Cultural Revolutions

Bringing to Light Eminent Domain

The Kelo v. City of New London Supreme Court decision has brought the abuse of eminent domain to the forefront of the public’s awareness.  In Florida, private-sector developers and their allies in municipal-planning and economic-development departments are moving ahead on a number of projects that will force hundreds of retired mobile-home dwellers, and residents in modest homes and businesses, out onto the street.  Humble abodes are being razed to make way for upscale developments.  Local governments are making use of their eminent-domain powers, which are based on the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  This amendment initially prevented the federal government from depriving persons of their property “without due process of law,” and, when private property was to be taken for “public use,” just compensation was required.  In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed the Incorporation Doctrine, applying the Bill of Rights via the 14th Amendment to the states.

The definitions of “due process,” “public use,” and “just compensation” vary somewhat among the states.  Each state sets up a system where projects are proposed to local governments, and then meetings and hearings are held, sometime in public.  If the appropriate hoops are jumped through, due process is normally considered to have been followed.  Unfortunately,...

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