Eminent domain being abused

By Kevin Leahy

There are few things in this world that cause me existential dread: Tim Curry’s performance as the evil clown in “It,” for example, or the fact that I’m still not exactly sure what the word “crunk” is slang for, despite its frequent use by my peers. Or, worst of all, that I agree with Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on the high court’s latest ruling on the Fifth Amendment.

Because our “liberal media” prefers celebrity trial coverage to actually reporting the real news, a recent ruling about the boundary between private and commercial property has gone largely unnoticed. That’s a shame, because it affects every one of us who either owns a home or plans to own a home someday.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments can seize your property and give it to commercial developers. In the past, this power of “eminent domain” was used only when governments needed to tear down houses to build freeways or other public works. Sometimes it was used to tear down buildings in blighted, rundown areas. But not anymore. This ruling gives local governments the ability to seize your house and give it over to, say, a company that wants to build a new health club. It is happening in New London, Conn., right now.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”

In other words, pray that Donald Trump doesn’t think your backyard would make a swell place for one of his classy new casinos.

This week, as we approach the Fourth of July, you’re going to hear a lot of talk about patriotism, freedom, and the American Dream. Well, a part of many people’s American Dream, including mine, is owning a home. It gives a family a sense of stability and roots them in a community. It’s good for America. So how can we still claim to be the freest, best country on the planet if we’re going to jeopardize one of the cornerstones of our society just for the benefit of wealthy developers? It’s un-American.

It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is, because this isn’t a partisan issue. This is about an individual’s right to his or her property, and about the limits we place on government interference with that right. Our government is in place to protect those rights, not take them away from us. Eminent domain shouldn’t be abused for private gain.

What’s happening in Connecticut is not democracy. It is not the American dream. It’s feudalism.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.