I Did a column for the Knoxville news sentinel on eminent domain pro/con I did the con side of the argument. I will post it below if you want to read it or you can check it out at www.knoxnews.com and then click the opinion section . I will also be on George Korda's radio show on FM 100.3 or on the internet www.newstalk99.com today from 12 till 2 talking about the same subject.
When I introduced legislation during our last session to stop eminent domain abuses, I quickly met with opposition from the Tennessee Municipal League and other legislators who felt that the interests of strip malls and sports stadiums exceeded those of an average, everyday Tennessean. While I fully understand the concept of "public use" with regard to eminent domain seizures such as for schools and roads, stretching the boundaries by changing the terminology to "public benefit" has a limitless potential for abuse.
The recent Kelo v. New London decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has touched off a firestorm of opinions across the state of Tennessee. Prior to the Magna Carta, it usually took physical strength to protect against the lawlessness and abuse that ruled the day. Our forefathers risked everything to embark upon a bold experiment that would leave the lords and serfs of a feudal system behind, and instead built in individual property rights as a cornerstone of liberty in our new society.
The American dream of owning your own land, home or business is now threatened under the Kelo shadow-for it plants seeds of insecurity and doubt when no one knows if their property may be subject to seizure for the "economic good" of the community.
Such action returns us to pre-Magna Carta times, except the battles for property will not be won by the physically superior, but rather by the wealthiest or most politically connected.
The Kelo decision has served to highlight an encroachment on personal rights; however, the firestorm of the Kelo decision was started by numerous smoldering cases in local communities all across Tennessee and this nation. Sometimes, as in the case of elderly Knoxville resident Dan Hale, the seized property is resold before the owner has ever moved out.
Most victims of eminent domain seizures have been too scared or financially unable to legally challenge such seizures in the courts of law as well as public opinion.
Many residents of Knox County take pride in the local flavor of its businesses, in the small town feel of some its communities. Kelo offers no hope for smaller independent businesses, only fear. Churches as well as other non-profit agencies are especially vulnerable to seizure. If such organizations fail to abide by the political agenda of those in charge of economic development, such organizations might someday find themselves the victims of such abuse. The very fact that these institutions seldom produce much tax revenue for cities and counties highlights their vulnerabilities.
The list of vulnerable citizens is long-from farmers, to the elderly and poor, to churches and non-profits, to the corner deli, to unsuspecting families in their dream homes. No one is immune.
We should be extremely careful not to value one person over another. We should constantly remind ourselves of the words written over 200 years ago by our founders, that "all men are created equal."
We don't want to look back and say "when they took the property from the businesses on Western Avenue I did nothing because I wanted a grocery-store. When they took the property on Jackson Avenue I said nothing because I wanted condos. When TVA resold the seized lakefront farmland for millions I said nothing because it was never my land. When they took the small corner church I said nothing because I didn't go there. When they came for my 3 bedroom, 2 bath stucco house I tried to get help to stop them but no one was left to help me."
It is not too late however. There are still precautions, guidelines, and blockades we can build into our state government. I am optimistic that the amount of interest by my constituents and by fellow Tennesseans from across the state can serve as a catalyst to legislative action in our next session.
It is time to tell your state legislator to stop this greasy slippery slope--of justifying the seizure of your private property for "public benefit" . It will surely lead to more infringements on your life and liberty in the name of public good. Ask your legislator to take an active role in this issue before we create a cynical, hopeless society that looks back to the lives of our ancestors as the good ole' days when we all had equil rights.