Monday, October 8, 2012

No. 1 Faux Issue of the Election Season: Eminent Domain

On the Virginia ballot this November 6th is AG-wannabe Rob Bell’s pet project and lynch-pin of his candidacy – a constitutional amendment to limit eminent domain.  Bell, along with   other wannabes like Corey Stewart, tout the amendment as as a vital protection for small property owners.

Bell also reminds you to always wear your tinfoil hat to keep the government from probing your mind.

First of all, there’s this thing called the Fifth Amendment that requires governments (local, state or national) to fairly compensate property owners for the property taken by the government, regardless of the purpose.   Second, there’s already a Virginia statute, also Bell’s brainchild, that does essentially the same thing as the state amendment would.   As such, the constitutional amendment does virtually nothing for property rights – but it does give Bell a bullet point for his campaign mailers.  In other words, it’s nothing more than pure politics.

Frankly, both the statute and the amendment are misguided.  Local governments must be allowed to use the full tool box, including the ability to partner with private enterprise, to rehab inner cities through economic development programs.  Regardless of how those programs are executed, keep in in mind, property owners are always going to be compensated for their property at market value.  The measures advanced by Bell simply allow slumlords to extort those municipalities and obtain prices in excess of fair market, thereby giving them the ability to derail broader economic development plans.

Bad idea.  Bad politics.

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