Monday, November 09, 2009

New London to New Brighton

Every year as part of the Stockyard Days celebration, the City of New Brighton has an antique car run between the town of New London, MN and New Brighton.

There's another New London that has a direct connection to New Brighton -- New London, Connecticut. That New London is the city that used eminent domain to force out homeowners to provide land for a new facility for local pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The subsequent litigation went all the way to the Supreme Court and formed the basis for perhaps the worst decision of the Court of the decade -- Kelo vs. City of New London.

The decision of the Court essentially eviscerated the the "takings clause" of the 5th Amendment and cleared the way for governmental entities to take land through eminent domain for whatever reason they deem necessary. As it happens, our outgoing leadership in New Brighton greatly admired the Kelo decision and used it as a rationale for stepping up its efforts to take the land of various businesses for the Northwest Quadrant development. Once David Souter and his pals gave the green light, Mayor Larson and Co. went into action.

As has been well documented, the Northwest Quadrant development has been a disaster and the resulting uproar was a primary reason that Mayor Steve Larson was unseated last week. Now comes word that the Kelo site has gone belly up, too:

The private homes that New London, Conn., took away from Suzette Kelo and her neighbors have been torn down. Their former site is a wasteland of fields of weeds, a monument to the power of eminent domain.

But now Pfizer, the drug company whose neighboring research facility had been the original cause of the homes' seizure, has just announced that it is closing up shop in New London.

To lure those jobs to New London a decade ago, the local government promised to demolish the older residential neighborhood adjacent to the land Pfizer was buying for next-to-nothing. Suzette Kelo fought the taking to the Supreme Court, and lost. Five justices found this redevelopment met the constitutional hurdle of "public use."
A "wasteland of fields of weeds," huh? That seems oddly familiar. And the intended beneficiary of the taking walking away from the land? That seems oddly familiar, too.

There's a lesson here and we'll trust our readers to draw the proper conclusions. Maybe someday our leaders will draw the proper conclusions, too.

(H/T: Captain Ed)


Gino said...

normally, a developer will not finalize a land purchase until they have certain things already settled: like zoning changes,etc.

this goes to show you what happens when govt plays the role of businessman.

my name is Amanda said...

In the spirit of giving kudos on well-crafted essays, I think this one of them. There must be a place for eminent domain, a very narrow, very defined, RARE place, because stories like this in New London and New Brighton (or anywhere) are completely awful.