12/09/2007

Going looney on Mooney: Visalia CA Times-Delta, 12/07/07

By Ernest Norsworthy

Maybe it’s unanswerable; in search of the meaning of the name “Mooney”, answers I found were as varied as “dumb” to “rich”. But what is obvious on Mooney Boulevard may be just plain dumb. Since Mooney makes up part of state route 63 through Visalia, that may be the answer.

Caltrans is big, very big and our part of their very big transportation picture is not as big as a pimple. One thing about pimples though, sometimes they fester and cause big sores. The latest eminent domain debacle on Mooney Blvd. was an example. When the heavy hand of government comes crashing down, we feel powerless to defend what rightfully is ours and guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution.

Eminent domain, that innocuous and high-sounding phrase, has been misused for so long in California it may be time for the state Assembly to just start over on the meaning of it and making clear that eminent domain is there to protect land and homeowners, not to help developers.

Typically, a Redevelopment Agency is formed to help a community in source funding for “public” projects to benefit the entire community.

Up the road a piece in the fair city of Fresno, a pied piper has descended on that community with a promise of wealth beyond belief to city tax coffers. There’s this fine piece of land well suited for a golf course and very, very upscale housing and other developments. The only problem is that another developer tried to do the same thing and went bust.

Enter the magnanimous developer par excellence Donald Trump. At first, the Donald plunked down a $30 million bid on the bankrupt property. But in a short time, he withdrew his $30 million because, and here’s the catch, the Fresno Redevelopment Agency did not extend the project property far enough away to suit him.

And why was that important? Instead of doing it the American way, getting in there and negotiating for all the property he needed for the project, Trump wants the city of Fresno to use their power of eminent domain to acquire it for him. This kind of improper action has been going on for a long time in California.

The Supreme Court decision two years ago in Kelo vs.. City of New London, really messed up the waters by saying that what Trump wants in Fresno is perfectly all right. At last count, most of the states have changed or are in process of changing their eminent domain laws more in line with the Constitution.

President Bush finally got one right when he issued Executive Order 13406 which states basically that property acquired or owned by a federal government agency must not dispose of property except for public use meaning for the traditional use: For roads, schools, hospitals and such and specifically not for commercial purposes. Presumably this would mean that financial assistance from programs like the Community Development Block Grant would not be available to Fresno as presently discussed.

Mooney Blvd. is not a bad road, only poorly traffic-engineered and hopefully by next Christmas it will flow much smoother. Meanwhile, like the rest, I may be Looney but I still use Mooney.


Visalia CA Times-Delta: http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com