September 22, 2005

Kelo Situation Update: A Major Blowback against the Eminent Domain Tyrants?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:52 pm

Important Additional News:
The Kelo Backlash Continues: New London’s Voters May Strike Back Tuesday
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Welcome Volokh Conspirators! The complete Sept. 22 New London Day piece excerpted below can be found here. New London Day access requires registration, and all of its content goes behind a paid subscription wall after one week.
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The national inattention to the day-to-day happenings in the Kelo case in Connecticut continues to baffle me, as it appears to be headed towards an epic confrontation.

Two very big things have happened in just the past couple of days:

  1. In response the heavyhanded tactics of the New London Development Corp. (NLDC) — first billing residents for back rent dating back to 2000, then issuing eviction notices despite a government-imposed moratorium — The New London City Council gave the NLDC one week to remove its top executives or be dissolved. As far as I can tell, this was not reported, not even in the local area (though this op-ed piece castigating the Council appeared [requires registration]), until the next item occurred.
  2. The NLDC Board appears to have rallied behind the execs and won’t request their resignations.

Here’s an excerpt from the New London Day story covering both events (requires registration; will no longer be available in 7 days; bolds are mine):

Joplin, Goebel Have Full Support Of NLDC Board
Members say they don’t expect agency’s top officers to step aside

New London — On the day after the City Council gave the New London Development Corp. one week to remove its top executives or be dissolved, the embattled agency’s board of directors prepared Wednesday to rally behind its leadership.

Several board members defended NLDC President Michael Joplin and Chief Operating Officer David M. Goebel, saying they did not expect the board to oust the two despite ongoing criticism from city councilors and state officials of their management of the agency.

The board’s executive committee, which was already scheduled to meet Friday, is likely to reiterate its previous defenses of Joplin and Goebel, said Stephen Percy, a committee member and the board’s secretary.

“The loss of their leadership would significantly undermine the ability of the NLDC or anyone to carry out the goals of the MDP,” said Percy, referring to the municipal development plan for the Fort Trumbull peninsula.

Asked what he would do if Joplin and Goebel resigned, as the council unanimously declared they must for the $73 million project to be completed, Percy replied, “I would no longer want to be a part of the board of the NLDC.”

…… The latest dust-up between the agency and the city occurred at the beginning of the month, when the NLDC issued eviction notices to three of the Fort Trumbull property owners who challenged the takings of their houses via eminent domain without informing the City Council or the state beforehand.

City councilors were informed in writing in August that no attempt to relocate property owners was imminent, Councilor Rob Pero said Tuesday night. He then read from a memo to the council, which said, in part, “forceful evictions are not planned. Neither the city nor the NLDC want to proceed in this manner.”

The council found itself united Tuesday in its demand that Joplin and Goebel step aside.

“It’s firmly in their court now,” Councilor Beth Sabilia said Wednesday. “We’d like to see our implementing agency finish the plan and work with us to get progress at Fort Trumbull, but we simply can’t do it with the current leadership of their board.”

Some board members were adamant that they can’t go forward without Joplin and Goebel, either.

The board, said John S. Johnson, was “unanimous in our support of Joplin and Goebel at our last meeting, and I would assume that we would continue to be that way.”

It’s hard to say who has the upper hand here. If (very big if) the Council has the nerve to carry through with actually dissolving the NLDC, it could be a permanent win for the Kelo residents. I would think that a new corporation might have to start from scratch with new authorizations from the Council to carry out legal proceedings necessary to enforce eminent domain over the Kelo properties. In the current political climate, that would appear to be, and hopefully will be, difficult.
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RELATED ITEMS:
- Suzette Kelo testified before The US Senate on Tuesday.
- Though it’s hard to gauge its seriousness, there is a movement to bring protesters (requires registration) to New London to occupy the properties:

(Kelo defendant) Von Winkle said that (early-arriving protester) Canario represents 6,700 people who will come to New London to prevent through nonviolence the seizure of Fort Trumbull property by the city.

Bob Taft Should Resign: Strike Three?

BizzyBlog Blasts from the Past:
- Bob Taft Should Resign
- Bob Taft Should Resign: Strike Two
- Memo to Bob Taft: Learn from the Best about Political Timing
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A Hat Tip to the R-Rated Whistleblower, who apparently has two jobs–commenting on local politics and reporting news the Cincinnati Enquirer (affectionately known as “The Fishwrap”) won’t (bolds are mine):

Taft under fire again for failing to list gifts; 2 more cases investigated

COLUMBUS — After meeting for more than two hours behind a locked door, the Ohio Ethics Commission yesterday said it is investigating Gov. Bob Taft for accepting two additional gifts that he failed to list on his annual financial disclosure statement as required by state law.

