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Author Topic: Eminent Domain Poisoning
iglee
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(If this subject has already been hashed out ad nauseam, I apologize in advance. Anyway . . .)

I've heard democracy described as: Five wolves and a sheep deciding what's for lunch.

The good news is that the USA is not a democracy. It is a Constitutional Republic based on rule of law. Of course it has some elements of democracy because we elect representatives to make and protect various laws.

Anyway, when the country was founded, way back in the day, there was debate on whether or not to include in the Constitution a statement of basic individual rights which the government could not violate. Everyone was in favor of those rights but there were those who argued that it was not necessary to write them down because everyone knew that they were inalienable, inherent, and went without saying. Fortunately, the ones who won the debate were those who felt that we had better write them down anyway, just in case. So we got the first 10 Amendments also called the Bill of Rights.

The bad news is that despite the Bill of Rights, there has been an ongoing attempt, under the guise of democracy, by various majorities to violate these basic inalienable rights of various minorities.

The abuse of eminent domain laws are an excellent example of the five wolves one sheep definition.

Now, I'm not talking about when Eminent Domain is invoked in order to build a highway or something like that. The abuse I'm talking about is when some rich jerk colludes with a local government to invoke Eminent Domain to shaft property owners so that the rich jerk can build a condominium or strip mall or something and make loads o‘ dough. Of course the local government gladly goes along with this because this will increase property value and they can charge way more in taxes. And the property owner that is forced to sell gets shafted because there is no way the 'fair market value' of his property is going to be enough to allow him to relocate into a comparable property. He is going to take a loss.

The Fifth Amendment states: “ . . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

I’ve got ideas about what “just compensation” ought to be but I haven’t typed it out yet. Meanwhile, what do you ladies and gentlemen of hatrack have to say about eminent domain.

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Blayne Bradley
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"Liberty is a well armed sheep contesting the vote." - FDR
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Samprimary
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quote:
The good news is that the USA is not a democracy. It is a Constitutional Republic based on rule of law.
I guess I get to do this again!

This is wrong. The united states is a democracy.

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Samprimary
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also, per the whole eminent domain thing:

quote:
The abuse I'm talking about is when some rich jerk colludes with a local government to invoke Eminent Domain to shaft property owners so that the rich jerk can build a condominium or strip mall or something and make loads o‘ dough.
the current marker for me for where eminent domain goes from legitimate use (countering blight, civic projects to keep cities and metropolii habitable and functional, highways, etc) to abuse is .. well, in the precedent generated by Kelo v. New London. I wonder how new london has fared after that ruling, anyway.
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MrSquicky
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In the sense that she used it, the US is not a democracy.
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MrSquicky
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I don't know that the eminent domain abuse you're talking about is a case of an individual or minority losing rights in the face of a mass of a democratic majority.

The force being brought to bear isn't democratic majority force, but rather the disproportionate influence on government officials that relatively small groups of people have. This is more, to me, an example of corruption that is inherent in nearly all forms of government.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
In the sense that she used it, the US is not a democracy.

When someone says "the united states is not a democracy" they are very straightforwardly wrong.
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steven
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I worked for a boss one summer whose family farm (which had been in his family for 5 or 6 generations, I think) was taken via eminent domain. They paid about $700/acre, probably about 1/2 to 1/3 what it would have brought on the open market. He used to talk about suddenly understanding where Timothy McVeigh was coming from, after that...and he was a very stable guy. it definitely made him angry.
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MrSquicky
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
In the sense that she used it, the US is not a democracy.

When someone says "the united states is not a democracy" they are very straightforwardly wrong.
Except, again, in this case, in the way that she was talking about democracy - which is a valid one - the U.S. is not one.

Or do you think that the U.S. is a place where majority will rules, no matter what?

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
In the sense that she used it, the US is not a democracy.

When someone says "the united states is not a democracy" they are very straightforwardly wrong.
Except, again, in this case, in the way that she was talking about democracy - which is a valid one - the U.S. is not one.

Or do you think that the U.S. is a place where majority will rules, no matter what?

