Nelson A. Pryor: Guest Columnist
Coming soon to a cinema near you will be a movie, Little Pink House. It is about Susette Kelo, and her struggle to keep her house in New London, Connecticut, and then, her loss confirmed at the doors of the Supreme Court of these united States.
There was a federal spending program called “Urban Renewal.” It allowed cities to take one’s private property, because it was in a “neighborhood of ‘blighted’ buildings,” and transfer it to others. The Supreme Court accepted New London’s argument that virtually erased the Constitution’s circumscription of government’s “eminent domain” power. 545 US 469 (6/23/2005) This used to be limited by the notably explicit Fifth Amendment, which says: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation (emphasis added). The Constitution’s Framers intended the adjective “public” to do what the rest of the Bill of Rights does: limit government’s power.
Government was limited and could only take private property for the purpose of creating things-roads, bridges, tunnels, public buildings-directly owned by government or primarily used by the general public.
The Big Stretch!
But in 1954, to facilitate slum clearance, in Washington City, the concept of “public use” was stretched to encompass eradicating “blight,” an expansion exploited nationwide by corporations in cahoots with city governments that found blight in cracked sidewalks or loose awning supports.
George F. Will, in his April 19, 2018 Washington Post 19a article: Little Pink House movie dares to speak truth to power,” and gives credit to the Institute for Justice (IJ) for it defense of private property rights, said: “To seize Kelo’s pink house, New London did not assert blight. Instead, it argued ‘public use’ is synonymous with ‘public benefit,’ and the public would benefit from Pfizer paying more taxes than would Kelo and her neighbors.”
Should one be able to bust the united States Constitution, by taking off the burden of limits, just because such resulting unlimited government would be beneficial to someone? Congressman James Blair, of South Carolina, explained the results of taking off the limits placed there, by the action of the States, which resulted in their ratification of the instrument. In the Feb. 1, 1831, Register of Debates 558-9, Twenty first Congress, First Session. Blair took on the problem of the “poor people of Georgetown,” and proved that the Congress had no power to give them any wood. An important milestone in preserving our government, in Washington City, from the destruction of nullification, which would have caused a war between the States at that time.
Down in the City of Riviera Beach, County of Palm Beach, Fl., Fane Lozman, won his battle against the taking of his private property. Even after the city had destroyed his private property (a house boat), The united States Supreme Court, in 2012, declared that federal admiralty law could not be applied to that taking. A victory for the rights of private property. Feb. 26, 2018, Washington Post pp. 1 & 6.
The movie has just debuted in New London, where governmental economic planning ended predictably badly; Pfizer came, exhausted its subsidies, then departed, leaving a vacant lot where the pink house once stood.
View the trailer (iam.ij.org/LPHtrailer) and consult watch. LittlePinkHouseMovie.com to learn about showings elsewhere.