Tread lightly in Midtown — The Asbury Park (NJ) Press , 1/03/05


Neptune [NJ] officials need to proceed deliberately and conservatively in their planned revitalization of the Midtown area. Seizing property by eminent domain should be used only as a last resort -- and only to acquire vacant or abandoned properties for a well-defined public purpose.

At last week's Township Committee meeting, dozens of residents voiced their opposition to any forced seizure of property. Repeated assurances by Mayor Thomas Catley that the property would be used only for public purposes were mostly met with jeers.

The revitalization plan has some merit. On the portion of West Lake Avenue now under review, there are several empty lots and few occupied properties. Rehabilitating the area would increase property values for many in the surrounding community.

But existing property owners should not be forced to invest their own money in costly upgrades until the township has been able to stabilize the neighborhood. The township also should do everything it can to secure grant money and government funding sources for residential and commercial rehabilitation.

Most importantly, the committee must abide by earlier promises that only abandoned or boarded-up homes will be taken through eminent domain. If homeowners are willing to sell, they should be compensated at a rate that enables them to buy comparable housing elsewhere.

One resident said last week, "Nobody gave anybody in Neptune their property. They had to work for it." They deserve the utmost respect.

Asbury Park Press: www.app.com

Appeals court: Boro can take Nat’l Lead — The (Old Bridge NJ) Suburban, 12/31/04

Sayreville officials claim major victory in redevelopment effort

By John Dunphy

After five years, the battle between Sayreville [NJ] officials and National Lead has reached a turning point.

Earlier this week, the Appellate Division of state Superior Court ruled that the Sayreville Economic and Redevelopment Agency (SERA) acted properly in moving to condemn the National Lead (NL) Industries property, the 427-acre site of a former manufacturing plant along the Raritan River.

As a result, SERA now has the ability to file a declaration of taking and obtain formal possession of the land.

“What a wonderful Christmas present for the people of Sayreville,” Mayor Kennedy O’Brien said. “Five years of persistence and hard work have been vindicated in court.”

O’Brien also sits on the SERA board.

From 1935-82, NL Industries operated a plant for the production of titanium dioxide, used in paint, on the property, a use that led to the land’s contamination. The property is now considered one of the state’s most important brownfields — land on which possible reuse is complicated by the presence of contamination or hazardous material.

NL Industries had filed an appeal in regard to a ruling by Judge Robert Longhi in state Superior Court, New Brunswick. Longhi had ruled in favor of approving a declaration of taking for the redevelopment agency. National Lead had contended that SERA did not negotiate in good faith and had abused the power of eminent domain.

The Appellate Division’s three-judge panel agreed with Longhi’s decision that SERA’s initiation of eminent domain to acquire the NL Industries property was for a proper public purpose and that NL Industries was unable to prove any fraud, bad faith or abuse of discretion in SERA’s exercise of the power of eminent domain.

“Local governments in cooperation with each other are seeking to restore these lands to productive use ...,” Judge Longhi said. “Economic redevelopment agencies are given the power of eminent domain. Condemnation thus is a part of the redevelopment purpose ... to reclaim areas that have long remained unproductive. The proposed taking in this matter is clearly for a public purpose.”

The Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders has given SERA $39 million in grants and loans toward purchasing the NL site — $19 million in December 2000 and another $20 million earlier this year so that SERA can deposit the appraised value, $32.075 million, in court. SERA will have to pay the $20 million back within two years or turn control of the property over to the county.

Attorney Christopher Gibson of the law firm Archer and Greiner, of Haddonfield, Camden County, said although National Lead is disappointed in the courts’ decisions regarding condemnation, his client has been successful regarding the amount of money SERA was required to deposit into escrow.

“We won that issue,” he said, noting that SERA had originally sought to deposit just $4 million — the $32-million appraised value, less the anticipated $28 million needed for cleanup. National Lead is still in charge of the cleanup.

O’Brien said prospective developers would front funds for the remediation of the property and later seek compensation from National Lead. He said the property holds the potential to bring substantial tax revenue to the borough via a major redevelopment project.

“We’re looking to attract world-class developers,” he said.

Among a number of ideas, O’Brien said the site would be ideal for corporate offices as well as a transportation hub similar to the Metropark station in Woodbridge.

