7/02/2006

Frostburg residents to petition eminent domain restrictions: Cumberland (MD) Times, 6/27/06

Opinion

By Bernard W. Miltenberger and William Russell

It has been said, that all politics are local and that grassroots reform and debate are healthy for a democratic society to function well. Having said this, the Frostburg [MD] petitioners want to thank all of the Frostburg residents for getting involved in their local government and voting. The Frostburg petitioners are not finished in making sure their citizens' voices are heard and basic rights are protected. In the coming months we are going to ask the Frostburg mayor and commissioners to be the first city in the state of Maryland that will not allow the expansion of eminent domain within the city limits. Last year's Supreme Court decision giving local governments the power to seize land on behalf of private interests should not be taken lightly. The burdens it has imposed upon many property owners across the country can't possibly be overstated.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court said that the city of New London, Conn., could indeed seize private homes in the city's Fort Trumbull area and sell them to a private developer. This particular developer plans to build homes, a retail complex and offices. This, the city says, will be a "public use," because the development will pay more in local taxes than the homeowners would.

Five justices concurred, and in so doing have put every square inch of private property in this country at the disposal of local officials. It cannot be said too strongly enough or repeated too often: Kelo v. New London struck a near-fatal blow to property rights in this country. A year has passed and many private property owners through out this country can't believe that activist judges have so much power to change the basic tenants of Americans rights to own private property and that the United States Congress has not stepped up to protect these rights.

With the court's ruling in its back pocket, all a city or county has to do to seize private property and turn it over to private interests is to have - if we may borrow the court's words - "carefully formulated an economic development plan" that claims the new owners will generate more tax revenues.

It's not about improving an area, as even Justice John Paul Stevens, in writing for the majority, admitted: "There is no allegation that any of these properties is blighted or otherwise in poor condition; rather, they were condemned only because they happen to be located in the development area."

This shameful decision underscores yet again the importance of getting the right people on the bench and the right people elected to both state and federal legislatures. The nation needs judges and elected representatives who will respect the limitations the Founders put on government. We already have far too many judges and lawmakers who feel that freedom and constitutional limits on the state are quaint notions out of step with the times.

If private property is to be saved in Maryland, it will have to be done at the local level. The Environmental Matters Committee and Speaker Busch blocked House Bill 1224 and Senate Bill 923, introduced by Delegates Edwards, Kelly, Myers and Sen. Hafer along with other eminent domain bills introduced during the 2006 Maryland General Assembly. The Western Maryland Delegation members who believe that unmolested property ownership is the bedrock of freedom have crafted a bill that we feel has merit and should have had a proper review and a up or down vote from the Maryland General Assembly.

Their bills entitled Eminent Domain - Condemnation for Public Use and Repurchase of Condemned Property says the following: "Establishing that private property may not be acquired in Allegany County by condemnation unless it is necessary for specified public uses; establishing that private property acquired for a specified public use related to public health or safety may be used in any manner authorized by local zoning ordinances; requiring a condemnor in Allegany County that decides to sell condemned property to offer the property at a specified price first to a condemnee's heirs or assignees; etc."

The bottom line is that if the state of Maryland won't protect our property rights, then we will demand local protection that amends the Frostburg City Charter to provide for this protection. We will be asking Mayor Bond and Commissioners Weimer, Ralston, Lemmert, and Keller to grants its citizens this protection taken away from us by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Cu,berland Times: http://www.times-news.com