Samp, if I remember right, your thing about Republic/Democracy is sort of a Square/Rectangle situation, right? I think Squicky's point is that perhaps in this example the person isn't just talking about "rectangles" they are talking about a specific rectangle, say, a 10X6 rectangle, which is actually therefore not also a square.

Okay I may have pushed that analogy too far but it made sense when I was writing it.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
Except, again, in this case, in the way that she was talking about democracy - which is a valid one - the U.S. is not one.

Or do you think that the U.S. is a place where majority will rules, no matter what?

You are confusing direct democracy — a specific type and subset of democracy — with other types of democracy. The united states is not a direct democracy. It is still a democracy.
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MrSquicky
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iglee, if you read the post, is pretty clearly using democracy as in pure or direct democracy. The U.S. is not one of these.

Samp was wrong and his tone was out of line.

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iglee
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Blayne, I love it. [ROFL]

Sam,
Google “is the USA a democracy” and you find stuff like the following. Below is a partial quote for this web site. That is what I meant. I failed to define my terms clearly, but it looks like we are both right depending on how one defines democracy. So let’s set that aside and talk about eminent domain.

http://thisnation.com/question/011.html

Is the United States a democracy?
The Pledge of Allegiance includes the phrase: "and to the republic for which it stands." Is the United States of America a republic? I always thought it was a democracy? What's the difference between the two?
The United States is, indeed, a republic, not a democracy. Accurately defined, a democracy is a form of government in which the people decide policy matters directly--through town hall meetings or by voting on ballot initiatives and referendums. A republic, on the other hand, is a system in which the people choose representatives who, in turn, make policy decisions on their behalf. The Framers of the Constitution were altogether fearful of pure democracy. Everything they read and studied taught them that pure democracies "have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths" (Federalist No. 10).
By popular usage, however, the word "democracy" come to mean a form of government in which the government derives its power from the people and is accountable to them for the use of that power. In this sense the United States might accurately be called a democracy. However, there are examples of "pure democracy" at work in the United States today that would probably trouble the Framers of the Constitution if they were still alive to see them. Many states allow for policy questions to be decided directly by the people by voting on ballot initiatives or referendums. (Initiatives originate with, or are initiated by, the people while referendums originate with, or are referred to the people by, a state's legislative body.) That the Constitution does not provide for national ballot initiatives or referendums is indicative of the Framers' opposition to such mechanisms. They were not confident that the people had the time, wisdom or level-headedness to make complex decisions, such as those that are often presented on ballots on election day.

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MattP
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quote:
The Pledge of Allegiance includes the phrase: "and to the republic for which it stands." Is the United States of America a republic?
It's both. Democracy covers a general class of government organization, of which a constitutional republic is one subset. What you are trying to say that US is not is a "direct democracy", another subset of democracy.

Saying "we're not a democracy, we're a republic" is sort of like saying "we are not a dairy product, we are cheese" because you believe that "dairy product" only means "milk".

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
In the sense that she used it, the US is not a democracy.

When someone says "the united states is not a democracy" they are very straightforwardly wrong.
Except, again, in this case, in the way that she was talking about democracy - which is a valid one - the U.S. is not one.

Or do you think that the U.S. is a place where majority will rules, no matter what?

Guys, guys. The US is a democracy and a constitutional republic. It is possible to be both.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
iglee, if you read the post, is pretty clearly using democracy as in pure or direct democracy. The U.S. is not one of these.

Samp was wrong and his tone was out of line.

No, it was not clear. And Sam was nowhere *near* the line. It is indeed important that we *be* clear. And when you're dealing with a canard the size of "the US is not a democracy," you need to be very clear that A, number 1, that statement is false.

An argument from etymology would only be valid if that interpretation was indeed the common one, of democracy *being* in common usage "direct democracy." However, that is not the common usage, and it is not an accurate statement, particularly in a discussion of forms of government in which different forms of democracy require delineation.

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iglee
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Squicky said
quote:
I don't know that the eminent domain abuse you're talking about is a case of an individual or minority losing rights in the face of a mass of a democratic majority.