In 2003, the English Group proposed bringing a combination baseball stadium and indoor arena, along with a hotel, convention center, retail complex, and other uses and amenities, to the site. O’Brien said that idea also is still very much a possibility.

He said all proposals for the site are being looked at via a three-point system he referred to as “image, impact and yield” — what image will the developer bring to Sayreville; how will it affect the borough; and what property tax revenues will it produce.

Officials hope the formal condemnation proceedings will be completed within the next month, leading the way toward acquisition of the very property for which SERA was created in the first place.

“The National Lead property will redefine the borough for the next 100 years the way Hercules and DuPont did at the beginning of the 20th century,” O’Brien said. “[It will be] the economic engine for the town.”

The Suburban: http://suburban.gmnews.com


Property rights advocate sees difference in Tempe — East Valley (AZ) Tribune, 12/29/04

By Dennis Welch

Tom Liddy, one of the attorneys who successfully defended Randy Bailey against Mesa’s attempts to take his brake shop for economic development, is now defending the use of condemnation in neighboring Tempe.

The conservative talkshow host and chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party has been hired to represent the developers of the planned Tempe Marketplace.

If Miravista Holdings and Vestar are unable to broker private deals with landowners refusing to sell their property for the $200 million project, they could ask the city to step in and take the property.

Liddy, former executive director of the Institute for Justice’s Arizona Chapter, said there was a stark difference between Bailey’s Brake Shop and the planned Marketplace.

The institute, a Washington D.C.-based law firm, is a major advocate for the protection of civil liberties and private property rights and helped bring national news media attention to Bailey’s fight against Mesa.

"There is clearly a public benefit here where there was none in the Bailey case," Liddy said. He said there are three areas where the public stands to benefit from taking the property.

First, after assembling the properties, Liddy said the developers could complete a major environmental cleanup of the area. It would prevent further contamination of an area that is exposing business owners and their employees to poisonous gases such as methane.

Environmental studies show there are a number of properties that have been contaminated by hazardous waste, including the site of a former Tempe dump. However many of the remaining property owners dispute the extent of contamination.

Second, Liddy said relocating the businesses would improve safety conditions for employees working in the area. For example, he said there are not enough hydrants to offer adequate fire protection.

There is only one hydrant on the 200-acre site, said Deems Shepard, a senior fire inspector for the Tempe Fire Department. The area, which which was annexed in 1999, does not meet the city’s fire hydrant code, Shepard said.

Third, Liddy said the public would benefit from redeveloping a "blighted" area.

However, Bailey disagreed with the popular talk-show host, saying the public does not benefit when cities take private property and give it to developers.

Bailey, who has been speaking with a number of the Tempe holdouts, said that he was very surprised to learn that Liddy is supporting the use of eminent domain.

"I don’t support transferring private property to private owners," he said.

Tim Keller, current executive director of the Institute for Justice’s Arizona Chapter, doesn’t dispute that there are environmental hazards in the area. But he said the planned project fails to meet the test for condemnation.

"The Institute for Justice’s position on the use of eminent domain has not changed," he said. "It should be used for public uses such as schools, roads or government buildings."

The Tempe City Council is scheduled to vote Jan. 6 on a resolution calling for the condemnation of specific properties near Rio Salado Parkway and McClintock Drive.

The city plans to mail letters this week notifying the remaining holdouts of the meeting. However, it was not known how many letters would be sent. Last week, city officials said they were preparing to send as many as 20 notices.

In April, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the use of eminent domain.

"I haven’t heard anything to date that would change my mind," Councilwoman Pam Goronkin said. "The bottom line is, this site for the past half century has been a huge blight in the community."

Likewise, Councilman Hut Hutson has said environmental concerns motivate him to support condemnation. Hutson and Mayor Hugh Hallman were not on the council for the April vote.

Liddy said relocating the businesses (to build the Tempe Marketplace) would improve safety conditions for employees working in the area.

Wast Valley Tribune: www.eastvalleytribune.com

Austinburg redevelopment approved — The Kentucky Post, 12/29/04

By Jeanne Houck

The Covington [KY] City Commission on Tuesday approved a redevelopment plan for the northeast section of Austinburg in which 26 commercial buildings, vacant lots and homes will be acquired to make way for 43 owner-occupied, single-family homes.

