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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ohio's Kelo Decision

So government needs more power to govern more effectively? I agree, if your goal is to trample on individual liberties while taking private property from one citizen and awarding it to another.

In Norwood, Ohio (near Cincinnati), the town is condemning a neighborhood that was in fine, typical middle-class shape. That description changed when a developer offered the town his plan for "renovation"--- new condos, chain stores and parking garages. The developer's "urban renewal study" gave the town its rationale to begin "buying" up properties. The builder will reimburse the town.

Jacob Sullum describes how the Ohio Supreme Court has its own Kelo-type eminent domain decision to make. He writes:

[T]he Norwood City Code allows condemnations for private development only if they're necessary to eliminate "slum, blighted, or deteriorated" conditions or to fix areas deemed to be "deteriorating." No one can seriously maintain that the Edwards Road area falls into the first category (although the city initially tried), but both the trial court and the state appeals court agreed that calling the neighborhood "deteriorating" was not an "abuse of discretion."

It was only an abuse of English and common sense. The area, which the city called "generally ... in good shape" only five years before calling it "deteriorating," did not include a single dilapidated, vacant, or tax-delinquent property. It was not blighted by any stretch of the imagination, but the city claimed to be worried that it might become blighted someday.

As the Institute for Justice points out in its brief for the Gambles, "the requirements of the 'deteriorating' designation are so minimal, and the conditions so ordinary, that ... it can apply to virtually any neighborhood." Like the Gambles, you could be living in a "deteriorating" neighborhood, subject to condemnation, without knowing it.

And as in Kelo, the "insult added to injury" is the money offered as just compensation will be well below what the developer would pay in a free market transaction. Where is it a voluntary transaction between willing parties when one side has the weight of the police, courts and administrators on its side? What is condemned land worth? Do the "sellers" have a market they can bargain with?

The Institute For Justice that is defending the rights of these homeowners and unsuccessfully defended the Kelos in Conecticut writes from its website:

The Norwood “blight study” itself admitted that not one of the 99 homes or businesses in the area was dilapidated or delinquent on taxes.

The problem is that when the government possesses this kind of power, it is the party that can grease those public officials (either through direct bribes, legal lobbying or suggestions of an increased tax base) that gets results. Is this not the true moral of the Abramoff scandal (read Walter Williams for more)?


At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! »

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed a lot! » »


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