Friday, August 05, 2005

Eminent domain

So, as many people know, the Supreme Court expanded the right of local government to seize property for commercial development. CNN did a story this morning on the effects of this expansion. They highlighted a poor, retired couple, the Vendettis, who own their beach front home in New Jersey. But the city council has tried to seize their property in order to sell it to a developer who wants to put up high-priced condos at more than three times the price that their home is worth. CNN talked to some of the locals who live in the new condos, which sell at 3/4 of a million dollars. One of those, Maura Lucerelli, said, "It has to be developed. It [the new crap] looks gorgeous. It brings income to the community... So I feel bad, where are they going to go? For-- It's very expensive around here. But it's part of life. I mean..." (I would say something extremely disparaging about her character here, but I think she already did it for me...) The Vendettis and thirty other families who are under the same threat are fighting it. They say they will keep fighting until they are dragged out. The good news is that if they can hold out long enough, they might be able to save their houses. The New Jersey legislature (along with those of Florida, California, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois) is trying to pass legislation that will explicitly limit eminent domain and protect property owners. The Governor of Alabama has already signed property protection legislation into law. Federal legislation that will limit eminent domain has also been introduced, by a Republican Senator from Texas of all people... I have yet to read up on any of this proposed legislation, so I don't know how much it limits the new expansion of eminent domain laws, but it's good that they are doing something.

If you live in a state that doesn't yet have proposed property protection legislation and you think they should, go to to find links to their official sites. I encourage everyone, even those who live in states with proposed legislation, to go to write their elected officials and make their views heard. It's fun, doesn't take a lot of time, let's them know that they are being held accountable, and it just might make a difference.

If you want to write to your Senators and Representatives in Washington, go to and to find links to write to them.

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