It was a tumultuous end to a tumultuous two-year-long process.

Complaints by two opponents of the plan resulted in the decision of one commissioner to abstain from the vote and later spurred the rest of the commission to consider — then reject — a proposal to rescind the 3-1 decision to approve the plan because of a procedural question.

Mayor Butch Callery and Commissioners Jerry Bamberger and Dennis Williams voted for the plan, describing it as a welcomed opportunity for the city to strengthen and preserve a historic neighborhood.

"It's a great area, and we need to save the area," said Callery, who lived in Austinburg as a youth. "I feel it's an area well worth saving."

Commissioner Bernie Moorman agreed the plan was a good one, but voted against it because it will allow the city to force the sale of property using the power of eminent domain — which he described as a "cruel and not necessary process."

"The plan has good intentions, but it's an evil process by which to execute the plan," Moorman said.

Callery and Bamberger said the city rarely has had to resort to using eminent domain, and hopes not to have to this time, either.

State law allows public officials to invoke eminent domain for the public good in areas that are blighted and suffer from a shortage of sound housing.

Williams warned that it is dangerous to reject any plan solely because of the possibility of eminent domain because "without it, redevelopment could be stifled by the whims of a few."

Commissioner Alex Edmondson abstained from the vote.

He said after the meeting that plan opponent Gailen Bridges, a Covington attorney, accused him of making a comment during a public hearing Dec. 13 that showed Edmondson had made up his mind on the Austinburg plan before considering all the information he should have.

Bridges' wife, Debra Bridges, owns the Covington Mobile Home Park off Patton Street, which is targeted for demolition,

Edmondson said Gailen Bridges' accusation is baseless, but that he decided to abstain from voting on the Austinburg plan because he didn't want to do anything to jeopardize the initiative.

After the vote, a second opponent of the plan, Gary Smith of Oakland Avenue, complained that the public had not been given an opportunity to speak.

He produced a letter sent to affected property owners by the city's Economic Development Department that stated they would be given a chance to weigh in on the Austinburg plan at Tuesday's meeting.

The letter indeed said just that, but it was wrong, city officials said.

Callery said he made it clear at a Dec. 13 public hearing that there would be no public discussion of the issue on Tuesday.

The commission decided to stand by its vote after asking if any audience members Tuesday wanted to speak and only Bridges and Smith — both of whom spoke in opposition to the plan at the Dec. 13 public hearing — said yes.

There were no more than 20 people in Tuesday's audience, which is a sharp drop in the numbers that packed previous meetings of the city commission and county planning commission about Austinburg.

The numbers have declined as the city has publicly explained and modified its redevelopment plan.

Thirteen of the 18 people who spoke at the city commission's Dec. 13 public hearing supported the plan.

The area targeted for redevelopment runs roughly from Eastern Avenue east to the Licking River, and from the CSX Transportation railroad tracks at East 15th Street south to the alley between East 16th and East 17th streets.

Also included in the redevelopment area is Oakland Avenue from the alley between East 16th and East 17th streets south to Delmar Place, and a portion of Thomas Street.

In addition, the city wants to renovate a vacant building on Eastern Avenue for commercial use or for use as a community center, expand Austinburg Park and add parking, trails on the floodwall and green space on the river side of the floodwall.

The city estimates that the public cost of the development will be $1,959,000.

On Tuesday, when Bamberger made the motion to approve the redevelopment plan, he read aloud a lengthy list of reasons in support of it included in the body of the ordinance. The plan:
  • Won the approval of the Kenton County Planning Commission Nov. 4.
  • Provides for the temporary and permanent relocation of families displaced by the project.
  • Dovetails with plans by the Covington Community Center to build a residential development in the area.
  • Would improve property values and preserve the historical and architectural features of Austinburg while eliminating blight.
Smith and his mother, 76-year-old Jean Falk, wince when the word "blight" is used in connection with three mobile homes she owns on the street. They produced pictures that show what appear to be well-maintained homes.

The Kentucky Post: www.kypost.com

Norwood holds off on vote for property law — The Cincinnati Enquirer, 12/29/04

Residents want urban-renewal proposal to be studied further

By Steve Kemme

[The Norwood OH] City Council on Tuesday postponed for two weeks a final vote on a revised urban-renewal ordinance after some residents asked them to take more time to study it.

