Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Ballad of Eminent Domain

From the Star Ledger:

The eminent domain outlaws

Songwriter Woody Guthrie, who chronicled the injustices of the 1930s, wrote in "The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd": "Some will rob you with a six gun ... And some with a fountain pen ... And as through your life you travel ... You won't never see an outlaw drive a family from their home."

Those words embody the horror of eminent domain abuse. Under the guise of "economic redevelopment," politicians and their developer friends are stealing people's homes and businesses. These modern outlaws are armed with bogus "studies." Fast-talking politicians are promising communities riches, but they are abusing the law to enrich only themselves and their friends. Entire communities, from trailer-park residents in Bergen County to business owners in New Brunswick to families in Long Branch, are facing upheaval just so bankers and developers can make millions on property they have no right to own.

Politicians in Trenton are deaf to the pleas of people like the Halpers in Piscataway, who lost their farm, and Lou and Lil Anza lone, an 89-year-old couple in Long Branch who are losing the place they have called home for half a century.

In 70 years, apparently not much has changed in America.

-- Ed Mueller, New Brunswick

The writer's property in New Brunswick has been condemned.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for the record, the Halpers have not actively farmed that property for years. In fact I would be so bold as to say that the Halpers are not farmers. The Halpers have been portrayed as farmers because the public generally has a soft spot for farmers, especially if they are being thrown off their land. It is also my understanding that the Halpers were not happy with the State Ag Development Committees offer to preserve their acreage under farmland preservation, which would have provided protection from eminent domain. Eminent domain is a tool which can successfully result in broad public benefit. Without eminent domain we would not have the Deleware Water Gap nor Six Mile Run.

-Farmer JIm

9/14/2006 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger thatbigwindow said...

Dont forget about shopping malls, luxury condos and townhouses. All for public benefit as well

9/14/2006 07:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Long Branch eminent domain battle actually had a song written about it. I can't tell you whether it's any good or not because I can't get the link to play, but here it is:


9/14/2006 07:19:00 AM  
Blogger RentinginNJ said...

Without eminent domain we would not have the Deleware Water Gap nor Six Mile Run.

I absolutely think that eminent domain is necessary and has its place. While I feel bad for the people getting displaced, most people don’t question the government’s right to take land for the “greater good”, such as Delaware Water Gap, an interstate highway or Six Mile Run.

What bothers me is when the government takes land for the purpose of turning it over to a private developer building a mall. I don’t think the framers of the Constitution envisioned the government seizing land on behalf of the private developer with the biggest check.

What I find especially galling is the double standard in place. The govt. can devalue your land by limiting your ability to develop it (i.e. the Highlands Act) and the courts will tell you that you are “not entitled to the highest economic value for your land, you are only entitled to some value”. On the other hand, if the government get squeeze greater tax revenue out of your land by giving it to a luxury condo developer, you can get the boot.

9/14/2006 08:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Delaware Water Gap & Six Mile Run fit within the traditional interpretation of takings for public purpose -- both were originally taken for reservoirs, although DWG's was handled very badly.

The taking of Mueller's property for a condo tower doesn't fall within that category. Halper's situtation isn't as clear cut, but the whole extortion mess related to the issue highlights the potential for abuse.

9/14/2006 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Math, like gravity, is law. said...

Farmer Jim said..."Eminent domain is a tool which can successfully result in broad public benefit."


9/14/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that the Halpers were entertaining offers from developers. Their objection to the offers made by farmland preservation related to price, as very commonly has happened in the hot market of the last 5 years. I believe the property, is now intended for open space, ie soccer fields, etc. The point I had hoped to make was that eminent domain is not entirely about the taking of land for luxury redevelopment.
Property rights have always been an evolving blend of private and public rights with the later actually having more emphasis historically, especially at the founding of the United States. For example, in a letter dated 10/28/1785, Jefferson wrote "Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on." Not exactly a rabid enunciation of modern property rights doctine, huh? For an excellant account of the historical development of the jurisprudence and case law of property rights see the book "The Land We Share", by Eric T. Freyfogle, Island Press, 2003

Farmer Jim

9/14/2006 04:21:00 PM  
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