5/11/2007

B measures up; A does not: Pasadena CA Star-News, 5/3/07

The competing measures A and B on next week's Arcadia special-election ballot are almost enough to make a voter cry "A pox on both your houses."

Measure A, which has the nominal advantage of being quirky and populist, was a people's measure specifically designed to save the beloved Rod's Grill by preventing any and all auto-related businesses along the stretch of Huntington Drive where the Rusnak Mercedes dealership wishes to expand.

Excepting that, see, the city is not going after Rod's Grill anymore, but rather is seeking to use other area properties for the expansion. And some businesses in the area - a Jiffy Lube, for instance - would be given the boot by Measure A.

Measure B, the City Council's response, makes the odd promise that so long as Rusnak - the city's only new-car dealership and its largest sales-tax provider - is allowed to expand, the city will never, ever use eminent domain for redevelopment purposes.

No one - no one with a brain, a heart or a sense of outrage - is for the government's taking of property willy-nilly, no matter the fiscal advantage.

It's a process that has been abused over and over in this nation; its excesses are the very thing that has created the equally excessive "black helicopter"-like paranoia about eminent domain.

That's what drove the California initiative last year aimed at eliminating all eminent domain, which thankfully didn't pass.

We say thankfully not because we are pro-eminent domain but rather because it's a little bit irrational to remove the hammer entirely, rarely used as it should be, from the government toolbox.

It's like passing a referendum making war - all war - illegal. It's a swell notion. War is hell. But some wars are just.

Same with eminent domain.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, the little guy is right - the guy who runs the tavern that the developer has to build the skyscraper around. Sometimes, the little guy is wrong, and he is harming the many in the name of only himself.

This time, Rod's is saved anyway - the city of Arcadia, which had been unconscionably lowballing its owner in its offers for his property, has dropped its efforts to take the restaurant for Rusnak space.

But all five members of the City Council back Measure B, which would eliminate the city's ability to use eminent domain within its borders. If both measures pass and one gets more votes than the other, it goes into effect, and the other doesn't.

Since the city of Arcadia can really use the tax dollars spun off from Rusnak, so that it doesn't make any sense to prevent the dealer from operating in the city as Measure A would, we recommend a "no" vote on A and a "yes" vote on B on May 8.


Pasadena CA Star-News: http://www.pasadenastarnews.com