Friday, February 1, 2008

Eminent Domain: New York Plaintiffs to Appeal to Supreme Court

The Second Circuit Court of New York has ruled in favor of private use eminent domain. Christina Walsh of the Castle Coalition has forwarded a link to the following press release:

For Immediate Release: February 1, 2008

Circuit Court Rules Against Homeowners, Business Owners and Tenants in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Appeal

Plaintiffs Intend to Ask US Supreme Court to Hear Their Case

Plaintiffs Will Seek All Legal Remedies to Protect Their Homes and Businesses From Seizure by New York State

New York, NY— The Second Circuit Court today ruled against 14 homeowners, business owners and tenants in their appeal of their lawsuit alleging that New York State's use of eminent domain to take their properties for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project violates the United States Constitution.

Plaintiffs' attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff said, "Today's decision is disappointing. We disagree with its conclusion. We intend to ask the US Supreme Court to hear our case, and will continue to pursue every avenue available to prevent the unlawful seizure of my clients' homes for Bruce Ratner's enrichment. The court today affirmed that the government is free to take private homes and businesses and give them to influential citizens as long as one can imagine a conceivable benefit to the public, no matter how small or unlikely it may be. Indeed, it does not matter if all evidence points to a secret back room deal. All corrupt politicians need do to insulate themselves from judicial scrutiny is claim a benefit to the public. This is wrong. It should trouble all citizens who, unlike Bruce Ratner, lack the power and money to coopt the governments' power of eminent domain for their private use. We believe that the United States Supreme Court will welcome the opportunity to clarify this area in light of its widely criticized Kelo decision."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter said, "Our support of the fight of citizens to live safely in their homes, and operate safely in their business, will continue. We maintain that the government's motivation in using eminent domain for Atlantic Yards is not to benefit the public, but rather, to benefit a single, very rich and powerful developer. The seizure of our neighbors' homes and businesses is at the very foundation of the Atlantic Yards project. It is a foundation that must not stand. Now is the time for our elected leaders, who have frequently expressed grave concern about the abuse of eminent domain, to publicly stand in defense of everyday Brooklynites and New Yorkers."

The 2nd Circuit Court's opinion on the case, Goldstein v. Pataki, can be found here

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Mortgage Crisis and the Economy

The Texas Rainmaker blog shreds an AFP article meant to make the reader feel sorry for homeowners who have failed to repay their mortgage loans. TR argues:

"Am I heartless? Hardly. Unless I’m supposed to feel bad for companies who failed to conduct proper due diligence on those to whom they’re lending huge sums of money… or borrowers who over-extended themselves, didn’t take time to learn the terms of their loan or simply lied on their applications."

I agree. The exaggeration of the pain from the mortgage crisis might even be greater, because many of the borrowers were probably real estate speculators who had bought houses in order to ride the real estate bubble earlier in the decade. Not all of the borrowers were poor and oppressed. Why should the American public subsidize speculators whose bets turned sour?

As well, Captain Midnight of the Captain's Comments blog argues that government should leave the problem alone:

"if the government butts out of the economy and allows people to engage in commerce without restrictive and repressive rules and regulations, the economy can soar. When the government plays the role of buttinski, their actions can cause the economy to sour.

"There's no shortage of ideas in an election year. But it remains to be seen just how much the government can do to halt the continued slide in an economy battered by falling housing prices, rising energy costs and a lending slowdown caused by worries about how many more loans will go bad...

"Politicians get to look good twice: first when they cause a problem, and later when they try to "fix" the same problem they created."

Actually, they get to look good a third time: when they fix the problems that the fix created. And a fourth, when they fix the problems that the fix that fixed the fix goes bad, etc. There's no end to how much money Washington and the state capitols can waste.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Brooklyn College Has a New Provost

Brooklyn College President Christoph Kimmich's internal release concerning Brooklyn College's new provost follows.

28 January 2008

To: The Brooklyn College Community
From: President Christoph M. Kimmich

I am pleased to inform you that I have invited Dr. William W. Tramontano to serve as Brooklyn College’s next Provost, and that he has accepted. The appointment will be effective 1 July 2008, subject to the formal approval of the University’s Board of Trustees. This concludes the search we inaugurated in fall 2006.

Dr. Tramontano comes to us from Lehman College, where he is Dean of Natural and Social Sciences and where, in 2006-2007, he served as Acting Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. For many years he was chair of the Department of Biology at Manhattan College, where he also headed important governance committees.

Dr. Tramontano comes with a wealth of administrative experience, in public as well as private institutions, and he has a good working knowledge both of Brooklyn College and of The City University. He has a commitment to the mission of a public liberal arts college and to the faculty as the principal custodians of that mission. He is a strong advocate of teaching and research, of students and student learning, consonant with our values and goals. At Lehman (and earlier at Manhattan College) he worked productively with faculty to plan and develop new academic programs, to strengthen research, and to increase both research and institutional grants. At Lehman, he was deeply involved in the college’s strategic planning process and the Middle States Self Study Committee, and he played a major role in the planning and design of a new science building (also one of our priorities). As Acting Provost, he chaired the tenure-and-promotion and the Distinguished Professor committees, and he served on various subcommittees of the CUNY Taskforce on Restructuring Doctoral Education in the Sciences.

Dr. Tramontano has degrees in biology from Manhattan College and New York University, with a special interest in cell biology. He is well published in the field and the recipient of major research and institutional grants. He has taught biology and physiology, and in fact continues to teach even as dean.

I believe Dr. Tramontano will serve the College well as chief academic officer, embracing change but mindful of tradition, and will help advance our goals and objectives. Please join me in welcoming him to Brooklyn College.

Sharad's Law

Several people met at a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn to discuss the establishment of a not-for-profit that would serve the function of raising money on behalf of students and faculty who are sued or otherwise legally harassed by higher education institutions. The meeting went well. In the course of the meeting, Phil Orenstein suggested a law, which I call Sharad's Law, after Sharad Karkhanis, who is being sued by a union officer of the faculty union of the City University of New York. Sharad's Law would prohibit the hiring of convicted terrorists by governmental institutions, including higher education institutions.