Neither commission officials nor a spokesman for Mr. Taft yesterday would reveal what the additional gifts were.

Mr. Taft was convicted Aug. 18 in Franklin County Municipal Court of four first-degree misdemeanor ethics violations for knowingly failing to disclose dozens of golf outings and other gifts valued above $75 that he received from lobbyists and businessmen.

The governor was fined $4,000 and ordered to apologize to Ohioans.

A week later, the governor’s office released a list of eight gifts — from a box of steaks worth $100 to an $87 stuffed bear — that Mr. Taft also failed to disclose on his annual ethics form.

David Freel, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said the agency is reviewing two more sources of gifts that Mr. Taft didn’t disclose.

And where is the outrage over this?:

But the issue is moot because Mr. Freel said the plea agreement that prosecutors signed last month with Mr. Taft says the governor cannot be charged with more counts dating back to when he took office in 1999.

Catherine Turcer, legislative director of Ohio Citizen Action, said Mr. Taft had included a “get out of jail free” card into the plea agreement he signed with Franklin County and Columbus prosecutors.

“Taft had to know more stuff would come out, because he asked for it to be part of his plea agreement. It’s a slap in the face of the voters,” said Ms. Turcer, whose group has joined with the Republican-leaning Ohio Roundtable in calling for Mr. Taft’s resignation.

Ms. Turcer said Mr. Taft’s release of additional sources of gifts he failed to disclose showed the dangers of prosecutors’ agreeing to plea agreements.

“By saying whatever we find later is forgiven, they have no idea what they would find,” she said.

The question mark in the above title is subject to review based on the finding of the Ethics Commission. I suspect the question mark won’t last long.

I’d like to see someone take on the prosecutor as to whether the “get out of jail card” part of the agreement was legal. Mr. Taft certainly did not deserve such deference, and I question whether he was legally entitled to it.

UPDATE to “CreditGate”: DSCC Head Schumer Introduced Major ID Theft Bill in April

Filed under: Privacy/ID Theft,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:42 pm

Previous post: “One of the Potentially Dirtiest of Political Tricks….”
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New York Senator Charles Schumer is in charge of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, two of whose members are accused of illegally obtaining the credit report of Maryland’s Lt. Governor.

How ironic, considering this legislative press release from April 12, 2005: “Schumer Introduces Comprehensive ID Theft Bill Today…” (first few paragraphs):

Recent Examples of Egregious Loopholes That Are Compromising Personal Information Need Immediate and Thorough Action by Congress

Schumer-Nelson Bill Would Empower FTC, Inform Consumer to Prevent ID Theft in Future, Not Just Punish Wrongdoers after the Fact

On the heels of numerous and significant identity theft breaches, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) are introducing major and comprehensive legislation today to prevent ID theft, to give broader authority to the Federal Trade Commission, and require more disclosure. The Schumer-Nelson ID Theft Prevention bill is the first and most comprehensive effort to really prevent ID theft, not just punish those who commit ID theft. Sen. Schumer is a member of almost all the committees that would have jurisdiction over this bill including the Finance, Judiciary, and Banking Committees, and Sen. Nelson is a member of the Commerce Committee, which also has jurisdiction.

Schumer said, “What bank robbery was to the Depression Age, identity theft is to the Information Age. Identity theft has become so pervasive and so out-of-hand, that we must make a real effort to prevent it before it happens. When a company like Lexis-Nexis so badly underestimates its own ID theft breaches, it is clear that things are totally out of hand.”

Snarky comment unnecessary.
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UPDATE: Opinipundit notes that one of the two staffers is “a seasoned political operative also having worked for the failed presidential campaign of John Edwards.”

UPDATE 2: Michelle Malkin notes a Washington Post “they all do it” editorial, the launch of a Republican probe, the fact that the targeted politician (MD Lt. Gov. Steele) is not ruling out legal action, and (as if it needs mentioning) the New York Times silence, even though DSCC head Chuck Schumer is a New York Senator.

Bizzy’s Biz Links of the Day (092205)

Some interesting things I’ve come across in the past couple of weeks:

Real progress in nanotech (HT Instapundit)

A dumb idea: Tax oil to keep it expensive (requires subscription) as prices come back down or stay down after hurricane season is finally over. It’s dumb because of the answer to this question: If oil prices go even higher some years down the road, what politician will propose reducing taxes so the final price doesn’t go up? (sound of crickets chirping)

Realtor Racket Update: The Justice Department gets going. Though it opposes the real estate cartel, The Wall Street Journal, in an unlinked editorial, is not pleased with the idea of DOJ focusing its energy on access to the Multiple Listing Service. I think access to MLS is the heart and soul of the real estate business, and should be open to anyone who follows its protocols for listing.

