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.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

In New York, Even Traffic Decisions Tainted

What a Planet has blogged about a tainted decision to inconvenience tens of thousands of New Yorkers, visitors and commuters in order to benefit an alleged crony of MTA chief Peter Kalkow, namely Michael Buzzy O'Keefe who What a Planet believes owns the Water Club and the Pershing Square restaurant. The Pershing Square area is closed now because of the recent explosion (itself raising questions about the Mayor's competence).

But even when the damage from the explosion is repaired, there will continue to be major traffic problems that have gone on for years because of cronyism, according to What a Planet:

"Every Weekday: Pershing Square Plaza is open on the southbound lanes of Park Ave between East 41st St and East 42nd St on weekdays between the hours of 11 am and 10:30 pm (May) through October – weather permitting. The public seating promenade next to the Altria Building is open weekdays between 11 am and 3 pm for bag lunches, conversations, book reading, and sun worshipping. The outdoor café is open for dining and drinks on weekdays between noon and 10:30 pm."--Grand Central Partnership

"Did you know this has been going on EVERY YEAR SINCE 1997?

"Have you seen this traffic farce, from about 11am to 10pm just about every day for just about half the year? Did you know the downtown entrance to Park Avenue on
42 street is blocked off from traffic so that the Pershing Square Restaurant can make boatloads of money serving cocktails to thousands?

"Sounds like fun!

"It's like a street fair or block party that goes on for 6 months!

"This is a MASSIVE traffic hazard. I have seen ambulances and police cars stuck in traffic many times.

"Who is Michael 'Buzzy' O'Keefe? I believe he is still the owner of Pershing Square Restaurant, and the Water Club, that's who.

"Is he a BIG BUDDY of Peter Kalikow, the former head of the MTA and Chairman of The Grand Central Partnership?..."

Massive traffic jams due to poor traffic planning are coupled with a major explosion due to mayoral and administrative indifference to infrastructure. Where is the supposed competence that the media claims for Mayor Bloomberg?