Monday, May 14, 2007

EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE

"...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
...Fifth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

"Private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation. Individuals or private corporations shall not be authorized to take private property for public use without just compensation first made to the owners."
Article 1, Section 20 of the
New Jersey State Constitution .

There's eminent domain, and there's eminent domain abuse. What's the difference?
A lot.
Eminent domain was addressed by the Founding Fathers for the specific reason that they wished to limit the power of government. They had just become independent of the dictatorial King George III's United Kingdom, and wanted to prevent any repeat of that nightmare.
The Founders worded this very carefully. Public use specifically meant roads, bridges, parks, schools and other public buildings. It did not mean taking a farmer's land and modest home so a wealthy planter could build a plantation, no matter how well-connected the planter. The Founders specifically wanted to protect the private property owner from siezure by government for the benefit of some lord or baron, as was a problem under the British regime.
Here in Monmouth County, the City of Long Branch under the administration of Democratic Mayor Adam Schneider is the No. 1 poster child for eminent domain abuse, but the issue has reared its ugly head in other towns as well. That list can grow much longer when you include such below-the-radar abuses as using the threat of eminent domain to force an owner to negotiate. With such a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, many owners feel they have no choice but to sell.
Some municipalities have brought the debate to the local level, as in Neptune Township Committeeman Tom Catley's proposal to limit the use of eminent domain in his township's redevelopment program.
That eminent domain is for public improvements is true, but the rampant abuse on behalf of developers has given the process a bad name, even when used in its legitimate application.
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders plan to replace Hubbard's Bridge, which carries West Front Street across the Navesink River between Middletown and Red Bank. The design calls for the aquisition of private property for the bridge approach.
One of the owners in question is Pat Walsh, who has filed as a Democrat for assembly in the 13th District, specifically targeting Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R - 13th). One of her issues is eminent domain abuse, even though the county's application of eminent domain here would clearly fall under legitimate use. Ironically, Walsh finds herself in the same party as Mayor Schneider and other eminent domain true - believers. That must make for some very interesting Democratic dinners. That aside, she would hardly be an effective legislative voice against eminent domain abuse. Nearly two years after the U. S. Supreme Court's Kelo v New London decision, some states have enacted reforms; New Jersey's moribund reforms continue to languish in the Democratic - controlled Legislature. In other words, if the Democrats wanted to reform eminent domain and protect homeowners from the big developers, they would have long since enacted the reforms.
They haven't and that's telling.

Dino's Forum has an interesting post on this issue.

6 comments:

William H Seward said...

Pat Walsh is an interesting candidate, and the only Democrat with a remote chance of winning in the 13th.

Her biggest problem if she runs on Eminent Domain abuse, is that her opposition to it is self serving. Her property is at the end of the Front St Bridge and at least part of it would be taken if the project proceeds.

Pat is very popular in Middletown and in the Bayshore, even among Republicans, especially Azzolina loyalists.

She could win, but it won't be by unseating Amy Handlin. Amy is going to win by virtue of good press and name recognition. Amy will win Middletown and Holmdel and come in a close third in the Bayshore.

Pat wins if she beats Sam Thompson in Middletown, which is probable, and outpolls Handlin in the Bayshore, where Amy is not well liked. If Brown had a respectable showing in Old Bridge and Pat keeps it close in Holmdel, she could be headed to Trenton.

Dino P. Crocetti said...

Thanks for the plug, Abe. You've always been good to me!

Mayor Lonegan is working very hard in regards to this issue and I look forward to when he comes into Hudson County as does his AFP seminars.

Pat said...

With all respect to Honest Abe, my strong beliefs regarding eminent domain are closer to those of Assemblyman Michael Panter, than of Mayor Adam Schneider. As the friend of someone who was removed from their Long Branch home at gunpoint and still awaits their "just compensation" after 4 years of delays by Long Branch attorneys, I know of the personal pain of those affected by the abuse of eminent domain. If Mayor Schneider and I were ever to have dinner, there would be indigestion over my continuing support of the MOTSA homeowners and my advocating for a better definition of what constitutes "blight", just like the Public Advocate Ronald Chen is now seeking through the courts. I have yet to meet an individual who does not feel threatened that they will be the next one with their home in jeopardy.

Swallowing the hook line and sinker of the label of "public good" is just how homes and property have already been taken. Just because a project is "labeled" for public good does not mean that it is so. Not one person I have discussed the issue with can deny that property on both sides of the bridge will be ripe for developers if the bridge is raised and larger boats can work their way up the Navesink. The majority of residents believe that not only is this project a colossal waste of money but that a simple replacement of the bridge in its current position would accomplish the same goal. More importantly, it would provide the least disturbance to the threatened and endangered bird species that occupy the area according to the US Division of Fish and Wildlife.

I hope Honest Abe would also consider the other facts like the traffic and congestion that is a daily occurrence on West Front Street, will not be remedied by the proposed bridge design. Why should the public be asked to shoulder the burden of hundreds of millions of dollars, if their quality of life is not improved? And if anyone believes that a higher, curved bridge is a safer prospect to travelers, they should think about driving over the bridge on stormy night in December. Even Santa would end up on a gurney at Riverview.

If Honest Abe truly believes the all republicans align on issues in the same way he attempts to align Democrats then he should remember some other names, like Ray O' Grady, Anthony Palughi, and even George Bush when speaking of my opponent, Mrs. Handlin.

Honest Abe said...

Pat addressed...
"If Honest Abe truly believes the all republicans align on issues in the same way he attempts to align Democrats..."

I never attempted to align all Democrats any more than I attempt to align all Republicans on issues. In fact, in this post I illustrate the yawning gulf of difference between yourself and Mayor Schneider on the issue of eminent domain. I also point out the difference between yourself and the prevailing Democratic philosophy in Trenton on this issue, which is controlled by big city machine interests who are very pro redevelopment, often at the expense of their poorest constituents. Your views would actually align you more with such conservative icons as Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and the late William Rehnquist, as well as the "Mountain Men", a group of conservative Republican legislators from northwest Jersey. You may be more of a mainstream Democrat on other issues, but that will come out in the campaign, won't it?
Welcome to my blog and thank you for posting. Although this is a Republican blog, you're not the first Democrat to visit here. It livens up the debate.

Pat said...

Honest Abe,
My hats off to you for sparking debate on the issue of eminent domain. I look forward to the newest report from Public Advocate Ronald Chen. He says it puts the human face to the issue. I look forward to reading your blog and the perspective it brings to so many issues. Lets keep it lively!!!

ginger Hoffmeier said...

The new eminent reform laws can also be used for a responsible town government, elected by the residents, for good.

For instance, a highway that has become filled with porn palaces can be taken by eminent domain and sold to a developer that will build something more desirealbe.

The town will have the benefit of entering into a contract with the buyer that can have use stipulations beyond what the zoning allows.

How is this a bad thing?