In the growing phenomenon called "Eminent Domain" the wolf is lurking at the back door.
In the U.S. the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee will soon decide the fate of the Property Rights Protection act (S.1313).
"The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) on June 27, 2005, as an immediate response to the infamous Supreme Court decision, Kelo Vs. New London, CT," says celebrated author and columnist Tom DeWeese. "That decision said local governments could team up with private developers to bulldoze homes in order to build new projects to bring in more tax dollars for the city. The ruling caused Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to warn that "any property may now be taken for the benefit of another party. She went on to say, "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property."
It's a tragedy that Eminent Domain remains within the jurisdiction of local governments. Local government is the one that's the least accountable to its constituency. Local elections have long been dogged by voter apathy. In the Greater Toronto area, for example, two thirds of eligible voters do not cast ballots in all municipal elections.
While apathy dominates Small Town North america elections, career politicians face no resistance in building empires and fiefdoms.
"It could happen to you" is the way Fox News tags its stories on Eminent Domain.
The conclusion that "You can't fight City Hall and win" has been around forever. Yet, the latest spider's web known as Eminent Domain is taking thousands by surprise.
What happened to Suzette Kelo could serve as a rewrite of the old children's nursery rhyme in the story of The Three Little Pigsright down to the wolf that huffs and puffs and blows your house in.
Having spent a considerable amount of money and time tinkering around her little pink house, Kelo had no intention of selling to anybody. With a beautiful view of the water, hers was a house she could afford. She planted flowers in the yard, braided her own rugs for the floors, filled the rooms with antiques and created Home, Sweet Home.
Within the year, a friendly real estate broker suddenly showed up at her door representing an unknown client. Kelo said she wasn't interested in selling.
according to court testimony, Kelo said that's when the friendly realtor's demeanor changed. She told the homeowner outright that the property was going to be condemned by the City of New London.
One year later, just the day before Thanksgiving, the sheriff taped a letter to her door, stating that her home had been condemned by the City of New London. The following year came the trial where "willing sellers" fought to save their homes.
"The city gave ten different reasons why it wanted to take their property," DeWeese wrote. "It seems the city had no specific plan for the "common good". First they said it was for "park support". Then they said "roads". Then for a "museum".
"The homeowners did not surrender their property. They stood firm. Then the harassment started. Government agents knocked on doors or called on the phone at all hours, insisting that homeowners sign the contracts to sell. as soon as an owner did cave to the pressure a bulldozer was immediately brought in and the home demolished. It was then parked in front of the next home, waiting. and the process was repeated until the neighborhood looked like a war zone. Finally, roads were blocked, denying residents access to their homes. It was all for the common good, remember."
The ribbon-cutting mayor of your town is so much more than the avuncular looking guy whose picture is on the full color brochure you get dropped in your mailbox come election time.
Indeed he's one of a league and Tom DeWeese has him and local politicians pegged just right.
"The Mayor's Conference's and League of Cities' lobbyists are swarming over Capitol Hill, assuring Congress that state and local governments are not abusing their power to make declarations of blight or their use of eminent domain for economic development. They call the protests of property owners "emotionalistic reactions". They call for "cooler heads to prevail".
Fatcat mayors are the same the world over. They, by and large, preside over municipal councils that can't, or won't keep costs down. While globetrotting councillors are off on taxpayer-paid road trips, the media focuses its attention on the feds.
In Canada property rights are not entrenched in the Constitution. Provincial governments harass rural farmers and landowners, driving them off land that has been owned by the same families for generations.
Over the border, at least, there are some american state legislators fighting back.
"In the U.S. some 43 states are now pushing for legislation to protect private property from eminent domain abuse," says DeWeese. "Two commercial banks (BB&T of North Carolina and Montgomery Bank of Missouri) have announced that they will no longer finance projects where the land was taken by eminent domain. Said the Chairman of the Board at BB&T, "It's just wrong." and the U.S. House of Representatives quickly passed its own version of the Property Rights Protection act in November, essentially cutting off federal funds to any community that uses Eminent Domain for community development."
Hope will always spring eternal in the human heart and the pride of home ownership is simply everything to a lot of good people.
Susan Kelo's "Tara" was a little pink house she could afford.
The human spirit can survive most anything, but losing a home breaks hearts and spirits. When a home is forced out of private ownership by greedy politicians and bureaucrats bitterness is left where dreams once lived.
Meanwhile, city halls should rewrite a new definition for Eminent Domain and call it what it is: Robbery made possible by emotional blackmail.
Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]