Council had planned to have the second and third readings Tuesday, but instead passed only the second reading. The ordinance would become law after the third reading.

Critics of the revised ordinance say it would broaden Norwood's power to seize private property and turn it over to private developers.

"We think the process needs to be slowed down so we can have a town hall meeting so people can understand what is changing in the ordinance," said Susan Knox, secretary for a group called Citizens for a Better Norwood.

Council agreed to vote only on a second reading Tuesday after Tim Burke, attorney for Norwood, told them it wouldn't hurt to postpone the final vote for two weeks.

Bert Gall, attorney for the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm in a Washington D.C., that has been fighting Norwood's use of eminent domain for the proposed Rookwood Exchange site on Edwards Road, said the ordinance goes far beyond any urban-renewal ordinance he's seen.

"This law drastically expands the city's power to use eminent domain to transfer its citizens' homes and businesses to private developers," Gall said in a telephone interview before the meeting. "Norwood seems to want to make itself the national poster child for abuse of eminent domain."

But Burke said the revised ordinance mirrors urban renewal ordinances in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and many Hamilton County suburban communities.

The revision of the 40-year-old ordinance, he said, addresses changes over the past four decades in state law and Norwood's shift from a blue-collar economy to a commercial and white-collar economy.

"The ordinance does not make it any easier for Norwood to acquire property by eminent domain," Burke said.

Norwood has been in a two-year eminent-domain battle with five property owners who don't want to sell to Rookwood Exchange developers.

The Cincinnati Enquirer: www.enquirer.com

Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain could affect N.J. — The (Haddonfield NJ) Haddon Herald, 12/29/04

By Dan Keashen

In early spring, the United States Supreme Court term of 2005 will hear a case based on the merits of eminent domain.

Kelo vs. City of New London is a case based on the usage of eminent domain for municipal redevelopment. Haddon Township residents along Area A of the current redevelopment plan on Haddon Avenue are being threatened by eminent domain.

As a result, this case could be among the closest-watched of the Supreme Court's 2004-05 session.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows municipal governments to appropriate private land for public use without an owner's consent if it pays "just compensation."

The scope of the term "public use" has been expanded to incorporate economic development and will be further redefined when the high court examines the Connecticut case next spring.

This controversial use of land has been spreading through the Garden State at an infectious pace.

"Part of the problem is that municipalities are defining public use as more tax revenue and getting better ratables. Who does that help? The politicians who enact the redevelopment projects, not the residents who are losing their house with nowhere to go," said deputy director Douglas Gershuny of the South Jersey Legal Services (SJLS) group.

Gershuny noted the people who get hurt the most by eminent domain are senior citizens.

"Older people with fixed incomes have paid off their mortgage and can't afford to take on another one. Folks get $40,000 to $50,000 for their house and then have to buy a new house at $160,000 on a limited income. There's something very wrong with this and it shouldn't be viewed as an acceptable practice."

SJLS has filed suits over redevelopment against both Camden City's Cramer Hill neighborhood and Mount Holly Gardens, which houses about 300 families. The SJLS has also filed an amicus brief on Kelo's behalf.

"This case was taken by the court because it's something that needs to be addressed and hasn't been touched in more than 50 years," said Gershuny.

On the national level, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the arguments of Susette Kelo, a New London, Conn., homeowner who is challenging her municipal leader's attempt to use eminent domain to sell her home. Her house is being taken to make way for new development along the Thames River.

In their appeal, the homeowners say they "seek to stop the use of eminent domain to take away their most sacred and important of possessions: their homes." Together, the seven holdout property owners possess 15 parcels. The neighborhood that Kelo still lives in was originally 115 parcels, a mix of homes and small businesses.

According to the Institute for Justice - a Libertarian law firm working on behalf of the public interest that petitioned the Supreme Court in the Kelo case - local governments across the country are abusing the use of eminent-domain law to transfer property to developers in order to generate more tax revenue.

An Institute for Justice report published last year said that nationwide, between 1997 and 2002, governments took or threatened to take more than 10,000 properties to support economic development projects.

Commissioner Kathy Hogan of Haddon Township has railed against eminent domain and its use as a tool for municipalities to transfer private property.

