Let the people stay: Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, 5/12/06

Letter to the Editor

By Bill Potter

Using eminent domain and redevelopment laws to remove lower-income people for the purpose of attracting wealthy people creates a human problem. It is government-sponsored gentrification, if not worse.

The United Nations convention on genocide prohibits the targeting of population groups for physical or mental harm based on their membership in certain identity groups, such as religion or race.

That's not why the framers of the [New Jersey] state constitution adopted Article VIII, Section 3 permitting legislation to combat blight.

People are not sources of blight. Properties are - if they are abandoned, contaminated, uninhabitable, drug houses, etc.

Only specific properties should be subject to blight declarations and potential eminent-domain takings. Even then, the first effort should be to rehabilitate them, not tear them down in hopes a redeveloper will carry out his promises.

That brings up another easily overlooked downside to the process: Developers promise revitalization but may deliver only delay and demands for concessions, tax abatements and the like, until the bulldozed land finally becomes what it was not before: a source of blight.

Philadelphia Inquirer: www.philly.com

Bill Potter is chairman of the New Jersey Coalition Against Eminent Domain Abuse