By Andrew Adams
When it comes to eminent domain, Lodi’s Mayor John Beckman and most of the City Council’s hands are tied.
“What I’m trying to do is limit the governmental power for eminent domain,” said Beckman, who sought the council’s support for an ordinance restricting the city’s ability to seize private property.
During its meeting Wednesday, the council directed City Attorney Stephen Schwabauer to draft a proposed ordinance that would limit the use of eminent domain only for projects that would be owned by the city or open for public use.
Beckman’s proposal followed a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that affirmed the right of cities to use eminent domain for the public good, but also defined the public good as including economic development.
The proposed ordinance received support from the rest of the council aside from Councilman Bob Johnson, who opposed such an ordinance, saying he felt there could be a time when the city could responsibly use eminent domain.
“I don’t want to have anybody tie my hands,” he said. “I respectfully suggest there maybe be some time when eminent domain could be reasonably used that would not create a groundswell (of opposition).”
Johnson said the public quickly mobilized against the city’s plans for a redevelopment agency that had the power of eminent domain and he knew those same people would quickly denounce any similar plans.
Local residents effectively overturned much of the city’s redevelopment plans through a referendum process a few years ago.
A few of those people who led that campaign attended the meeting to speak in support of the proposed ordinance and also rail against redevelopment agencies in general.
“I just hope that first you adopt this ordinance you want to entertain, and second you forget about redevelopment because its evil, evil, and its similar to communism,” said Lodi resident Eunice Friedrich.
Georgianna Reichelt was one of the leaders of the movement against Lodi’s redevelopment plans of a few years ago and criticized them in general.The Manteca resident said the agencies drain city services of funding, and support developers at the detriment of communities.
“I don’t like subsidizing developers with my tax dollar … I like subsidizing me,” she said.
Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce also blasted redevelopment agencies and said she’s concerned that even if the city were to adopt an ordinance as suggested by Beckman, a future council could just reverse that law.
But City Manager Blair King said if the council were to adopt an ordinance for the city’s redevelopment agency, any other council would have to go through the extensive and elaborate process of establishing a redevelopment agency just to reverse the one ordinance.
He said that process includes several chances for residents to oppose any possible changes.
King said he’s worked with the redevelopment agencies of several cities in California during his career, none of which used eminent domain.
“I will say they were all very successful,” he said.
Councilman Larry Hansen said he knows eminent domain has often been misused and gave the ordinance his support.
“I’m certainly in favor of an ordinance that’s to be drafted very carefully,” he said.