"This goes against the core values of our private property rights as an American citizen. These rights come from a sacred tradition of English common law that has the government protect and preserve the rights and property of their citizens," said Hogan.

She quoted Noam Chomski's book Hegemony or Survival: American Quest for Global Dominance. "Chomski addresses a severe democratic deficiency with current decisions made by our national government. Here in the case of eminent domain Haddon Township has made a severe departure from the same democratic principles."

She said that everyone knows something needs to be done with the Dy-Dee site, but the project needs to involve the community on the issue and project needs to be right for the Westmont neighborhood.

"If you take a look at South Bound Brook and their Mayor Jo-Anne Schubert, she maintained the importance of involving the community and taking the proper steps to get a redevelopment project into the town that works. They didn't need to use eminent domain and destroy neighborhoods to get a great project into town," said Hogan.

The Camden County Improvement Authority (CCIA) assists and helps municipalities in Camden County work on redevelopment tracts. Ed Fox is the director for Smart Growth of the CCIA and said redevelopment projects do not necessarily need to use eminent domain.

"We help the townships implement their goal in a project like the one in Clementon along the White Horse Pike. We helped a town of about 6,000 people develop a large plot of land that doesn't require the use of eminent domain," said Fox. The CCIA was involved in assisting Haddon Township with the redevelopment and sale of the Westmont Theater.

When the Supreme Court reconvenes next year a number of Haddon Township residents and municipal employees will be watching intently when Kelo vs. City of New London comes to the bench. A number of residents in the redevelopment zone who have their homes marked for condemnation hope definitive criteria for eminent domain will be the outcome.

"A new precedent for public use needs to be laid out by the court, but will have to see what happens," said SJLS Gershuny.

The Haddon Herald: www.haddonherald.com

City should be careful in use of eminent domain — Bowling Green (KY) Daily News, 12/29/04


While the city waits for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected early next year, Mayor-elect Elaine Walker and City Commissioner-elect Brian Strow have expressed concern over how the current city government has used eminent domain to acquire private land for private use.

They are justified in their concerns.

Our country’s founders established the use of eminent domain for the taking of private property for public use such as highways, courthouses and schools. In the ensuing years, local governments seem to be moving further and further away from their intentions.

“I have serious concerns about using eminent domain to take from one private property owner and to turn it over to another,” Walker said.

Strow has said he is generally opposed to the use of eminent domain for redevelopment projects.

Bowling Green is in the process of a 29-block revitalization of its downtown.

Recently, the city voted to use eminent domain to acquire a piece of property owned by a limited liability partnership connected with Graves-Gilbert Clinic to use in the revitalization process. It would be acquired for a private entity. Another example of this would be the proposed building that LifeSkills would like to be built at the former location of Kelly Printing on State Street, whose owner isn’t a willing seller.

These seem to be examples of eminent domain being pushed to the limit.

Abuses of eminent domain are occurring all across the country; it is certainly not a Bowling Green phenomenon.

In 2003, a brake shop owner in Mesa, Ariz., won a victory against city hall when the state court of appeals ruled that the city didn’t have the power to take private land for private use. The court ruled that the project was not for public use, as eminent domain was intended.

Another example occurred in 2000 in Lancaster, Calif., when the city council tried to condemn a store called 99 Cents Only because its rival wanted to expand in the same shopping center. A federal judge blocked what he called the “naked transfer” of property from one private business to another.

All over this country, lower-income neighborhoods, churches and businesses are being driven off their land by the use of government muscle so that a private developer can come in and put private businesses in their place. Public officials like these transactions because they often raise the tax base.

Yet, eminent domain was never intended for broadening the tax base.

These cases demonstrate that the proper use of eminent domain must be defined once and for all, which the Supreme Court will hopefully do next year.

Some private-business owners in Bowling Green would gladly sell their properties at a fair price, just as every parcel in the transpark was purchased from a willing seller.

But taking private property for another private development seems to be an effort to acquire property on the cheap and distorts the original intent of eminent domain.

Perhaps a moratorium on eminent domain – except in cases where eminent domain serves a clear, public purpose – should be considered by the city in light of the pending Supreme Court decision.

