- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

Eminent domain abuse

With regards to “Landowners must yield to ballpark” (Page 1, Thursday): At first it seemed far away up in the New England states and then it went down South and now it is here in the Washington metro area and it is spreading like a cancer. What I am talking about is eminent domain.

The District government wants to go to court to force landowners to sell them their property at the price the city wants to pay because it wants to build a ballpark for a millionaire so he can make more money and the city can rake in the taxes and fees from the major league baseball team. Government used to be of the people, for the people and by the people. Now it’s just against the people.

No group of people should have the power these people have. None of us are safe from eminent domain which leaves open the door for wholesale corruption to walk right in. How quick will our elected representatives be to take our homes when offered millions by multinational corporations to get the land they want. Money talks and we all know what walks. We need to stand together to protect our homes from corporate and local-government greed known as eminent domain.

ROBERT E. BRAND

Frederick, Md.

It is a phony argument that transferring land from private to commercial ownership in order to create jobs and tax revenue is for the public good (“Drawing the line on eminent domain,” Page 1, Sunday). This argument is put forth by proponents of eminent domain whose only solution for protection of property owners is that government should be careful to limit abuse. How comforting.

Using this logic, however, government could curtail or eliminate any constitutional right that it determines conflicts with the public good. Americans have never determined rights — property ownership or otherwise — by tying them to the so-called public good. Rights are rights, pure and simple. They exist, or not. You have them, or you don’t.

While government has always mocked the concept of private property by seizing it for tax arrears (thus making owners nothing more than property renters to an uberlandlord), the Supreme Court now degrades property owners even further into serfs who may use “their” land only with the landlord’s consent, and are forced off when that landlord can find a better economic return. If a property owner can be compelled by government to sell to another private owner against his will, and if your continued property ownership rests on whether government thinks it’s getting a sufficient economic return from your land, who really owns the property?

Equally phony is the Supreme Court’s argument that states are free to legislate protection by specifying exactly what “public use” means in eminent domain cases. It’s phony because in so doing, the Supreme Court removes constitutional protection to mere legislation. Everyone knows that constitutional law is the closest thing we have to eternal truth in the temporal realm, whereas legislation is like the rules of a card game, subject to change every time the deck is dealt. What the legislature giveth, it later taketh away.

Because “public use” now means both traditional interpretations of public use as well as any other use that generates greater income to government, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kelo v. City of New London effectively removes from the Constitution the clause that limits eminent domain and places it into statute law, thus depriving Americans of a constitutional right without a single voter casting a ballot to do so.

So, the government gets a constitutional right to eminent domain, but citizens’ protection against it now exists only in malleable state-by-state legislation. This is a stealth constitutional rewrite without benefit of a convention and it cannot be corrected simply via legislation by the various states as the Supreme Court now advises. The Supreme Court itself needs to revisit the case and amend its ruling.

CHRISTOPHER MCKEON

Washington

A solution for a changing neighborhood

For months, concerned citizens along with representatives of Gaithersburg and Montgomery County have been working on finding a solution to the day-labor employment issue in our community (“Montgomery County’s end run,” Editorial, Saturday).

Our efforts moved from an informal gathering in the Grace Church fellowship hall to more serious conversations in the Gallery at City Hall. At no time were our doors closed (literally or figuratively) to anyone who might help us find a solution.

At just about every gathering concern was raised about finding a suitable location for an employment center that would not adversely affect community residents. In retrospect, I do regret that we were not more proactive with the community and even the press and should have invited local residents to those meetings which would have made the process more open and interactive.

As one letter writer stated, we may have well put the “cart before the horse,” (“Day-labor outrage,” Letters, Saturday) but having sat through and coordinated those gatherings, I know for a fact that we did not try any “end run” as you have suggested.

Since a decision has been made by Gaithersburg and Montgomery County not to pursue the chosen location, we will begin work once again to find a more suitable location that offers security to the neighborhood and also a supervised location for the day laborers.

The concern of many members of the community in finding a positive solution to this issue is not reflected in the negative editorial of Saturday in The Washington Times. I did appreciate The Times showing its true editorial and journalistic policy when you said you oppose “use of tax dollars to enable illegals to break immigration law.” You are welcome to your opinion (we also take immigration issues very seriously), but in this case your stance is not in the best interests of our city, community or the day workers. I sincerely hope that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will have a more concerned and humanitarian vision than simply doing what is politically expedient.

What our community needs now are calm emotions, intelligent and searching minds, and warm hearts as we work to find a solution that will benefit our changing neighborhood and all of our people.

WILLIAM LOUIS PIEL

Senior pastor

Grace United Methodist Church

Gaithersburg

Finite energy resources

John R. Thomson assures us that “we have and will continue to have enough energy resources” (“Petro sky not falling,” Commentary, Thursday). Any good economist knows this to be true, since as the price rises, we buy less, the market clears and we have no shortage. Those who deplete their college savings or go without prescription medicine in order to fill their tank can take solace from this.

Mr. Thomson has yet to come to grips with the fundamental reality that fossil fuels are finite. Because they are finite they run out as we use them and an inevitable peak is at some point reached, after which the production inexorably declines.

For American oil production, that point was reached in 1970. Great Britain’s oil production peaked in 1998 and is now falling fast. Eighteen significant oil producers are now in decline and only a handful show promise of expanded production.

Every year existing oil production falls away due to depletion. This must be replaced with new oil fields before any new capacity can come on board. We have to run ever faster just to stay in one place. We have been burning more oil than we discover since 1980. Many oil experts believe that global oil production will enter decline by 2010.

Mr. Thomson’s denial isn’t helpful. Is he saying we should buy a sport utility vehicle, a home out in the sprawling suburbs and support more highways and parking garages? That path will lead us to hard times. Much better to buy a hybrid or a bike, a home close to work and support more transit and pedestrian/bike amenities.

CARL HENN

Rockville

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