Eminent domain foes’ scare ad ignores steps courts have taken: East Valley (Mesa AZ) Tribune, 4/17/06


An inflammatory radio ad was broadcast across the state [of Arizona] last week, in an effort to pressure the Legislature into rushing out a badly drafted state constitutional amendment related to private property rights.

We have explained previously our concerns with the amendment and its possible negative impact on proper zoning regulations. But we alarmed now that groups with noble intentions are using misleading information to pollute the debate on this critical topic.

The radio ad was created by Americans for Limited Government and Arizona HomeOwners Protection Effort to promote legislation that would add new restrictions on government use of eminent domain to seize property. The bill, and a companion initiative drive, are part of a nationwide response to last year’s unsettling decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that the federal Constitution doesn’t forbid government from taking a person’s home or business and giving it to a developer to generate more tax revenues.

The radio ad reflects generic, nationwide concerns about the issue instead of recognizing we have much stronger protections here in Arizona. It begins by describing how “grandma’s ho has been seized by the government . . . jus so they can build another strip mall.” The narrator then says the only way to preven this from happening again is for the Legislature to adopt SCR1019.

Lori Klein, a spokeswoman for Arizona HomeOwners Protection Effort, admitted proponents of SCR1019 want the Legislature to act because the initiative drive might not gather enough petitions to qualify for the November ballot. But Klein defended the ad’s approach by saying we can’t trust the courts.

“When you have laws that are open to interpretation, we need to have statutory rules that make it clear how to protect private property rights,” Klein said.

That might have been a valid concern years ago, when some cities were taking property for economic development and no one really challenged the condemnations as unconstitutional. But recent cases involving Bailey’s Brake Shop in Mesa, the Pillow family of Tempe and the Tempe Marketplace project have changed the situation dramatically. A series of court decisions has clearly established that our constitution bars the use of eminent domain to benefit another private party.

Unless judges start ignoring these landmark rulings, grandmas in Arizona never will have to worry about city hall taking their homes to build shopping malls.

We urge private property rights advocates to be more responsible with their efforts to encourage change. Otherwise they risk alienating potential allies who understand what Arizona law does, and does not, allow.

East Valley Tribune: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com