nuisance, nothing wrong with the property at all. Your local government can now take your property because some developer comes along and proposes a plan that will "boost economic growth," and that consideration alone outweighs your interest in maintaining your property. Remember, a hotel, health club, and offices are worth a lot more than your house ever will be. You now own property subject to your local government's notion of a boost to economic growth. There's a name for this, and we thought we defeated it in World War II.