Susette Kelo speaks out
Eminent domain up close
As I sat there in the U.S. Supreme Court back in February and listened to the justices hear my case, I was so disappointed their very first question and first concern was for the power of government rather than the rights of citizens.
In many ways, my neighbors and I are the victims of legislators, lawyers and judges who believe it is somehow a sign of intelligence to make language that clearly means one thing mean something exactly the opposite: “Public use” now means private use; judges don’t judge but instead let legislators decide whether they’re violating the Constitution. There is nothing intelligent about misusing language in this way to take away people’s homes and their rights.
What is happening to me should not happen to anyone else. Congress and state legislatures need to send a message to local governments that this kind of abuse of power not only won’t be funded, it won’t be tolerated.
Special interests — developers and governments that benefit from this use of power –are working to convince the public there is no problem, but I am living proof there is.
This battle against eminent domain abuse may have started as a way for me to save my little salmon-pink cottage, but it has rightfully grown in something much larger — the fight to restore the American Dream and the sacredness and security of each of our homes.
Property rights are the keystone of democracy. What New London is doing harms all of us, while Eminent Domain Rolls On. As blogcritics.com puts it, (emphasis mine)
The right to own property and to hold that property without interference from others or from government is one of the fundamental rights of the free society for which we fought in the Revolutionary War. In fact, it is seen by many as the most fundamental of our basic rights of life, liberty and property. It transcends even the Constitution. The author of our modern concept of government and law, John Locke said “Government has no other end than the preservation of property.” The government of New London is failing in this most basic and essential responsibility of government. Government should protect and preserve the rights of citizens, not be a willing partner in sacrificing their most basic rights on the altar of commercial greed. No government official who could be party to this kind of literally criminal abuse of power should be allowed to hold office and should face the full wrath of not only voters, but of criminal prosecution. The mayor, the city manager and the seven members of the City Council are all criminals under the most basic principles on which our republic was founded and ought to be treated as such.
Incidentally, even though an eviction order from last week has been rescinded, Ms Kelo still has to pay rent on her house:
Seven homeowners in New London, Conn., who narrowly lost a court battle to save their homes from condemnation say the city is still demanding as much as $300,000 in “use and occupancy” fees dating to the November 2000 condemnation order.
They say the demands are being made even though an eviction order from last week has been rescinded. It had been issued by the semi-public New London Development Corp. and had told the homeowners to move out in the next 30 to 90 days and pay $600 a month in rent while they continue to occupy the premises.
An attorney for NLDC, which wants to demolish the homes to make room for private development, had told the homeowners’ attorney last year that the city, for which NLDC has acted as an agent, expects to collect the occupancy fees.
“We know your clients did not expect to live in city-owned property for free, or rent out the property and pocket the profits … for three-and-a-half years and counting … if they ultimately lose the case,” the corporation wrote then.
More at Volokh‘s
(technorati tag Kelo)