"Eminent domain, when it comes to jobs, roads, the public good, I think it’s a wonderful thing. You’re not taking property. … You’re paying a fortune for that property." ---Donald Trump
Trump's stance is not surprising considering he once tried to throw an elderly woman named Vera Coking off the property she'd lived in for three decades so it could be used as a parking lot for his Trump Plaza Hotel. When Coking declined Trump's offer of $1 million, he whined to the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority who filed suit against Coker, demanding she vacate the property within 90 days with a settlement of just $250K. Thankfully, Coking prevailed when the court threw out the case.
Eminent domain is the "the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation."
Let's expand on expropriate. It means to seize, appropriate, take possession of, confiscate, requisition, commandeer, claim, acquire...dispossess someone from their property. Usually it's done in the name of the public good.
And while we're at it, there's an extremely loose interpretation of the public good when it comes to eminent
domain. Be very careful when you are told that perfectly good neighborhood near you (maybe your own!)
needs to be razed to build a shopping center, high-rise condominium or a factory, all of course for the public good. And
as to being paid a fortune? There's the requirement of just compensation but it isn't always what you think. Developers will try to low-ball and get away with paying as little as possible.
Then there's the cost of defending one's right to keep the property. There are
lawyer fees, experts to hire, surveys, papers to be filed, etc. There's
time taken off work, business lost, etc. Often times, homes and businesses are taken anyway. In the end, it's a financial and
emotional nightmare and nothing most people are paid, especially your
average middle-class, working-class Americans, could adequately
compensate for what they've endured. Ever.
One of the many horror stories about eminent domain abuse is the case of Kelo v. New London. The New London Development Corporation fought to purchase a nine-acre area of Susette Kelo's beautiful,
historic neighborhood so that a developer could build on it, including a $300
million Pfizer research facility. Pfizer promised jobs, New London and
the Supreme Court sided with Pfizer and Susette and others lost their
fight.Oh but there's more.
Pfizer left New London in 2009 and took its nearly 1,500 jobs with it.
New London wound up spending $80 million on a piece of land that went
Time and time again, local governments,
backed by the courts, take private property away from hardworking
Americans to give to developers
for building and expansion. Often times it isn't even about
infrastructure, it's about developers with a lot of money and influence
getting into bed with local governments. The word "blight" is thrown
around a lot. I've seen pictures of the neighborhoods deemed blighted.
The term has a tendency to be overused and stretched to the limit and
beyond by greedy local governments.
"The true foundation of republican
government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and
property and in their management." --Thomas Jefferson, 1816.
The Founders knew that ownership of private property was essential to building a
strong America. Americans have always had a religious-like
devotion and respect for
private property. Some might even argue that this sense of devotion,
while noble, may hinder the spirit of community and
togetherness...thinking perhaps that too
much emphasis placed on a sense of entitlement/private property
reduces the development of a sense of citizenship but I don't believe that to be true of Americans. The inherent desire to own property is
deeply rooted in our culture. It isn't about status, not for most, it's
about pride...working hard and building something from the ground
up...something you put your blood, sweat and tears into, something you
can pass on to the generations that come after you. Your property, that
you put so much into, is essentially your legacy. This ownership of
private property, the pride that goes into it---this is how communities
are built, how they stay strong. Private property rights are essential
for communities to thrive. They contribute to the economic prosperity
harmony and are essential to the economic and political health of a
So pardon me if I tell Donald Trump he's full
of shit. Just because you can legally do something doesn't mean it's
morally right. But don't tell that to people like Trump because he'll
just laugh at you and call you ignorant. For people like him it's about
the bottom line: "How much money can I make and how fast?"
The greatest tragedy in all of this is how it affects the people. It is people, not money, who are the backbone of America. This country was built not by money but by people and it is great not because of money but because of people. This is a concept men like Trump will never understand. Perhaps
he would if the government jumped in and seized his
buildings and razed them and then turned the land into residential
neighborhoods, parks and small businesses for poor and working-class
You know...in the name of the public good.