March 25, 2013

New London, Conn. Newspaper Continues to Boycott the Term ‘Kelo,’ Hails Possible ‘Development Milestone’ Eight Years After Supremes’ Ruling

Almost eight years after the Supreme Court’s odious Kelo v. New London ruling and eight years of press failure to report the utter lack of subsequent development in the affected area in New London, Connecticut, construction might start taking place in a couple of months — emphasis on “may.”

What’s notable about how Kathleen Edgecomb at the New London Day wrote up her Sunday story is how hard she worked, as the Day has since the Court’s ruling, to make sure that the term “Kelo” did not appear. That’s “Kelo” as in Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff who tried to keep her pink house where it was and save the properties of other plaintiffs from destruction as a result of eminent domain, and who was ultimately thwarted by a Supreme Court ruling which radically misinterpreted the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment to to allow goverments to take properties for “public purpose” (i.e., any conceivable reason) instead of limiting such seizures to “public use” (e.g., roads, bridges, and other public works). Excerpts from her Edgecomb’s report, including the relevant word-dodging, follow the jump (bolds are mine):

Development milestone nears at Fort Trumbull
Groundbreaking for townhouses on track for spring

More than a dozen years after the city first announced a redevelopment plan for the Fort Trumbull area that was to attract housing, office space, a hotel and public waterfront access, the first new construction in the 90-acre development site is expected to start this spring.

“There’s a never-ending hill of stuff that needs to be climbed … but we’re still on track,” said Karl-Erik Sternlof, first vice president of the Renaissance City Development Association (RCDA), the former New London Development Corp., which is overseeing the development area.

“Our target date has been spring and we have heard absolutely nothing that suggests we are not going to hit that closing date,” Sternlof said last week.

Riverbank Construction has been working on a 103-unit townhouse-style development called Village on the Thames since 2009, when it was chosen as the preferred developer for housing in Fort Trumbull.

The first phase of the project will be 34 units on two of the four parcels designated for housing, according to developer Irwin Stillman.

… “We’re having a kitten over the desire to say this is great, it’s actually going to happen, but we can’t do that until we get all the commitments … and they sign all the paperwork,” he (Sternlof) said.

In 2000, the NLDC presented a development plan for Fort Trumbull and the City Council approved it, which in essence leveled nearly all the buildings in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood to make way for new multi-use construction. Some of the properties were taken by eminent domain and some of the owners fought the takings, which sparked a legal debate that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2005, the court ruled that the city had a right to take property by eminent domain for economic development.

It was more than a “legal debate,” Ms. Edgecomb. It was, unfortunately, a landmark court decision.

The Supremes infamously asserted that the city had presented “a carefully considered development plan.” Non-developments since then have rendered that judgment to be utterly ludicrous. Ms. Kelo and her fellow plaintiffs can be forgiven if they’re saying “I told you so.”

But concentrating on the eight years of failure in New London, though clearly relevant in showing that government usually doesn’t know best, misses the most important point. Even if the greatest project ever conceived had appeared at Fort Trumbull shortly after the Supremes’ decision, that wouldn’t change the fact that their ruling violated the Constitution. If government entities really want to have eminent domain for virtually any reason, they should have to first pass a constitutional amendment. If we still had a Consitution-based country instead of the post-constitutional America radio host and blockbuster author Mark Levin desribes, no one could accomplish an eminent domain attempt against unwilling owners until such an amendment takes effect.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Guess what New London had to do to get even this project off the ground? Edgecomb usefully reminded readers of something I noted two years ago, namely that city fathers had to give out tax breaks:

The city granted Riverbank Construction tax abatements in 2011 under the City and Town Development Act, which provides distressed municipalities with broad powers – including offering tax breaks, issuing notes and bonds, delegating powers to development agencies and earmarking capital reserve funds – to attract new development.

So they’re building new townhouses — rentals, by the way — to relace perfectly fine houses, many of which were owner-occupied, thanks to the abuse of eminent domain, and had to throw more taxpayer money around to do it.

What has happened in News London during the past eight years is an object lesson in the failure of statism — which probably explains why the press has virtually ignored the story the entire time.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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