March 26, 2007

Outstanding Article on Kelo and Property Rights

Sr. editorial writer and columnistThe Orange County Register

Isn't that nice?

The city of Manhattan Beach is renaming an oceanfront park, Bruces' Beach, after Charles A. and Willa Bruce, an African-American couple who had purchased the land in 1912 and developed it into a beachfront resort in the 1920s.

The Bruces were driven off their land in the mid-1920s, according to a Los Angeles Times article last week, after city officials became uncomfortable with the idea of numerous black people sunbathing and dining at Bruces' Lodge. At the urging of the local community, the officials discovered a compelling public interest in creating a public park on that very spot, and they used the power of eminent domain to drive the couple away.
The land sat vacant for years, but the goal was accomplished – keeping "them" out of the neighborhood.

I'm pleased to see today's council members recognize the evil deed of their predecessors. But it's about 80 years too late for the couple. And I can't help but laugh at one sentence that will be inscribed on the plaque that will soon grace the park: "Those tragic circumstances reflected the views of a different time."

Certainly, racial views have changed, but the fundamental view that allowed the "public" to steal the Bruces' property has not changed. In fact, the times are worse now than they were then with regard to property rights.

In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the now-infamous Kelo decision that governments have every right to take property from its current owners and give it to other private owners for virtually any reason at all. If city officials believe the new developer will pay more in sales tax than the old homeowners, then it's fair game. Back then, the city had to at least find a public purpose – i.e., a park – as a pretense for the theft. These days, if officials think a neighborhood is "blighted," then they can give the land to a developer for pennies on the dollar. Blight means anything that officials say it means.

Just like Brooklyn. RATner wants land, RATner gets land. People who have lived in Ratner's Bneighborhood for generations are gettin their asses booted. Bloomberg is silent. Mayor Bloomberg is decidedly silent.


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