Bowling Green Daily News: www.bgdailynews.com

Ask the Bush Administration not to take sides in Kelo v New London

The Bush administration is considering the submission of an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court supporting the City of New London in the appeal of Kelo et al to a ruling which allows the condemnation of private property other than for the "public use" stipulated in the Fifth Amendment. See Threshold of a misstep by Clint Bolick below.

Please phone, email, or otherwise contact the White House and the Dept of Justice asking that the administration not take sides in this issue. The president won the last election in large measure because of the support of people who strongly believed he would defend their constitutional rights against overly intrusive government activism. While the use of eminent domain to increase local tax revenues may seem like a viable solution to current local budgetary shortfalls, it's a shortsighted approach that often does not work and is certainly not worth the undermining of one of our most basic principles.

Telephone comment numbers and email addresses are as follows:
The White House (202-456-1111): president@whitehouse.gov
The Dept of Justice (202-353-1555): AskDOJ@usdoj.gov


Eminent domain opponents to turn out — The Cincinnati Post, 12/28/04

Members of Citizens for a Better Norwood and Citizens Against Eminent Domain Abuse plan to turn out at a Norwood City Council meeting tonight to oppose controversial changes to a city ordinance under consideration that would replace an existing chapter of the city code dealing with urban renewal. Proposed changes to the ordinance includes a change in the definition of "blight," which opposition groups claim could make it easier for the city to use eminent domain proceedings to acquire property.

Citizens for a Better Norwood has maintained that the city abused its eminent domain powers for the Rookwood Exchange project.

The Norwood City Council meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. at the city building, 4645 Montgomery Road.

The Cincinnati Post: www.cincypost.com


Incoming city government lays out goals — Bowling Green (KY) Daily News, 12/26/04

Walker, commissioners have plenty ahead after Dec. 31 swearing-in

By Jim Gaines

A new mayor and four new city commissioners for Bowling Green will take their oaths of office on New Year’s Eve.

At 10 a.m. at the Capitol Arts Center, they will promise to serve the city and swear they haven’t fought any duels. Athena Cage will sing the national anthem, and the crowd will adjourn to a reception in the Capitol lobby.

But after the ceremony, the work of governing will begin.

To prepare for their new jobs, the group elected Nov. 2 has been meeting regularly with city staff from different departments. Only one session remains, a meeting with the Housing and Community Development and legal departments, Mayor-elect Elaine Walker said.

“I think you’re going to find that this is a new City Commission that is going to ask a lot of questions, that will discuss things openly, that will make their views known,” she said. “But by the same token, once a decision has been made, then everyone will get behind that decision, whether it’s to vote it up or vote it down.”

New commissioners are prepared to table proposals if they don’t feel well-informed enough to make a quick decision, said Walker, co-owner of Peridot Pictures.

And knotty problems – as well as personal agendas – are sure to surface at commission meetings, probably sooner rather than later.

“I think the biggest thing that we’re going to be addressing is the whole issue of eminent domain,” Walker said. “A lot of what is in the pipeline appears to be dependent on the use of eminent domain.”

She said that incoming commissioners are unlikely to support wide use of condemnation – as is she.

“I have serious concerns about using eminent domain to take from one private property owner and to turn it over to another,” Walker said.

A major part of city commissioners’ new duties will involve the reinstitution of regular working sessions, discussions of upcoming tough issues at 4 p.m. on the day of regular commission meetings, she said.

“We want to hear about them, even a month before,” Walker said. “That’s kind of our way of making sure that we are fully up to speed, so that we can ask questions and go and do our own research before we have to make a decision.”

Use of the city’s condemnation power is one good example of the need for advance warning and extensive deliberation, she said.

“That’s the kind of thing that we do not want brought to us at a meeting, and have to make a decision on,” Walker said.

At the new commission’s first or second meeting, Brian “Slim” Nash plans to sponsor a municipal order reaffirming that the Downtown Redevelopment Authority is the designated spearhead of Bowling Green’s urban revitalization efforts, he said.

“It appears that the city through the Housing and Community Development office, is trying to usurp the authority that they originally gave to the DRA,” said Nash, a case specialist in Warren County Family Court. “Two things bother me about it. One is that the DRA, through all their meetings and all their volunteers, developed this long-term plan that the city signed off on. And they should be given an opportunity to see that plan through.

