It was just after the 2005 Supreme Court Decision was announced that I first wrote about the hideously wrong ruling in Kelo v. New London. (Yes, that’s a Wikipedia article. It’s just for general info, not a legal analysis.) I have written about it since, of course, and you can see what I’ve said, specifically, right here but the general story is this: The city of New London, CT executed an eminent domain taking of several homes in the Fort Trumbull area of New London. They didn’t do it because the houses there were falling apart or that the area was a crime haven, swarming with crack houses. They did it because some other third parties said they’d build something there that would generate more tax revenue than the residential neighborhood that was there. After they’d tried to buy out the homeowners and ran into several who had no desire to sell their legally held properties, the developer went to the city to ask them to help. The “help” they wanted was to kick the homeowners off their land.
After receiving the notice of taking, the principal in the case, Sussette Kelo, sued claiming that the projected increased tax revenues and jobs the project was touting did not constitute a “public use” as defined in the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution. Five years and several appeals later, the case wound up in the Supreme Court which ruled, 5-4, that oh, yes, it did. Kelo’s house was eventually relocated close to downtown New London. All the rest were bulldozed.
As I wrote on this sad tale last, in late 2009, the primary tenant projected for this project, Pfizer Inc., had dropped any plans to move into the project. The redevelopment company failed utterly to get financing for the project and, as of 2010, all plans to develop the land have been completely dropped. The entire former neighborhood is a vacant lot or ruined structures. You’d think that would be the bottom of the gutter for this example of bureaucratic and judicial stupidity – but it’s not. As mentioned over at Ricochet.com, the local newspaper up there called “The Day” is reporting that the site has been designated as a dump for vegetation waste in the aftermath of hurricane Irene. Their quote from blogger Gideon’s Trumpet couldn’t say it any better:
Connecticut taxpayers have thus been soaked tens of millions of dollars, not just for nothing, but for making things worse — for transforming a nice local neighborhood into a dump.
Total cost of this fiasco? $78 Million dollars. Total jobs and revenue generated? Zero. So, someone from those 5 Justices wanna tell me now what the “public use” was in all of this? As I said repeatedly, the projection of possible revenue increases is a guess, not a quantifiable public good or use. The power of eminent domain should never – NEVER – be used in this way. Hopefully, everyone’s paying attention this time and won’t be tempted to try this little stunt in their neck of the woods.