Eminent Domain-Not what I learned in school

Remember Government class when you were a kid? That's the first time you heard of Eminent Domain. That's where I learned The Constitution said governments can not take private property for public use without "just compensation." Governments have traditionally used eminent domain to build public projects such as roads, reservoirs and parks. At some point developers and government officials entered into a conspiracy to take private property away to "increase the tax base."

The first instance of this I remember was Lakewood Ohio, “The City of Homes.” The neighborhood in question was Scenic park, an area with great views overlooking the Rocky River. In order to legally invoke eminent domain, the city had to certify that the Scenic Park area was, really, "blighted." Sound familiar?

I remember a 60 minutes interview with Mike Wallace. He interviewed the Mayor of Lakewood, Madeleine Cain, who attested "The term 'blighted' is a statutory word," It is, it really doesn't have a lot to do with whether or not your home is painted. ...A statutory term is used to describe an area. The question is whether or not that area can be used for a higher and better use.”

Most memorable from this interview was when Mike Wallace read the definition of blighted to Mayor Cain, if it doesn't have the following it's considered blighted; three bedrooms, two baths, an attached two-car garage and central air. He pointed out to her that by that definition then her home was blighted.

Ultimately the homes were saved not by legal means, instead by grassroots activisim. The residents were able to take it to the voters of Lakewood and in the end the voters rescinded the blight designation. The voters also expressed their dissatisfaction by voting Mayor Cain out of office.

The developer in Lakewood was none other than Jeffery Anderson. The same man who was successful in getting Norwood to declare the neighborhood across from Rookwood Commons, another Anderson development. Anderson initiated and paid for a “study” the Norwood government used to declare the well-kept neighborhood “deteriorating” so it could use eminent domain under Ohio law.

The homes in that neighborhood were sold and bulldozed, with the exception of three. The owners and renters of those three homes are fighting Anderson and the City of Norwood. On January 11, 2006, the Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments for this case, becoming the first state supreme court to hear an eminent domain abuse case since the U.S. Supreme Court removed federal constitutional protection from homeowners and threw the issue back to the states to decide if any state-level protection remains.

Now 40 states are re-examining their stance on eminent domain because the high court, in it's ruling, noted that states are free to ban that practice. I think the legislators should have to go back to government class and read the definition of eminent domain.

Do you think the state should be allowed to take perfectly sound homes away from owners and sell them to the highest bidder?

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