June 5, 2006

FLASH: New London Council Expected to Ignore Gov’s Plan, May Initiate Evictions; Ah, But the Italian Dramatic Club Stays

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:45 pm

Just off the wires from the AP:

New London preparing for evictions in eminent domain dispute

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — City officials were preparing Monday to begin eviction proceedings against residents who refuse to leave their coastal Connecticut homes, a move that could signal the end is near in an eminent domain dispute that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I anticipate we are headed into the home stretch,” New London Mayor Elizabeth Sabilia said Monday morning, hours before the City Council was due to vote on whether to evict the three families remaining in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood.

….. But a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling last year upheld the city’s right to take the homes. Since then, all but three people have settled with the city, taken money and left.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has proposed letting the holdouts remain in their homes but giving the city the right of first refusal if the houses ever were sold.

“Tonight’s a really big night,” said Scott Bullock, an attorney for the residents. “They have the chance to accept the governor’s proposal and resolve this once and for all.”

Sabilia said Rell’s proposal won’t be approved. With the settlement deadline expired, the City Council was to vote Monday night on whether to begin evictions.

“The balance of councilors are staying the course,” said Sabilia, who also votes on the council.

An eviction process, which includes another court fight, would take a month to three months.

For what it’s worth, I don’t believe the Derys, the Beyer tenants, or the Brelesky’s have all “taken money,” and I’m virtually certain that all of them (or their tenants) have not “left.” Saying that they have “accepted monetary offers and plan to leave” is more correct. I informed AP writer Matt Apuzzo of this, and it appears that if there are indeed inaccuracies in that phrasing, they’ll be corrected.

Ah, But The Italian Dramatic Club Stays

Hours before he was to leave Washington for New London’s Council meeting tonight, Scott Bullock of The Institute for Justice was nice enough to speak for a few minutes with me about the situation (this was just before the AP report above hit the wires).

Scott for the most part confirmed my understanding of the situation, but told me three things I didn’t know:

  1. The Cristofaro family has used their home as a family starter home for generations, making their ability to hold the title and continue to use it in its traditional manner all the more important.
  2. The current development plan calls for mixed-use residential development in the areas where the remaining homes are (you read that right).
  3. Finally, Scott also brought up one incredibly important point from many years ago that I was not aware of: A building I previously did not know about, The Italian Dramatic Club, was exempted from eminent domain, and is staying. Accordingly I have added it to the map:

KeloWithIDC060506

Here’s the what and why (about 1/3 of the way down the linked page) behind the Italian Dramatic Club’s ability to remain:

A notable exception to the NLDC’s plan to clear-cut the neighborhood is the Italian Dramatic Club, a politically connected “social club” of Connecticut’s political establishment, which is located in the very same neighborhood as all the homes targeted for destruction. Among the Italian Dramatic Club’s patrons was former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who helped direct much of the State funding for the NLDC’s work in New London and who resigned in June 2004 amid an ethics scandal. The club was informed in September 2000 that it could remain in the neighborhood. The un-elected NLDC decision to preserve the politically powerful Italian Dramatic Club while demanding that New Londoners move out led Fort Trumbull homeowner Matt Dery to quip that the NLDC’s actions in his neighborhood have been both shameful and shameless.

Scott also told me that the running joke in New London is that the Italian Dramatic Club can stay, but the Italians in the neighborhood have to go.

What, a, sick, joke.

I don’t know how to characterize the city’s/NLDC’s treatment of the Dramatic Club as anything other than breathtakingly naked favoritism that is so obviously unfair both to those who have lost their homes and those who are holding out that it doesn’t even merit a counterargument.

(Aside: Why in all of the news accounts I’ve read in the nine months I’ve been covering this story has The Italian Dramatic Club’s ability to stay never been mentioned?)

This “dramatic” exception, combined with the fact that residences are planned for the area where dozens of homes have been destroyed (I can’t believe I just typed that), show more than anything else why governments shouldn’t be in the business of taking private property for non-public purposes, and why the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision was so very, very wrong. The fact that the Supreme Court ruled as it did, in full knowledge of the arbitary Italian Dramatic Club exception, is simplly incomprehensible.

The city’s 10-year exercise in eminent domain, including tonight’s apparently foregone conclusion, based on the AP report above, that it will reject Governor Rell’s perfectly sensible solution, shows to me that this has always been more about the exercise of arbitrary power than anything else even remotely high-minded.
___________________________

UPDATE: MuD & PhuD detects the crud — “this is absolutely un-freaking-believable. Our countrymen are going to have their property stolen from them under the (very credible) threat of physical violence while this pissant little group of ‘politically connected’ POSs get to keep their club. Does anyone out there still want to argue that this is anything other than an outright, egregious abuse of power? ….. There is a (council) meeting this evening. If you’re in the area go and support the last three homeowners standing up for liberty.”

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3 Comments

  1. More New London Craziness

    I am currently restraining myself from breaking things. Bizzyblog has the skinny:

    Trackback by MuD&PHuD — June 5, 2006 @ 3:56 pm

  2. I live in Groton right across the river and worked at Pfizer last year when this thing was being protested right outside my workplace — and I never heard of the Italian Dramatic Club! Unbelievable. But this place has got some seriously dirty politics, especially where construction and development are concerned. Where else in the country does it take *two years* to repair a single bridge over a highway? This place is nuts.

    Comment by Jamie Wilson — June 7, 2006 @ 4:14 pm

  3. #2, you confirmed what I thought, that a lot if not most people don’t know about the IDC. What I am absolutely stunned by is that the Supremes ruled as they did knowing about the IDC exception — it’s in the comments on the case (I think O’Connor’s dissent).

    Comment by TBlumer — June 7, 2006 @ 5:18 pm

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