In July 2005 the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Kelo v. New London, essentially saying that a local government could execute an eminent domain taking against a private property holder for the purposes of giving that property over to a 3rd private party so that a development could be done that might generate more taxable revenue than with the original owner. In short, they said that higher projected tax revenues constituted a “public use” under the 5th Amendment. Anyone who’s read this blog for that long knows that I strongly disagreed with that decision and I continue to consider it the worst miscarriage of justice the Supreme Court has perpetrated in my lifetime. (Thus far.) The issue I had with the decision, primarily, was that it rested upon the notion of giving someone else the private property of a given owner on the basis that it would generate high tax revenues. Unlike a road, a bridge, or a school (the usual projects for which eminent domain has been used), tax revenue is never guaranteed. If we take a man’s property to build a road and we perform that construction, then there’s definitely going to be a road where we built it. We can build exactly what we have in mind in the case of Kelo and it might still not generate the tax revenue.
In a pathetic end to an already sad tale, we now find out that Pfizer isn’t even going to build what they said they would. The project is now an absolute bust. Via Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air:
Five Supreme Court justices ruled that the seizure of private property from several residents of New London, Connecticut to make way for a new site owned by pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer met the test of “public use” for eminent domain. A decade after New London took homes away from its citizens to sell the land to a private corporation, Pfizer has decided it doesn’t want the facility after all, adding a fitting coda to a chapter of governmental abuse:
In going over my previous writings on the matter, I found this post that I wrote a year after the decision. While vacationing up near New London, I read on the front page of New London’s own local newspaper that the last of the homeowners involved in the Kelo case had settled with the City. The article mentioned something I found especially irritating. One of the property owners in the case was Pasquale Cristofaro, an Italian immigrant who had come to New London in 1962. The city decided they needed a new sea wall where Cristofaro’s house was standing at the time and they executed an eminent domain proceeding against him. They took his house and Cristofaro had to move.
The sea wall was never built. At the time, I wrote:
Read that line again: “The city seized that house in the 1970s for a protective sea wall, never built…”
That’s right – this man’s had his property removed once before. In that case, the seizure was for a sea wall, a justifiable public good. The fact that it was never built is an insult but that’s nothing like seizing his current home for a private developer who may or may not generate additional tax revenues with whatever business is planned.
And now, it’s happened again. Once again this man has had his property taken by the state and, once again, they have failed to follow through with actually building what they said it was so vital to build that they needed to evict him from his own home. The ineptitude with which New London applies eminent domain should warrant the removal of that ability from them. It should most certainly serve as an example and a reminder to other localities that it’s a strategy to be used only in the most dire of circumstances and, once implemented, places upon the government the onus of follow-through.
New London owes this man an abject apology and, if he’s chosen to remain a local resident, and iron-clad guarantee that they’ll never do it to him again. Ever. Honor demands it.