Surprise: A Mutual Fund flexes its muscles, and Clear Channel’s Board and execs, not used to accountability, get blindsided:

Fidelity Investments has taken a bold stand against corporate greed at Clear Channel Communications Inc., the world’s largest radio broadcaster, new filings show.

Fidelity, the biggest shareholders with 15.5 percent, voted against re-election of the entire 10-strong board after the company renewed around $90 million in golden parachutes for founder Lowry Mays and his sons Mark and Randall.

Fidelity also handles Clear Channel’s $531 million employee 401(k) plan, perhaps making the fund company vulnerable to a review by a board that was re-elected despite its stand.

Enough Fingerpointing: The couple involved in the attempted corporate shakedown of Wendy’s will be out of circulation for a very long time:

SAN JOSE, California (AP) — A Nevada couple pleaded guilty Friday to all charges related to planting a human fingertip in a bowl of Wendy’s chili in a scheme to extort money from the fast food restaurant chain.

Anna Ayala, 39, and Jaime Placencia, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiring to file a false claim and attempted grand theft. The Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s International Inc. claimed the scheme cost it $2.5 million in lost sales because of bad publicity.

Ayala faces up to nearly 10 years in state prison when sentenced November 2. Her husband faces up to 13 years behind bars.

“Thankfully, law enforcement thwarted their successful efforts at theft,” said Deputy District Attorney David Boyd.

“Exploited” American workers are…. happy? Looks like it (HT American Thinker):

…. a new compilation of survey results finds that most workers are very satisfied with their jobs. Large majorities say they are satisfied with the specifics of their work: job security, opportunities for advancement, co-workers, flexibility of hours and vacation time.

…. The current level of job satisfaction is about the same as it was when pollsters began asking that question regularly 25 years ago.

How satisfied are American workers? According to a Gallup survey included in the AEI compilation, most American job holders say they would continue to come to work even if they won a $10 million lottery.

There is even less dissatisfaction with long commutes to work than you might expect.

…. Nineteen percent say they like their commute a great deal. Another 41 percent like their commute somewhat. Only 12 percent dislike their commute a great deal.

Me? I might still keep working after winning a $10 million lotto prize, but I’d probably have a whole new attitude.

One of the Potentially Dirtiest of Political Tricks Deserves Major Jail Time

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Privacy/ID Theft — Tom @ 12:28 pm

UPDATE POST: DSCC Head Schumer Introduced Major ID Theft Bill in April
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Apparently political hacks, even experienced ones who should know better, have no limits (HT Drudge; bolds mine):

Two members of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have resigned after admitting they obtained Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s credit report.
Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), said the two staffers told committee officials in July what they had done. He said the committee began an internal investigation and determined it was an isolated incident.
“The DSCC immediately ensured that Mr. Steele’s credit report was not used or disseminated to anyone,” Mr. Singer said, “It also reported this incident to the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C.”
He said the employees, who were not identified, were cooperating with authorities.

These weren’t just unsupervised kids on a lark:

A source familiar with the investigation said the employees were “senior staff” members in the research department of the DSCC.
“While the DSCC did not authorize the employees to access Mr. Steele’s credit report, we regret that this incident occurred and apologize to Mr. Steele,” Mr. Singer said.
Mr. Steele’s chief of staff, Paul Ellington, said the lieutenant governor had been made aware of the incident.
“This is a serious legal issue, and a criminal investigation is under way,” Mr. Ellington said last night. “We have been advised by the FBI to not comment and will honor their request.”

There is of course no way to know for certain whether Steele’s credit information was distributed elsewhere. If you or I did this, we would have the book thrown at us. The two “senior staffers” involved deserve no less.

Note: The tactic of investigating opponents’ credit files was recommended at a left-wing blog site I visited last fall, and a different blog heavily criticized this suggestion. I failed to find either occurrence after extensive Google and Google Blog searching. If anyone has a link to either, e-mail me.
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UPDATE: That will teach me to spread out my posts. I had this done last night, and saved it for today (sure, Bizzy). In the meantime, Michelle Malkin did a great post on this, including references to pieces at Newsday and the New York Post (requires registration) that identify the perps, at 10:45 AM. Captains Quarters was ahead of both of us on this. A reminder: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is headed by New York Senator Charles Schumer.

