Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Eminent Domain Abuses

A Five Year State by State Report Examining the Abuse of Eminent Domain

The following report documents the abuses taking place in America today. It looks at cities just like San Ramon, that ended up using eminent domain to take over properties that were previously off limits to the local governments. There is a new movement affront from the people and also the Federal Government to stop these eminent domain abuses. Contact your Senators and Representatives to make sure the new bill becomes law this year.

Public Power, Private Gain
by Dana Berliner
The Despotic Power

As early as 1795, the U.S. Supreme Court described the power of eminent domain—where the government takes someone’s property for a "public use"—as "the despotic power." Eminent domain has the potential to destroy lives and livelihoods by uprooting people from their homes and businesspeople from their shops. With eminent domain, the government can force a couple in their 80s to move from their home of 50 years. Eminent domain is the power to evict a small family business, even if that means the business will never reopen.

The danger of such an extreme power led the authors of the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions to limit the power of eminent domain in two ways. First, the government had to pay "just compensation." And second, even with just compensation, the government could take property only for "public use." To most people, the meaning of "public use" is fairly obvious—things like highways, bridges, prisons, and courts.

No one—at least no one besides lawyers and bureaucrats—would think "public use" means a casino, condominiums or a private office building. Yet these days, that’s exactly how state and local governments use eminent domain—as part of corporate welfare incentive packages and deals for more politically favored businesses. This is the first report ever to document and quantify the uses and threats of eminent domain for private parties. We have compiled this information from published accounts and court papers covering the five-year period from January 1, 1998 through December 31, 2002. The results are chilling.

Download the entire report at Castle Coalition

Friday, September 08, 2006

Follow The Money

San Ramon Politics, Redevelopment, Eminent Domain, And Money Are In The Mix With The San Ramon City Council

Who Gets The San Ramon Redevelopment Bond Money?

In an article titled: San Ramon redevelopment on the agenda again, by Scott Marshall, reporter with the Contra Costa Times, reports about the issues facing the Beta Court business owners affected by the Crow Canyon Specific Plan, which involves redevelopment of the area surrounding and including Beta Court.

The San Ramon Planning Commission voted 4-1 to remove the housing overlay for Beta Court which in essence would mean that the thriving business owners would in all likely hood remain and continue to provide vital services to the residents. However, the San Ramon City Council could place this new plan with the removal of the housing overlay for Beta Court in jeopardy. In fact, a four-fifths vote is required for passage of the plan.

It has been reported that, "At least one City Councilman, Jim Livingstone, has publicly stated that he did not want the Beta Court Business owners to determine the direction of the Crow Canyon plan."

If the City Council does not approve this plan, then it goes back to the Planning Commission with two newly appointed commissioners that would in all likely hood be reversed and change it to call once again for the housing overlay on Beta Court.

Property owners would most likely be in a position of selling out to developers to reap more profits then would be generated from renting to the business owners. "A consultant's report found that the redevelopment area is 'economically blighted,'" and as such the Redevelopment Agency, which are the same five members of the City Council could use eminent domain to take care of any property owner stragglers refusing to sell out.

To clarify matters, Beta Court is not economically blighted but provides valuable services to the San Ramon citizens. The area is thriving with activity. The business owners have been profitable for years. If the City Council chooses to do what is right for the citizens and business owners of San Ramon then we can look forward to having local service providers for many years to come. If however, the City Council chooses to reject the protection of these valuable service providers, then the City Council will effectively be kicking businesses out of San Ramon.

Maybe it is time to start following the money. By-the-way, speaking of money, the city's Redevelopment Agency is going to be discussing on Tuesday, Sept. 12, before they place their other City Council hats on, in the City Council Meeting: "Whether to set a $59 million bond issue limit."

Beta Court, San Ramon, CA