The force being brought to bear isn't democratic majority force, but rather the disproportionate influence on government officials that relatively small groups of people have. This is more, to me, an example of corruption that is inherent in nearly all forms of government.

Your point is well taken. I agree it could be looked at as a case of corruption rather than majority rule. Small groups of powerful people have always and still do try to shaft anyone they can. I kind of lump them all together as violators of individual rights. But I was thinking of it in this sense: Strictly speaking all the town folk didn’t get together and vote to shaft the property owner. But the reason I think eminent domain is a case of five wolves one sheep is because the local government was elected to represent the town folk. So in that sense they act in behalf of the flock as a whole.

The rest of the flock are often limited in what they can do. They probably didn't intend, when they elected those fools, that they pull a stunt like that. They may become temporarily outraged and think hey, it’s a shaaame whaaat haaaappened to Shaaawn but whaaat caaan we do? But they usually then just go back to grazing. Enough of them may remember, come election time, and vote out some of the city council or mayor who are still trying to rationalize that they were only doing it for the benefit of the flock. And some rich dude still gets to build his strip mall and overcharge his tenants. But meanwhile poor old Shawn is still mutton.

But whatever. Can we agree that there are various kinds of wolves out there in various kinds of sheep's clothing - rich jerks, governments, local citizen mobs - and that they love to violate individual rights to get gain or whatever? Interestinly, our founding fathers knew this.

So what ought to be done about the abuses of eminent domain? And by the way, has the ACLU ever had anything to say about eminent domain?

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MattP
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The ACLU has been involved in at least a few eminent domain cases, yes.
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Kwea
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I see both sides of the argument in ED cases. Often times part of revitalizing an area involves bringing in cash in the form of taxes, which higher paid people pay more of to be sure. It isn't always cut and dry, although we often wish it was.

If an area is considered "urban blight", with many homes abandoned, and someone has a way to turn the area around, which leads to more taxes collected, which leads to more services being provided to city residents.......

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Kwea
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Here is a great story on some of the things that have been happening regarding E/D.
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iglee
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Thanks Kwea, I had read about a third of that article the other day but I read the whole thing just now when you posted the link. Very interesting. While I was reading the article I was sarcasticly thinking: If the area is so blighted why would you want to build a condominium there? You stinking lying hypocrites!
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
Samp was wrong and his tone was out of line.

Lol, you're really reaching here, dude. Did the others clear the issue up for you?
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
Here is a great story on some of the things that have been happening regarding E/D.

They should just change it to "The Greater Good" and be weeaboo space commies like the Tau.
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iglee
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Yes yes I know. Their plan is to unblight the area by bulldozing everything and building a fancy condo with fancy landscaping. But if they can afford that, they can afford to pay the displaced former property owners enough so they won't take a loss.

[ January 10, 2011, 09:36 AM: Message edited by: iglee ]

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iglee
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Here is what I think ought to be done.

The Fifth Amendment states, “. . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” So laws ought to be enacted that in all cases of eminent domain the focus is on “just compensation.” And that needs to be defined something like, the owner who is forced to sell shall be paid enough so that he can relocate to a comparable sized property without taking a financial loss.

All of his moving expenses should be paid for, and if his new property insurance and property taxes are higher than he is currently paying (which they almost certainly will be) then those need to be partly subsidized to make up the difference as long as he owns the new property.

Land developers and local governments are not going to like this, but boo hoo. They are going to be making loads of money off the deal and if they want the property so dang bad, they need to pay the price and take the responsibility. I don’t feel a bit sorry for the land developer because, despite all of his whining, he is going to take a huge tax break for anything extra he might have to pay. Then he will turn around and pass those extra costs on to his customers. He will still come out ahead.

I can think of three ways this type of “just compensation” might be accomplished.

One way would be for the victim to pick out the new property he wants and then the buyers who are invoking ED have to pay him whatever it takes for him to buy it minus whatever, if any, he still owes on the old place. Plus they must pay moving expenses etc.

A second way would be to pay the “fair market value” of what the property is going to be worth after the land is fully redeveloped.

