Putting freedom into words — The Orange County (CA) Register, 11/22/04

Anaheim City Council bans the use of eminent domain for improper purposes

Editorial Opinion

Your home is your castle. So is your business. Those foundations of liberty were reinforced Tuesday at the meeting of the Anaheim City Council. It passed a resolution 3-1, with one abstention, prohibiting the city from using the power of eminent domain to grab one piece of private property for the benefit of another private person or business.

The resolution was authored by Councilman Tom Tait, a fitting cap to an almost 10-year career on the council spent defending liberty. Term limits made Nov. 16 his last council meeting.

New City Council Policy No. 220 stipulates that "it is the policy of the City of Anaheim that the power of eminent domain not be used by the City Council or Redevelopment Agency to acquire property from private parties, for the express and immediate purpose of conveying such property to any other private person or entity for commercial uses, when there is no public purpose for the acquisition except the generation or increase of sales tax or property tax revenues to the City."

We couldn't have put it better ourselves.

Obviously, the city still can use eminent domain for truly public purposes, such as building roads or schools. But it cannot do so for anything else, including the alleged "public purpose" of bulldozing people's homes and businesses to put up shopping centers that generate more sales tax revenue.

The most famous recent case in which that was attempted, before a federal judge intervened, was in Cypress, Calif. The City Council there tried to take the property of Cottonwood Christian Center and transfer it to Costco.

"It's a clear direction of where Anaheim stands in taking people's property and giving it to another property owner, that we won't do it," Mr. Tait said.

Although doing so currently is allowed by state law, he said that in his opinion the new policy "is an unambiguous message to the world and to the staff that we're not going to do it. It's not just wrong, but unconstitutional. Maybe it could serve as an example to other cities."

Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court currently is considering Kelo v. City of New London, Conn., where waterfront homes were taken using eminent domain powers to benefit private developers.

Mayor Curt Pringle said that the city already has operated as the new policy stipulates for several years. "But many times people have to be reassured and see what your intent is."

As with the other recent commendable council policy of reducing regulations, that intent is clear: Anaheim protects private property and wants to make it as easy as possible to be a citizen or business in the city of the Angels. However, the new policy could be revoked. So city residents need to remain vocal in telling the council how right it was to ban eminent domain abuses.

The new Anaheim policy should be adopted by every other City Council in California. In honor of the man who pushed the idea, let's call them Tait Policies.

The Orange County Register: www.ocregister.com