Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Opposition to Private-Use Eminent Domain in North Arlington and Sunset Hills

The Castle Coalition offers two examples of municipalites that voted out cynical politicians who ignored the public's opposition to private-use eminent domain.

In North Arlington, NJ, according to Castle Coaltion, there was a plan to build 1,625 new residential units and 50,000 square feet by taking several industrial properties through government violence.

"Many people saw the deal as questionable, as the city would have been required to spend a large portion of the tax revenue generated by the development on public services associated with it."

In 2006, voters voted out Mayor Pittman in favor of Peter Massa, who opposed Pittman's questionable eminent domain plan.

In Sunset Hills, Mo, the Board of Aldermen voted to demolish a 65 acre neighborhood to make room for a blighting shopping mall. Castle Coalition continues:

"In April 2006, residents signaled their outrage over the project’s failure by voting out half of the town’s elected officials. John Hunzeker defeated Mayor Jim Hobbs, while Franklin Hardy, Thomas Hrastich, Lynn Flowers, and Frank Gregory replaced four pro-project members on the Board of Aldermen.

"Sunset Manor appears safe for now, but the future of the neighborhood is still up in the air. It will cost millions of dollars to restore Sunset Manor to the condition it was in before the redevelopment debacle. Still, residents should feel much safer rebuilding and improving their properties now that most of Sunset Hills’ pro-eminent domain politicians are gone."

As I have previously blogged it is unlikely that voters will be savvy enough to grasp the facts in private use eminent domain issues. Mancur Olson has argued that special interests generally prevail when they have incentives to lobby and study a problem. Such incentives are not present for the general public. Thus, democracy results in privileges for the wealthy and for their marionettes in the courts and state capitols. Financial asymmetries extend to the media, so the public is doubly hobbled with respect to obtaining information.

Let us hope that voters take a greater interest in the serious threat to economic progress and freedom that private-use eminent domain causes.


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