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Conference on Redevelopment Abuse
San Jose, California. 95103
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August 12, 2005
Property rights leaders to meet
STRATEGIES FOR FIGHTING GOVERNMENT SEIZURE TO BE DISCUSSED AT SAN JOSE CONFERENCE
Leading figures in the movement to limit the government's property seizure powers, which the U.S. Supreme Court bolstered in a recent ruling, will be in San Jose on Saturday to discuss efforts to help home and business owners fight back.
Speakers will include state Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, and Institute for Justice senior attorney Dana Berliner. McClintock is working on amending the California Constitution to limit the government's ``eminent domain'' property seizure power.
Berliner is the property-rights lawyer who represented homeowners in New London, Conn., in their bid before the Supreme Court to block the city's condemnation of their property for an urban renewal project by private developers.
Reform group is host
Saturday's event is hosted by the Coalition for Redevelopment Reform in San Jose. Organizers say it's important for property owners to understand how vulnerable their homes or businesses could be to takeover by government-backed developers.
``Most people would still say, `That can't happen to me, only to some dilapidated place,' '' said Loraine Wallace Rowe, a founder of the Coalition for Redevelopment Reform in San Jose, who helped lead a successful 2000 fight against seizure of 40 San Jose properties for redevelopment.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold property seizure for redevelopment in Kelo vs. City of New London. The majority argued that since governments have traditionally promoted economic development, their Fifth Amendment power to take private property for ``public use'' should not exclude private redevelopment that benefits the community with jobs and tax money.
Critics, including the four dissenting justices, protested that the ruling clears the way for developers to pressure tax-starved city leaders into taking people's homes and businesses for any redevelopment scheme that promises more tax revenue and jobs.
Among the critics was McClintock, who said the decision ``opens an era when the rich and powerful may use government to seize the property of ordinary citizens for private gain.''
Legislation in hopper
McClintock introduced legislation, SCA-15, that would amend the California Constitution through a ballot measure requiring that the government either own the property it seizes through eminent domain, or guarantee the public the legal right to use it.
Other speakers at Saturday's event will include Chris Norby, an Orange County supervisor and founder of Municipal Officials for Redevelopment Reform, and Doug McNea, president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association.
San Jose Redevelopment Agency Director Harry Mavrogenes, who has said the Kelo decision validated local policy of using eminent domain ``as necessary but in a careful way,'' has been invited to attend, but is not a scheduled speaker.
Though the Kelo decision was led by the court's more liberal justices, outcry has hardly been limited to generally conservative and libertarian property-rights advocates.
Liberals including Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, self-described Socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader have joined the likes of conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh in protest.
Congress has moved to bar federal funding in connection with any eminent domain seizures for private economic development. Legislative moves also are under way in at least two dozen states to rein in government power to condemn and seize homes.
Contact John Woolfolk at firstname.lastname@example.org or (408) 278-3410.