It's distressing, but not at all surprising, at how quickly municipalities have been to use the confiscatory powers granted them by the Supreme Court's Kelo decision on eminent domain. You may now add Oakland, California to the list:
Last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling approving a Connecticut city's plan to take private land by eminent domain may seem far away.
But to John Revelli, whose family has operated a tire shop near downtown Oakland for decades, the implications hit home on Friday.
A team of contractors hired by the city of Oakland packed the contents of his small auto shop in a moving van and evicted Revelli from the property his family has owned since 1949.
"I have the perfect location; my customers who work downtown can drop off their cars and walk back here," said Revelli, 65, pointing at the nearby high- rises. "The city is taking it all away from me to give someone else. It's not fair."
The city of Oakland, using eminent domain, seized Revelli Tire and the adjacent property, owner-operated Autohouse, on 20th Street between Telegraph and San Pablo avenues on Friday and evicted the longtime property owners, who have refused to sell to clear the way for a large housing development.
The primary beneficiary of all this is Albert B. Ratner, co-chair/co-owner of Forest City Enterprises, the developer that sought Mr. Revelli's property.
Now Congress is attempting to redress this situation:
The House voted yesterday to use the spending power of Congress to undermine a Supreme Court ruling allowing local governments to force the sale of private property for economic development purposes. Key members of the House and Senate vowed to take even broader steps soon.
Last week's 5 to 4 decision has drawn a swift and visceral backlash from an unusual coalition of conservatives concerned about property rights and liberals worried about the effect on poor people, whose property is often vulnerable to condemnation because it does not generate a lot of revenue.
The House measure, which passed 231 to 189, would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to force people to sell their property to make way for a profit-making project such as a hotel or mall. Historically, eminent domain has been used mainly for public purposes such as highways or airports...
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced a similar measure and immediately drew a Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), as well as Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who is number three in his party's leadership. The House bill is sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.). Its Democratic co-sponsors include Reps. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.).
*Recovering from the shock of finding myself on the same side of an issue with Maxine Waters. ;-)*
But at least one member of the House Democrat leadership spoke out against Congress' attempts - with typical illogic:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized the measure. "When you withhold funds from enforcing a decision of the Supreme Court, you are in fact nullifying a decision of the Supreme Court," she told reporters. "This is in violation of the respect of separation of powers in our Constitution."
It of course is NOT in violation of anything in the Constitution; this sort of thing has been done many times in the past. It seems that Rep. Pelosi needs to take a refresher course on American Government.
But why would the good gentlelady from California get her dander up? Might this be the reason?
To paraphrase Winston Churchill: At least we now know her price!
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