A third way, which I like the best, would be to pay him five times the “fair market value” and let the property owner take care of his own move. If he ends up with money left over, fine. He deserves some extra compensation for the stress of being victimized and the hassle of being forced to move.

So anyway, this what I think “just compensation” means and it appeals to my sense of fair play. Everyone gets what they want. The rich dude gets his condo or strip mall or whatever, the local government get their higher tax base or their new road or on ramp or whatever, and the victim gets just compensation.

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zgator
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iglee, I would assume there would be some limits on what new property the owner can pick. Like, comparable in cost to the fair market value of the one he's losing?

I can see your point with your second way, but it wouldn't work for road, schools, etc.

One problem with 5x fair market value is that many needed road and school projects would come to a screeching halt if the government had to spend that much money to buy ROW. The public isn't too fond of people losing their homes to EM, but it's even less fond of paying 5x market value for them.

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iglee
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No I'm not talking about "comparable in cost" I mean comparable in size. It is doubtful if fair market value would be enough in many cases to allow a person to buy another house without taking a huge step backward. Because housing costs have skyrocketed. I know it would be true in my case if it were to happen to me. So what I mean is that just compensation should take into accout what it is going cost to relocate compared to what the property owner is going to get paid under the current system.

Your other points, zgator, are well taken. I know my proposals have some holes in them. And I'm pessimistic enough to doubt that any such reform will ever happen. But I can dream.

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SenojRetep
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
Samp was wrong and his tone was out of line.

Lol, you're really reaching here, dude. Did the others clear the issue up for you?
I agree with Squick. While dismissiveness is a self-gratifying response mechanism, it is rarely conducive to meaningful dialogue. If iglee had demonstrated a repeated inability or conscious refusal to grasp the point you were making, I could understand, but to greet her with derision immediately seems out of line. While you may have a history with the intricacies of the phrase 'the US is not a democracy' she may not, and so snidely dismissing it out of hand without explaining your position is out of line.
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MrSquicky
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A large part of my point is also that iglee was clearly using democracy in the sense of "pure democracy", which, again, the U.S. certainly is not. While I disagree with her application of this to the case of abuse of eminent domain, she was talking specifically about the concept of the government having all sovereignty over individuals (in this case because of the concept of pure democracy) as opposed to a system whereby individuals are guaranteed rights.

In her follow-up she quotes from something that also makes this distinction clear: that while in current common use, the U.S. qualifies as a democracy, it is not and never should be considered a pure or direct democracy.

But, what you saw was a phrase that triggered you into being a dismissive little...jerk. It was disrespectful and it was small. It was also wrong. The way you conduct yourself on this site is a problem Samp.

[ January 10, 2011, 02:54 PM: Message edited by: MrSquicky ]

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MrSquicky
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quote:
Originally posted by iglee:
Squicky said
quote:
I don't know that the eminent domain abuse you're talking about is a case of an individual or minority losing rights in the face of a mass of a democratic majority.

The force being brought to bear isn't democratic majority force, but rather the disproportionate influence on government officials that relatively small groups of people have. This is more, to me, an example of corruption that is inherent in nearly all forms of government.

Your point is well taken. I agree it could be looked at as a case of corruption rather than majority rule. Small groups of powerful people have always and still do try to shaft anyone they can. I kind of lump them all together as violators of individual rights. But I was thinking of it in this sense: Strictly speaking all the town folk didn’t get together and vote to shaft the property owner. But the reason I think eminent domain is a case of five wolves one sheep is because the local government was elected to represent the town folk. So in that sense they act in behalf of the flock as a whole.

The rest of the flock are often limited in what they can do. They probably didn't intend, when they elected those fools, that they pull a stunt like that. They may become temporarily outraged and think hey, it’s a shaaame whaaat haaaappened to Shaaawn but whaaat caaan we do? But they usually then just go back to grazing. Enough of them may remember, come election time, and vote out some of the city council or mayor who are still trying to rationalize that they were only doing it for the benefit of the flock. And some rich dude still gets to build his strip mall and overcharge his tenants. But meanwhile poor old Shawn is still mutton.

