The government doesn’t think the theft of physical property is much of an issue, yet owning private property is one of our most sacred rights as Americans.
Private ownership sets the United States apart from so many of the countries of the world. Having near-exclusive rights over that property sets us apart from everyone. Much of that changed in 2005 when the Supreme Court came down with the Kelo vs. New Haven ruling that has wrecked lives for ten years throughout the country.
Janet Rodriguez sits in her West Haven, Connecticut home today with her two children and her husband Fernando waiting for the government to come and take her home so they can build a waterfront mall that will bring in business and allegedly lower taxes for the residents of West Haven.
She has lived in her home for ten years and it’s so much more than a house. The memories and the suffering they’ve lived through in the home would make it too painful to leave. The home they cherish was always the point of stability, the one constant that they worked so hard for.
What the developers are offering to pay for it won’t leave the family enough money to for a down payment on a new house after she pays her mortgage. It’s not like it was ten years ago.
Her neighbor, Bob McGinnity, is a retired railroad engineer and it has been his home for fifty years. He has upgraded his home and West Haven has been his home for his entire life.
Neither Janet Rodriguez nor Bob McGinnity plan to move. They are going to fight city hall as others have done and failed.
Of the 56 homes the developers want, 48 have been sold.
If the remaining families don’t sell, the government will condemn their homes and just take them. It’s the law thanks to one of the most despicable rulings of the Supreme Court in recent times.
The 2005 Kelo case changed the way Eminent Domain operates. Instead of taking property for public needs, it can now be taken by private developers.
Forty-two states have passed laws curbing Eminent Domain after the Kelo case.
States receiving an F are: Arkansas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.
Connecticut is in the D category. For Mrs. Rodriguez and Mr. McGinnity, it might as well be an F.
Once developers fail in negotiations with the homeowners, the city will take over because a mall will “buoy the spirits” of the townspeople. If negotiations fail, they will condemn it and take it.
In 2005, when Suzette Kelo’s little pink house on the water was being stolen for development (development that never took place), they offered her a fraction of what it was worth.
It was ten years ago in June that the Supreme Court made their horrendous anti-private ownership decision. The case needs to be overturned.
A journalist, who wrote a book about the Kelo case gave a keynote address at a private dinner in 2011, in which he talked about Suzette Kelo’s personal story. In a most astounding statement, one of the state Supreme Court judges, Richard N. Palmer, approached Suzette Kelo and the journalist, Jeff Benedict, after the address, and said, “Had I known all of what you just told us, I would have voted differently.”
Suzette and the journalist were speechless because his vote would have changed history. The Justice “turned to Suzette, took her hand and offered a heartfelt apology. Tears trickled down her red cheeks. It was the first time in the 12-year saga that anyone had uttered the words ‘I’m sorry.’ It was all she could do to whisper the words: ‘Thank you.’”
Developers are almost always tied to a political party which makes this decision a political and unsavory one.
Over the years, Eminent Domain has gone from being used solely for public use to use by the public for private development, including privately owned shopping centers, conference centers, resorts, auto malls, movie theaters, and so on. A developer who curries favor can claim public use for land that would normally be sold privately.
The June 23, 2004 Kelo v. New London case was the deciding case.
The state decided to take Suzette Kelo’s beautiful waterview home, nicknamed The Little Pink House, as well as her neighbors’ homes, for use as a resort hotel and conference center, a park, and 80-100 new residence with office space.
Suzette fought the case. The Supreme Court of Connecticut found that the economic project would create new jobs, increase tax revenues, and revitalize a depressed area, thus making it a public use case. On June 23, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the State of Connecticut (Kelo v. New London 2005).
The City eventually agreed to move Susette Kelo’s house to a new location and agreed to pay substantial additional compensation to other homeowners, something they were not willing to do originally.
This was an entire neighborhood they were willing to destroy, a long-privately-held community, and they did.
As it turned out, ten years later, it’s still an undeveloped, bulldozed area. All projects have fallen through. It cost the city $78 million to destroy the homes and prepare the land for development.
The original redeveloper was unable to obtain financing and abandoned the redevelopment project, leaving the land an empty lot. It was eventually turned into a dump by the City. This had been the Trumball neighborhood, a well-cared for and loved community of neighbors who looked after one another as they had for decades.
Jeff Benedict, Hartford Courant journalist, wrote a book about Suzette Kelo’s story called The Little Pink House.
It’s an American tragedy of stolen land that is playing out all over this country. It’s being abused in state after state, with New York the worst offender.
The Daily Signal had a story about it in June and interviewed some of the victims of this government overreach.
“They put in infrastructure and roads to nowhere, sidewalks to nowhere with always the thought that they were going to have this redevelopment plan where a hotel would come, a health club, cafes, restaurants and stuff like that that never came to be,” Kelo told The Daily Signal.
And for Kelo and Michael Cristofaro—who grew up in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood and whose father was one of the plaintiffs in the case—the wounds from their battle with New London haven’t yet healed.
“If you look out, this is what the city of New London wanted,” Cristofaro told The Daily Signal, standing in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. “This is what they took our homes for—this vast amount of land. This is what the U.S. Supreme Court said that the city of New London was justified in taking our homes—an empty field. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an empty dream.”
video via The Daily Signal