Wednesday, August 17, 2005

New London's "New Low"

Thanks to Marginal Revolution for bringing this story to attention. The Kelo v. New London case, which I commented on here and here, has sunk to a new low.

The City of New London used its powers of eminent domain to confiscate the property of citizens residing in Fort Trumbull to transfer to companies who would generate higher tax revenues for the city. After a five year battle to keep their homes, the homeowners eventually lost. Now the city is claiming that it is owed back rents, while the city is only paying the "market rate" from 2000.

NLDC's lawyers wrote, "We know your clients did not expect to live in city-owned property for free, or rent out that property and pocket the profits, if they ultimately lost the case." They warned that "this problem will only get worse with the passage of time," and that the city was prepared to sue for the money if need be ...

One of his neighbors, case namesake Susette Kelo, who owns a single-family house with her husband, learned she would owe in the ballpark of 57 grand. "I'd leave here broke," says Kelo. "I wouldn't have a home or any money to get one. I could probably get a large-size refrigerator box and live under the bridge."

The burden of proof should not have been on the homeowners to prove why their property should remain their property. The burden of proof, and all costs associated with it, should be on the government organization responsible for the taking. The threat of having to pay back rent will only force future victims of eminent domain into submission, in hopes of cutting their losses. This amounts to not-so-cleverly-disguised extortion.

As disappointing and outrageous as this is, I am not surprised. The government, the paternal central planner with whom we have trusted our lives, our retirement, our health decisions, does not always have our best interests as heart. Is charging back rent what we refer to as "just compensation?" A few years ago, those benevolent politicians claimed to want nothing more than to help the homeless. Now they create homelessness.

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