June 20, 2006

Kelo New London Update: Eminent Domain Referendum Petitions Submitted to Council

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:52 pm

Wow, that was fast, especially considering all those members of Mayor Sabilia’s “silent majority” who would have snubbed referendum supporters in their signature-gathering attempts (/sarcasm).

From The New London Day (registration required after one day, and paid subscription after seven days; bold is mine):

Petition Asks City To Forgo Seizure Of Last Two Properties
Fort Trumbull group presents 586 signatures to City Council

The Coalition to Save the Fort Trumbull Neighborhood presented a petition to the city Monday, demanding that the City Council rescind its June 5 decision to take possession of the properties of Susette Kelo and the Cristofaro family or put it to a referendum.

Addressing the council Monday night, Michael Cristofaro, who signed and helped circulate the petition along with a dozen others, reiterated his position, saying he would protect his family’s home against an eminent domain takeover regardless of the price the city offered for the property.

“My family will continue to fight the abuse of eminent domain in this city until all property owners’ rights are protected,” he said. “No matter what the outcome of Fort Trumbull is, we won. This city will never use eminent domain against its citizens like they have in Fort Trumbull.”

Kelo also signed the petition, which contained 586 signatures, more than 200 more than the number required to call a referendum. The move comes days before Thursday’s latest state-imposed deadline for the city to reach an agreement with the remaining plaintiffs in Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court case that was decided in favor of the city and the New London Development Corp., which took Fort Trumbull properties by eminent domain.

City Law Director Thomas Londregan said Monday night that the signatures on the petition will need to be verified by the city clerk in time for the council’s July 3 meeting. If sufficient signatures are verified, he said, he will then decide whether the petition meets the legal requirements for calling a referendum.

….. “I’m apprehensive that attorney Londregan will say it’s not legal,” (co-chairman of the Coalition to Save Fort Trumbull Neild B.) Oldham said. “ … If the city attorney plays games with us, we are prepared to take it to the court.”

It seems pretty impressive that so many signatures were gathered in the space of less than two weeks. It’s also impressive that they got it done ahead of Connecticut Governor Rell’s extended deadline of Thursday, June 22. Unless Council’s majority really thinks it can beat back the referendum, it would appear to put quite a bit of pressure on the majority to reconsider their eviction decision of June 5 or suffer electoral embarrassment.

I have exchanged e-mails with Tom Lacey, the Chairman of the One New London Party, the upstart group that took two seats in the city’s seven-seat City Council, and came within 20 votes of taking a third, in last November’s election. He indicated that his party has been involved in collecting signatures and anticipates the need to gear up for a legal battle based in anticipation of a rejection by Londergan. Information on contributing to One New London is here.

Also, there’s this precious tidbit at the end of The Day’s piece that makes you wonder about the viability of what the city is planning:

Former council member Bill Morse asked the council to reconsider developer Corcoran Jennison’s plans for Fort Trumbull, saying that the hotel and apartments planned for the neighborhood’s revitalization lacked the originality and appeal needed to bring money to New London.

O, M, G. The city’s Council majority may be pursuing what Investors Business Daily (excerpted at this previous post in case the link expires) has called the “tarnished trophy” of an eminent-domain victory for something that won’t work.

And one final question: Given that this relates to the ultimate result of the original “landmark” case disgrace decided by The Supreme Court last year, why isn’t the likely referendum making any news?
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UPDATE: Especially since the information is not available online, I thought it would be worthwhile to inform/remind readers of last November’s City Council election results (thanks to New London’s Registrar of Voters Office for faxing the info to me). I will list only the top eight (nineteen ran, seven were seated), their party, and vote total:
- Robert Pero, Republican — 2,143
- William Cornish, One New London — 1,522
- Charles Frink, One New London — 1,490
- Jane Glover, Democrat — 1,417
- Kevin Cavanagh, Democrat — 1,422
- Elizabeth Sabilia, Democrat — 1,386
- Margaret Mary Curtin, Democrat — 1,320
- (not elected) Richard Humphreville, One New London — 1,300

Considering that two One New London candidates leapfrogged every single Democrat in their first try at electoral politics, Mayor Beth (“I’m Number 6″) Sabilia’s breezy claim of majority support for evicting the Kelo holdouts seems unsupportable.
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Background: The Kelo New London Collection (a listing of all previous Kelo New London posts)

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