By Scott Tibbs, August 2, 2005
In late June, the Supreme Court ruled that it is permissible under the Fifth Amendment for local government to use "eminent domain" to take private property (including your home) and give it to a real estate developer. By a 5 to 4 margin, the Court ruled that "public use" need not be a true public-works project like a street or a highway, but virtually anything that strikes their fancy, if it promotes "economic development".
What this means for the people of Bloomington is that local elections are more important than ever. We need people in city and county government who value individual liberty and support limited government. The people of Bloomington already saw an attempt to undermine private property rights with the ST Semicon property. The John Fernandez administration claimed economic development as a reason for taking private property and giving it to a developer. That case takes on new importance with the Court's ruling.
People in Bloomington and Monroe County should challenge city and county officials to pledge that they will not support any effort to take away someone's property and give it to a real estate developer. We should challenge our representatives to pledge that they will only use eminent domain for true public works projects. In the 2006 elections, voters should demand to know where the candidates stand on eminent domain issues.
In state legislative races, we should ask the candidates whether or not they support laws that would limit the eminent domain powers of local government. The state legislature already places limits on the authority of local government, and state government can serve as an important check on any potential abuse of power by local officials. At the federal level, Congress may be able to limit "eminent domain" through legislation. Since this involves the rights of all Americans, this is an important issue for Washington to tackle.
2006 will be a pivotal election for private property rights, but an unjust decision by five people in black robes could ultimately result in a more informed and more involved group of voters on an issue that transcends ideological boundaries. That can only be a good thing.