Last week I wrote a story on Senator John Ensign and the Kelo v. City of New London Case, which you can read here. One Las Vegas Weekly reader read the story and left this insightful (though slightly flawed, in my opinion) comment, which I reprint here, along with my reply:
You are dead wrong on the Kelo Case, and Ensign was dead wrong, playing to the right wing hysteria crowd on this issue. This case was a red herring from the beginning. It was designed to stir up anti government fear of bulldozers rolling over your house. It was complete nonsense., but the right wing Republicans have used fear for years to win elections and this was just another method. Ensign became an expert at this fear mongering. The average property owner has a greater chance of being hit by lightning in Las Vegas, than being involved in a takings case. The Supreme Court changed no law in the Kelo ruling, it sustained law that existed for over 80 years. Kelo was bought and paid for by right wing think tanks hoping to overturn this law. The public purpose doctrine for takings is a legislative matter, as long as compensation is paid for the taking. If the public does not like the taking policies the way to change it is to vote the City Council out. In New London, the City is only six square miles, with over 50% of the property not subject to property taxes. There is no other type of tax supporting municipal services in New London., and the school system was supported by the same property tax base. The taking was supported by a redevelopment plan years in the making, with many public hearings and supported by the balance of the City of New London The plan was designed to get new, higher property tax revenue for a distressed City. It did not take one private property and turn it over to one other. The City had undergone tremendous economic distress because of the loss of jobs in the industrial and defense sectors. The redevelopment agency had bought out 110 parcels without using eminent domain, with only 15 going to the buy out legal process. Kelo’s were offered many times the appraised value for their property. Did you ever notice when the hysteria is trotted out on takings cases, it is never the faceless, corporate land speculator who is the "victim". It is always a little old lady or old married couple, who "just want to die in their own home." Another tactic of the right wing think tanks.
The property rights of people were sustained in Kelo, just compensation was paid, just like the Constitution says. The Kelo house, individually was not blighted, but the whole area otherwise, was. I suppose they could have built a whole new complex right around the Kelo house, then they would have complained about the noise and commercial activities from a successful redevelopment. So the Supreme Court did not obliterate the Constitution, it followed it. The Court was not "activist" in this case, it followed 80 years of precedent. Public purpose is a legislative function, and the court did not inject itself into that legislative function. That is the voters job in New London in this case. So Ensign was dead wrong and you overstated it, as you admitted.
AND MY REPLY:
You definitely know the facts of the Kelo case cold. No disagreement there. But…as far as Republicans use the Kelo case to win elections out of fear? I’m pretty sure they don’t…in fact, I’m pretty sure the only people talking about Kelo right now are you and I. You might be right about that lightning thing–I honestly have no idea–but as I said in the essay, I’m scared that this case sets a dangerous precedent that will allow for more unfair takings in the future; I didn’t say that there are tons of unfair takings going on now. But thanks for reading and for the critical analysis…are you an attorney too?