Just to be clear, a commenter at the Captain lays out the legalities:

To obtain a report legally, a signature authorization is required and information is required to obtain the report.

The access of the report is a crime. The distribution of the report is a crime. The acceptance and READING of the report is a crime.

If someone gave the people accessing the report personal information required to obtain the report, they also committed a crime.

Using any of the data on the report against someone is distribution and may even have other criminal elements attached if consideration was requested.

Period.

Every American should be outraged at this misuse of personal data.

UPDATE 2: Zheesh. Weapons of Mass Discussion posted ahead of me. This is getting embarrassing (just kidding, guys).

Quote of the Day: On the Tears of Dan Rather

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 10:15 am

From George Neumayr at The American Spectator (HT Powerline):

The “new journalism order,” said Rather at Fordham, is defined by a climate of “fear.” This is just another euphemism for the loss of liberal monopolistic power and emergence of conservative competition. By “fear,” what he means is that liberal journalists who could once spread their propaganda without looking over their shoulders now have to.

That Rather is fighting back tears these days is due to the shock of ending his career on a forgery ferreted out by the new journalistic order, and the unwillingness of CBS to back him up on the bogus report. As far as I know, he still hasn’t disclaimed the forgery; O.J.-like, he is apparently still in search of letters confirming the “core truth” of his story. Through his tears, he is in effect saying to CBS: you guys didn’t check my work for decades. Then you sideline me because of the complaints of some right-wing bloggers and media outlets?

Positivity: Baby Arrives during Hurricane via C-section by Flashlight

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:05 am

When it’s time, it’s time. In this case, it was a question of whether medical personnel would step up in difficult circumstances:

(more…)

Steve Forbes on the Results of Incomplete Telecom Deregulation

Why this is important: It affects you and me. Broadband services are too expensive and not as available as they would be in a free market. The economy is being held back, and our global competitiveness could suffer.
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As usual, Steve Forbes nails it (probably requires subscription):

Talk about rank, crass hypocrisy: cable-tv companies in the U.S. are aggressively offering consumers telephone service over their cable lines, and they do so without being burdened by many of the regulatory obstacles with which traditional carriers, such as SBC and Verizon, must cope. At the same time, telephone outfits are pushing to be allowed to deliver television and audio services over their fiber-optic lines to more and more households, and guess who’s yelping like whipped dogs–and lobbying like pit bulls–to prevent it?

Cablers want to force phone companies to have to get permission from just about every town and city in the country to furnish video products. After all, they argue, the cable companies had to win the approval of 33,000 franchise boards in order to peddle their wares. Why shouldn’t others have to do the same? That’s an empty argument if there ever was one. Those franchise boards are a relic from the pre-Internet era. It would be like auto companies decades ago being required to install carriage wheels and whip holders on their vehicles.

Thanks to technology–primarily the Internet–the traditional differences between local and long-distance phone services, cable TV, satellite TV, radio and television are being obliterated. Yet communications companies still make lobbyists in Washington rich by trying to pretend nothing has changed. The cable industry’s fight to prevent phone companies from delivering TV service to customers is but the latest example of this deadly obtuseness. The telecoms have invested billions of dollars in the service and have partnered with companies like Microsoft and Alcatel to develop the necessary software.

The cost of phone service and other technologies has been declining because of advances in technology and competition. Yet cable rates keep going up–40% since 1999. Why shouldn’t consumers have more options? Local politicians hate this idea because it would prevent them from being able to shake down companies trying to win permission to offer expanded services.

The state of Texas has the right idea. Its legislature is enacting a law that will allot companies a statewide franchise to offer enhanced TV services throughout Texas, thus bypassing the need to go to each hamlet for approval. Companies will pay a fee based on their gross income statewide.

The Federal Communications Commission could hasten this process, but it’s been politically reluctant to do so–why upset thousands of local pols and the powerful TV and cable industries?

Neither Congress nor the FCC will move decisively without a determined push from the White House. To put it bluntly, the Bush Administration has been a disaster when it comes to telecommunications deregulation. The U.S. today is falling behind other countries in the development of broadband. We now rank 16th in the world, lagging a range of countries from Japan to South Korea to Iceland.

It’s time for the Executive Branch to get off its collective butt before the U.S. joins the ranks of Kazakhstan, North Korea and Outer Mongolia when it comes to getting wired for broadband.

If the cable guys can enter the telcos turf, the telcos should be allowed to come after theirs. This legislative turf war is holding the economy back, and will continue to do so as long as nothing is done.