“The second thing that bothers me is, it’s a respect factor. The DRA was formed with the city’s blessing; they went out and recruited all kinds of citizens ... they’ve carried the ball an awfully long way. And now the city’s turned around and said, ‘We’re going to take over, we’re going to cut you out of the loop,’ and I think that’s a bad way to treat citizens who volunteer their time to make their community better.”

Nash has also been troubled by reports from some city employees about a policy forbidding staff members from approaching elected officials individually and informally with problems, whether about their jobs or conditions in their neighborhoods.

He heard about the supposed policy when he made a point of talking with city employees during his campaign, and asked city department heads about it.

Some told him that there is no such policy, while others said it’s an unwritten suggestion, Nash said. But lower-level employees have kept telling him that it exists and is in force.

So Nash plans to “make sure that something is on the books” explicitly allowing city employees to speak to elected officials about their concerns, he said.

“It should make no difference who they do or don’t work for,” Nash said. “I want to make sure that everybody has equal access.”

New commissioners are still getting a feel for city operations through their seminars with staff, said Mark Alcott, an attorney.

“We’re still in a large learning curve at this point,” he said.

Alcott plans to push soon for one item mentioned in his campaign: term limits for city commissioners.

“I’ve done quite a bit of work on that already,” he said.

He proposes a maximum of three two-year terms for commissioners.

“My preference in government, whether local or national, is for citizen legislatures rather than career politicians,” Alcott said. “I just feel like it gives more people the opportunity to serve, especially on the local level.”

Only one Kentucky city – Lexington – has term limits for its legislative body, restricting commissioners to four two-year terms, he said.

Bowling Green mayors are limited to three four-year terms, according to legal research posted on www.termlimits.org, where Alcott said he got his information.

Alcott would like for commissioners to pass a resolution that would lead to a yes-or-no vote from the citizenry as a whole in the next city-wide elections, he said.

Delane Simpson said that he, too, would favor a term limits initiative soon after commissioners take office.

“I just think that after you’ve been there so long, you need to give somebody else an opportunity to learn and contribute to the city,” he said.

Simpson, a Realtor, said that among prominent upcoming decisions will probably be a new evaluation of LifeSkills’ plan to move to a downtown site with city assistance.

The planned construction of a new community center for the city Parks & Recreation Department across the street from its current site should be monitored closely, and continued development of the Kentucky TriModal Transpark and local tourism initiatives should be encouraged consistently, he said.

Brian Strow could not be reached for comment, but during the campaign he said that rolling back the 2003 city occupational tax hike – which went from 1.5 to 2 percent – was his main issue.

At campaign events, the Western Kentucky University economics professor said that he planned to keep a close eye on city finances. He generally opposed the use of eminent domain for redevelopment projects, disagreed with LifeSkills’ choice of a site immediately adjacent to Circus Square, and said that funding police and firefighters’ needs should top the city’s financial priorities.

City Manager Chuck Coates is on vacation for the holidays, leaving Chief Financial Officer Davis Cooper as acting city manager. Cooper has only overseen his own department’s meetings with incoming officials, at which he gave an overview of finances rather than bringing up major issues, he said.

Cooper expects that downtown redevelopment projects and strategies will probably be high on the agendas commissioners will soon face.

“What direction the city is going to be taking, I’ve got a feeling that’s an item they’ll be addressing pretty quickly,” he said.

Bowling Green Daily News: www.bgdailynews.com

Do You Have A Case Under the New Bill of Rights: A Checklist — 12/21/04

By John Ryskamp

From the theoretical considerations of Kelo v. New London: Deciding the First Case Under the New Bill of Rights, we proceed here to more practical considerations for those who wonder if facts of importance to them are similar to facts of the New Bill of Rights or the Bill of Rights. This article takes the next step: it outlines which facts need to be developed and presented in order to convince a Court to consider granting elevated scrutiny to new facts. This brings the New Bill of Rights into practice and lays down the methodology for adding facts to it. It also presents the manner in which a fact of the individual - the new link between Founder intent and facts mentioned in the Constitution - has now become the process of Constitutional adjudication.

A copy of the article is online. Click on the following link, then click on the button marked Stanford Law School at the bottom of the page.

Mr Ryskamp is the author of the manual, The Constitution Today: Understanding and Using the New Bill of Rights. Obtain a copy by e-mailing Mr Ryskamp at