County supports state reform on eminent domain: El Paso TX Times, 2/6/07

By Erica Molina Johnson

Commissioners Court on Monday passed a resolution to support state legislation and a constitutional amendment that would spell out strict limits of eminent domain, against the arguments of one court member.

The issue was also added to the county's legislative agenda.

"The county is the umbrella governmental body with six municipalities and nine school districts under the county," said County Judge Anthony Cobos, who asked for the resolution. "If we don't have an opinion on it, who will?"

The resolution, which passed with a vote of three to two, calls for the Legislature to enact legislation and initiate a constitutional amendment that would define public use, limit eminent domain authority and prohibit the condemnation of private property for private development purposes.

Cobos and commissioners Luis Sariñana and Dan Haggerty voted in favor of it. Commissioners Veronica Escobar and Miguel Terán voted against it.

"I have no problem with sending this to the voters," Escobar said. "My biggest problem is putting it on the legislative agenda ... We have all these amazing needs, and eminent domain is not something we should be utilizing our resources for." She argued that passing such a resolution and adding it to the county's legislative agenda sends a message to the city of El Paso, which has been mired in the eminent domain issue as it pursues a redevelopment of Downtown.

"Instead of looking for areas of division we need to look for areas of unity, and that's not to say I'm not in favor of property rights," Escobar said. "Now we need to repair some damage with people who do support the Downtown plan."

Cobos countered that the resolution does not specify any governmental body or project.

"I want the state of Texas to know we're looking at this, are concerned, are an interested party and are in favor of a constitutional amendment," he said.

El Paso TX Times: http://www.elpasotimes.com