But whatever. Can we agree that there are various kinds of wolves out there in various kinds of sheep's clothing - rich jerks, governments, local citizen mobs - and that they love to violate individual rights to get gain or whatever? Interestinly, our founding fathers knew this.

So what ought to be done about the abuses of eminent domain? And by the way, has the ACLU ever had anything to say about eminent domain?

I think that the root issue here is an important one. The problem isn't that the majority wants to take the property of the individual, but rather that the people who are empowered to act for the majority are doing things that the public didn't ask for and often are quite opposed to.

This is important, as it opens up a type of reform that you haven't considered, or at least mentioned. That is, reform that brings more accountability and checks to the exercise of government power, in this case invoking eminent domain.

As you said:
quote:
The rest of the flock are often limited in what they can do. They probably didn't intend, when they elected those fools, that they pull a stunt like that. They may become temporarily outraged and think hey, it’s a shaaame whaaat haaaappened to Shaaawn but whaaat caaan we do?
In this case, doesn't it make sense to look for ways where the public has a greater say in whether this can occur (in their name) or not?

When you talk about the majority against the individual, the solution usually takes place as a static set of restrictions on government power, which the people who want to get around will usually find a way to do, legally or otherwise. To me, encouraging and enabling greater civic involvement - when it is coupled with the corresponding but often lacking civic responsibility - is a much more dynamic and potentially effective way of curtailing governmental abuse.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
But, what you saw was a phrase that triggered you into being a dismissive little...jerk. It was disrespectful and it was small. It was also wrong. The way you conduct yourself on this site is a problem Samp.

I think y'all are crazy if you think my first post here is me being a 'dismissive, disrespectful little jerk' — I mean, seriously. Read it. [Smile]
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MattP
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The "republic, not democracy" canard is political posturing of the "death tax" sort. The only reasonable explanation for it is that Republicans think that pointing out that the country is a republic and not a democracy somehow enhances the party who's name is based on one and diminishes the party who's name is based on the other. It is predominantly a right wing talking point, not a meaningful argument.

I mean really, who doesn't understand that we elect representatives who are constrained by law rather than voting directly on all issues?

It's not dismissive to point out that this phrasing is incorrect, particularly because this incorrect phrasing is so frequently used for demagoguery.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:

It's not dismissive to point out that this phrasing is incorrect, particularly because this incorrect phrasing is so frequently used for demagoguery.

Correct! That and I am not being dismissive in just, you know, pointing it out and not really wanting to go through the whole song-and-dance routine of derailing the whole thread with the whole explanation. Mostly because I am actually very interested in the subject of eminent domain and its various abuses.

Because, well, eminent domain is one of those classic 'necessary evils' thing (modern cities become fugly nightmares and logistical pretzels without it) which we need to engage in X levels of, but .. at the same time, it's one of those available powers that just invites abuse.

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Darth_Mauve
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Matt, I agree with the argument--Republic/Democracy is a Republican ploy to play with words, which makes it all the stranger that it is used in a discussion about wealthy powerful business people using their $ to get small governments to ID land away from rightful owners. That is a Republican/pro-Business way of combating poverty--take poor areas away from those who let it deteriorate and give it to the market to make it pay. If you have to ID it away from people with out the financial resources to buy their own government, that's called being Pro-Business.
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iglee
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Please allow me to make a teeny tiny clarification here. And I'm not bothered in the least by this misunderstanding because I don't recall posting anything that would point to the following fact one way or the other. So how was anyone to know? [Dont Know]

At any rate, the fact is that I'm a guy of the male gender. Or at least I was last time I checked. But for the purposes of most discussions on this forum that is a fact which is pretty much irrelevant, except to my wife.

Now that I think about it though, perhaps it was my wise crack about the fictional character Mrs. Malaprop. I did not intend it to be missleading.

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iglee
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Matt and Darth, I think I understand what you are saying. Maybe the wolf and sheep thing isn’t the best analogy for ED abuses. Maybe I ought to start a thread about the abuses of capitalism. Or in other words the golden rule. Or in other words, he who has the gold makes the rules.

But the fact remains that city governments should be protecting the rights of their citizens from rich jerks instead of colluding with them to violate those rights.

