What if your city decided that you no longer had a right to live in your own home? You weren’t behind on your bills, you didn’t owe back taxes, but that the city decided your home was necessary for a project of the “greater good” of the community? Maybe the town made promises to a major corporation that it would clear some neighborhoods near an area they want to source their headquarters.
Maybe the town wanted to put in different things on that land, hoping, even promising, that those development plans would yield greater tax revenues.
Insert Susette Kelo, who owned a nice pink home in New London, Connecticut. The situation I described above is actually what she went through. Her pink house is depicted above. She fought the city’s application of eminent domain, specifically, whether or not promises of economic growth qualified as “public use” under the auspices of the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause.
Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where she lost, in a 5-4 decision (Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)). But, she didn’t lose her home. She had it moved to another location, not at her expense. The other ousted home-owners were compensated, and the city spent $78 million to clear the land for the developments.
What has happened since?
- The tract of land remains undeveloped.
- The jobs/tax revenue that were to be created do not exist.
- The city is further in debt because of the case.
- 43 states have passed laws that limit the ability of governments to use eminent domain.
- Pfizer moved its research headquarters out of New London.
If I were a candidate running for office, like in the case of the Christine O’Donnell debate, this would be one of my top answers for “worst Supreme Court decision in recent history.”
However, as you can see by the results, it spurred enough ill-will towards the idea, that the backlash has been beneficial. Unfortunately, we still have a precedent by the highest court in the land allowing government planners to dole out corporate welfare at the expense of the property rights of individuals. And that ain’t right.