The Supremes stumble with eminent domain: San Antonio (TX) Express-News, 6/28/05


In another 5-4 decision, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court seems to have given priority to an expansive, new definition of the Fifth Amendment's public use clause over private property rights.

The traditional understanding of public use involved building the streets, sidewalks and public utilities that are part of the civil infrastructure. In 1954, the high court expanded that understanding to include government takings for economic and aesthetic purposes.

In its ruling last week in Kelo v. City of New London, the court established a new and dangerous precedent. It allows the government to exercise eminent domain and transfer title to private entities, all in the name of economic development and generating a larger tax base.

In theory, this places nearly every private property owner at risk. Since businesses generate more economic activity and taxes than residences, municipalities could take homeowner property in order for commercial interests to move into residential neighborhoods, as is the case in New London, Conn.

But it doesn't stop there. Large businesses generate more jobs and tax receipts than small businesses. And the higher up the economic ladder you go, the more access and influence business interests have on the political process.

Americans should not have to fear being dispossessed by individuals and business interests wealthier and better connected than they are.

San Antonio Express-News: www.mysanantonio.com