And yes, sometime it is justified to use ED to get certain properties for the common good of the community. I don’t object to that. My main point is that there needs to be a way to force city governments to make sure the property owners are compensated enough to allow them to not take a loss. Without having to spend huge sums of money to hire lawyers to defend rights that should already be protected under the law.

I often wonder if lawyers, which many people can’t afford, are the only thing standing between us and some government violating our basic rights. And that is just not the way it should be.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
The "republic, not democracy" canard is political posturing of the "death tax" sort. The only reasonable explanation for it is that Republicans think that pointing out that the country is a republic and not a democracy somehow enhances the party who's name is based on one and diminishes the party who's name is based on the other. It is predominantly a right wing talking point, not a meaningful argument.

I mean really, who doesn't understand that we elect representatives who are constrained by law rather than voting directly on all issues?

It's not dismissive to point out that this phrasing is incorrect, particularly because this incorrect phrasing is so frequently used for demagoguery.

sigh.

ON THAT NOTE

quote:
NASHVILLE — Members of Tennessee tea parties presented state legislators with five priorities for action Wednesday, including “rejecting” the federal health reform act, establishing an elected “chief litigator” for the state and “educating students the truth about America.”

About two dozen tea party activists held a news conference, then met with lawmakers individually to present their list of priorities and “demands” for the 2011 legislative session that opened Tuesday.

Regarding education, the material they distributed said, “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.”

That would include, the documents say, that “the Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy.”

The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.

It's spreading.
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Kwea
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Ignorance usually does.
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DDDaysh
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So... back to the Eminent Domain thing. This is actually an interesting topic to me. It was the topic my group chose for our Business Law Semester Project in grad school. It's truly fascinating.

The thing that is really debated here is whether eminent domain can be used for "public good" or only for "public use". After the New London case, many states have passed new laws (or are trying to pass new laws) restricting eminent domain to actual public use rather than public good. They're putting in very specific definitions of public use, which generally entail that the property in question be available for use by the public for free or very modest fees (i.e. roads, schools, libraries, museums, etc). However, this has it's drawbacks since many cities and states still want to be able to turn around truly blighted areas. Many are trying to figure out their own definitions of "blighted area" which are supposed to be based on the % of abandoned building, lots, and unpaid rents. It seems like the best way to fight this is to make your voice heard about what you think the definition of "blighted" should be.

Also, it's important to realize that you can actually separate "public use" and "public good" projects pretty easily. The IRS does it all the time in regards to what type of tax-exempt financing can be used to complete projects. Therefore, you need not necessarily have the same compensation program for property owners displaced under "public use" that you do for owners displaced under "public good".

I think, no matter what the case, just compensation should be AT LEAST 150% of the value assessment used for property tax purposes. Then, I think you should add on a premium to protect smaller property owners, especially homeowners, who will be displaced.

Lets say that you divide all the properties in the area (county, city, whatever the appropriate "area" might be, depending on who is seizing the land) into categories. You could have a category for undeveloped fallow land, farm/ranch land, property with homes in certain square footage ranges, etc. Then you figure out which "percentile" the property in question falls in. So, say the person owns a 1400 square foot house. That house is in the 25th percentile of all properties with 1200-1800 square foot homes in the city. So, then the premium could be reverse proportion (100-25)% of the property value. This way the property owner gets 225% of her homes tax value if she's displaced. It's not perfect, but it seems like it would be a little more fair.

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iglee
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Thanks for your post Daysh. Is this the sort of preventative legislation that has to be done on the state level? I guess it would have to be because any restrictions put on a city government by a city government would be changed the instant they figured they wanted some property.
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DDDaysh
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I think that it COULD be done on a national level, but the chances of it managing to get through congress are pretty low. It has enough trouble at state/local levels.

Also, you get into the debate about who really has jurisdiction over such matters, the whole "states rights" stuff. It isn't very often that the national government is seizing property for anything that isn't clearly public use (roads, military bases, etc), so the abuses are usually coming from local governments. That being the case, the laws have more teeth when they're put into place a the state or local level.

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