Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Friday, December 17, 2010

What Kelo Hath Wrought


The nation’s highest court has decided not to reconsider the legality of eminent domain for Columbia’s campus expansion, marking the end of a two-year legal battle between the state and the remaining private landowners in Manhattanville.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision to deny the property owners’ appeal—the last recourse for Nick Sprayregen, owner of Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage, and gas station owners Gurnam Singh and Parminder Kaur, who have refused for the past six years to sell their land to the University.

This gives a clear green light for the state to use eminent domain on behalf of Columbia’s 17-acre campus expansion in West Harlem. The Supreme Court will not reassess a June ruling from the New York State Court of Appeals, which said that the state could transfer private property to the University in exchange for market-rate compensation for the current owners.

We’ve gone a long way from Kelo now, haven’t we?  First, it was OK to force people to sell their homes because a rich developer might pay more in taxes (except, oops, they decided to close the factory).  Then it was OK to force people to sell their homes to stadium developers because it would stimulate the economy (except, oops, they don’t).  Now it’s OK to force people to sell their property to a private university filled with spoiled rich kids that pays no taxes.

This is not just an example of politics at its worst, it’s a perfect illustration of the hypocrisy that tends to run rampant in liberal institutions.  What do you think the political composition of Columbia’s faculty is?  90% democrat?  95?  I’m sure they spend much time gnashing their teeth and rending their robes over the rich and powerful exploiting the poor and weak.  I’m sure that, every year, they published hundreds of books, papers, magazine articles and journal letters on the subject (which no one reads, of course).  But, when push comes to shove, they are more than happy to use every ounce of their political clout to deprive someone else—someone less powerful and less wealthy—of their property rights.

It’s shameful.  I understand the need to expand a college campus (they are always crowded for space).  It’s not the expansion that’s I have a problem with, it’s the means by which it has been accomplished.

And the Court, having already pissed on property rights with Kelo, sees no reason to revisit the matter.  Can’t say I blame them.  Of the five justices who were in the majority on Kelo, Stevens and Souter have been replaced by Sotomayor and Kagan.  So that precedent isn’t going anywhere.  (Although I do wonder if the Ivy League backgrounds of the justices—all nine went to Harvard or Yale Law—played a role here.)

Unless you live in a state that has explicit protections against eminent domain, it is open season on property owners.  To the well-connected, our property is just modern version of Naboth’s vineyard.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 12/17/10 at 06:35 PM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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