The case of Homer Tourkakis, which he discusses at length in the report, is currently pending before the Missouri Supreme Court. I and James Burling of the Pacific Legal Foundation are representing him. Here is a litigation backgrounder on the case.
Why, they ask, would an efficient government need to rely on the Kelo concept in the first place?
"Rather than use eminent domain or other tools to target individual economic development projects, local governments should ask the fundamental question as to why the desired level of economic growth is not occurring in the local area without significant economic development incentives.
"For example," they ask, "are taxes too high, thus creating a disincentive for business to locate to the local area? Do current regulations stifle business creation and expansion? All of the targeted economic development in the world will not compensate for a poor business environment. From a regional perspective, local governments should focus on creating a business environment conducive to risk-taking, entry and expansion rather than attempting targeted economic development through eminent domain or other means."
Buried in their careful language, Garrett and Rothstein nail Kelo for its fundamental flaw: Governments would not need to seize private property to promote private economic development if local communities were attractive places to do business in the first place.
On the plane to Florida this week I managed to finish Carla Main's book Bulldozed, and it is outstanding. It has been a long time since a book made me as indignant and angry as this book did. It is really excellent, and highly recommended.
The book focuses on a Kelo-style eminent domain case in Texas, in which the city of Freeport, Texas, sought to take land from the family-owned Western Seafood company and transfer it to a private developer to construct a marina as a part of a projected tourist destination (read: "boondoggle"). The result, just as in Poletown and in other communities faced with such incidents, is a dissolution of community. Having torn down the fences that make good neighbors, the government creates instead a spirit of hostility and mutual resentment. In my brief in Kelo I wrote that "[e]minent domain abuse threatens this sense of domestic tranquility by putting the private property rights of some citizens at the mercy of others. Unlike simple political differences on policy outcomes or particular candidates, eminent domain proceedings result in depriving the losing person and his family of their homes or businesses, destroying the social bonds that make for healthy neighborhoods." The same is true of the city of Freeport, and Main illustrates it starkly. By the end of the book, the message is clear: the use of eminent domain to "reshape" communities is not just a violation of the Constitution: it's a shameful attack on the very core of community values.
Bulldozed is a powerful page-turner that illustrates the real-world effect that Kelo and decisions like it have on communities in this country. I can't imagine a better rallying cry for those determined to revive respect for private property rights.
Yesterday the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit against the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, demanding compensation on behalf of four residents of the city who are subject to a new city ordinance that forbids them from renovating their property as they had planned. This is the first case to be filed under the Arizona Private Property Rights Protection Act, also known as Proposition 207, which passed with an overwhelming 2/3 vote at the general election last November. Here is PLF's press release, and here is a backgrounder that explains the case in more detail. The Pacific Legal Foundation is very proud to help defend the property rights of Arizonans.