My Turn: Prop 90: Protect your home and business
October 22, 2006
Americans from coast to coast, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, are now rising up to say “No” to the recent (5-4) U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. New Haven, specifically allowing the taking of private property for another favored private interest.
According to the Pacific Legal Foundation, government entities seized 233 private properties and gave them to private developers between 1998 and 2003. And since the US Supreme Court gave governments a blank check, another 250 properties have been seized. Some 6,000 public entities in California have these powers of eminent domain to use and abuse private property pretty much as they see fit.
Typically they condemn the local “blighted” hardware store to make way for a big box store. Yolo County is attempting to seize the Conaway ranch in part to build an Indian casino. In Sacramento, the city wants to force out the family-owned Joe Sun clothing store, located for decades on K Street, and replace it with a Z Gallerie and another clothing store. In Oakland, John Revelli’s tire store was forced to give way to a Sears Tire Center. In Cypress, the Cottonwood Christian Center barely missed a bulldozer pushing it away to make room for a Costco outlet. In San Diego, a cigar store was bulldozed to make room for a fashionable hotel.
Is it any wonder that citizens in 40 states are rising up in protest? As State Senator and Lt. Governor candidate, Tom McClintock puts it: “It used to be that if a widow didn’t want to sell her home to a developer, she didn’t have to. Unless the developer sent in a bunch of thugs to beat her up… Government was there to protect her from the thugs. Now government has become the thug.”
These abuses are done under perverted interpretations of a sacred part of our Constitution, the “takings” clause of the Fifth Amendment in our Bill of Rights. The Constitution explicitly allows the taking of private property, under two conditions: if it is for a public use (not purpose, benefit, interest, or whim), such as for a road, bridge, or school, and just compensation is paid for the property, generally market value.-
The issue has simmered for perhaps 50 years, and maybe the end is near for the outrageous practice of government acting as the real estate agent for the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary people. In San Jose, 95 percent of properties subject to these abuses of power for economic development belong to Hispanic and Asian owners. Using the mask of public benefit to steal private property violates our Bill of Rights. Your property is yours to use as you please, unless it threatens public health and safety, or unless there is a legitimate public use for it. In both cases, you ought to be justly compensated for your property.
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On August 23, 2005 the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to support ACA 22 (La Malfa) and SCA 15 (McClintock) to stop the outrageous practice of taking private property. Those bills were killed in committees. After that happened, a million voters signed a measure putting Proposition 90 on our November ballot.
If the voters approve Proposition 90, takings for public use will have to be specific.
Neither “economic development, nor generic “blight” will be enough to take your property. Government will have to prove blight on each and every property and to prove it before a jury, rather than making vague declarations from on high to justify bulldozing whole neighborhoods. Government entities will have to prove a risk to public health and safety. Neither private gain nor windfall tax revenues are reasons for a regulatory taking that reduces the property value. Property owners will be justly compensated for property taken rather than receiving below-market prices through extortion or abusive regulatory actions.
Unfortunately, on Oct. 10, little more than a year after their earlier eminent domain vote, the Placer Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 (Oppose -Weygandt, Holmes, Santucci; Support – Gaines, Kranz) against Proposition 90, retreating from the defense of property rights under pressure of California cities, counties, and developers. Unfortunately, the opponents of Proposition 90 have done a good job of muddying up the waters by misrepresenting the facts. Proposition 90 limits the power of government to abuse authority and make it accountable for the damage it does to individuals.