I am the mayor of a small town, and have spent the last 6 years of my life working on a revitalization process for our community. It is a process that has been slow-going, but we have managed to procure over 3/4 of a million dollars in grants to aid in our efforts. I know from first-hand experience how important revitalization can be for the inhabitants of a community.
That being said, I believe Kelo et al v. City of New London
to be among the 10 worst Supreme Court decisions in the history of our Nation - not in the same league as Roe v. Wade
or Dred Scott
, but certainly in the next tier. After the Kelo
decision, the 5th Amendment's "takings clause" means absolutely nothing.
So-called progressives will likely hail this ruling because it allows them to move forward unimpeded with their plans for "downtown revitalization", "urban renewal", and "gentrification". What is being ignored by these so-called progressives, however, is the disparate and ruinous impact this ruling will have on low-to-moderate income inhabitants of towns and cities, whose affordable housing stands in the way of "higher use" developments:
"Gee, Grandpa and Grandma in the old downtown neighborhood. Your property taxes are frozen and can't be increased, so we just can't get enough tax dollars from you to justify the level of services we have to provide. Make way for the new downtown Cineplex that our developer buddies have planned."UPDATEPeter Sean at Lex Communis focuses in on Justice Thomas' dissent
"Gee, landlord providing affordable housing to several low income families. Your property just doesn't generate enough income, and thus you don't pay enough taxes, to justify the level of services we have to provide. Make way for the new Condominium complex that our developer buddies have planned."
, which notes that the Court's decision impacts the poor and minorities most.
From Justice Thomas' opinion:
Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful. If ever there were justification for intrusive judicial review of constitutional provisions that protect “discrete and insular minorities,” United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152, n. 4 (1938), surely that principle would apply with great force to the powerless groups and individuals the Public Use Clause protects. The deferential standard this Court has adopted for the Public Use Clause is therefore deeply perverse. It encourages “those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms” to victimize the weak. Ante, at 11 (O’Connor, J., dissenting).