June 24th, 2005


What Is Going On Here?

The Supremes have really done a number on the old question of eminent domain. My friend slithytove had a nice way of phrasing it, so I shan't carry it much further here (though I've copied my reply below). But when did "public good" become "private benefit" for the rich and few?

WWTT - What Were They Thinking?
2005-06-24 18:26 (link)
I remember wrestling with the concept of eminent domain in a 9th grade social studies class. The idea of public good was central to the theme. Later, I heard of eminent domain condemning properties beyond what was needed, to provide a buffer zone. Or a barrier to a parking lot. Just weeks after we bought a just built new house in the country, we were notified we were within half a mile of a proposed freeway by-pass which might be needed in 2010. They wanted a wide buffer in the land proposals to allow for any kinks the survey might introduce into the final route. They later scrapped that plan, but I was checking my ID cards to make sure my name hadn't been legally changed to Arthur Dent.

In connection to this case, in one of the affected areas a woman described how "they" wanted to take down her house which had been in the family for several generations, so someone else could built a million dollar house. That just seems insane.

Dr. Phil

Apparently It Wasn't Your Property, After All

I think that as long as it is a local jurisdiction which -- as we know is never fraught with politics, special interests or whiff of corruption -- has decided to seize your property so some developer can provide something with a bigger tax base, that you should get a refund of all your previously paid property taxes. After all, we tax property owners as stalwart upright citizens because they are attached to the community. And they've just reneged on that attachment.

Property taxes are used for long ranging activities. Schools and sewers, roads and sidewalks. Things which live longer than just the moment they are consumed. We tax the landed for these things. It doesn't matter if you have children of school age or not -- it's for the public good. But if your house is taken, then you have lost your part in this grand scheme for the public good. So why should you have had to pay for it?

But Who Would Pay?

Well if these developers and people who want to move into these elite developments and million dollar homes have so damn much money that the community wants its hands on so badly, then they should pay. After all, there is something called "good will" and surely you can't deny that it would be good to pay extra for the back taxes on the property they've stolen, er, confiscated, er, condemned...?

But Wouldn't It Just Come Out Of The "Purchase" Price?

If eminent domain results in a taking of your property, you are supposed to be compensated for "fair market value" in negotiation. Suggesting that the fair value would be diminished to exactly cover the refund of all previous property taxes would be unethical.

Oh never mind. The little guy is just going to get screwed over this.

The real problem is, the definition of who is "the little guy" keeps on getting broader and broader.

Dr. Phil
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