The Daily Pulse: A Red (White, and Blue) Herring
by dhonig, Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 07:55:58 AM EDT
Today, two issues. First, the eminent domain case. I really wonder whether the people screaming about it read the opinion. It simply did not permit municipalities to take one person's property away to give to anybody that would raise more taxes. It was part of a state-statute authorized and well-researched project to breathe a little life into a dying city. As soon as somebody starts talking about anything less than that, you know they are pushing a B.S. agenda.
Second, the flag amendment. It is nationalism disguised as patriotism. But more important, it is just a huge red herring. Here are a whole bunch of editorials griping one way or another about it, while our men and women die in Iraq, and the FACT that the Bush Administration lied about the war gets short shrift. Cheney recently said the insurgency is in its "last throes," and the deaths keep escalating. And we're talking about a piece of cloth. My prefered reference to this, from now on, will be the Red, White and Blue Herring. Feel free to use it. I would encourage everybody to take this wonderful opportunity to write letters, introducing with that meme to attack every bit of horror the Administration wants us to ignore.
The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution is pretty clear in telling us what government cannot do. It says, "... nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."
What part of "public use" is vague or open to interpretation? Public "use" is not "betterment" or "best interests of all." ...
This decision has the potential to make outright bribery of officeholders an attractive option for someone seeking to use eminent domain. Pay off officials and be granted the go-ahead.
Community officials right now should be discussing how to deal with eminent domain -- and voters should be paying attention.
This has the potential to affect any homeowner or business owner in the state.
Ordinances must be structured to deal -- in advance -- with eminent domain. It cannot be applied selectively -- nor can one size fit all. And it must be an application of last resort.
This is a municipal-election year. Rarely is an issue as vital to communities as eminent domain been a topic of discussion.
This should cause voters to pay attention, get involved, even run for office.
When voter turnout in the 25 percent range is the norm for municipal elections, and 40 percent of office holders are unopposed, the system is not working well. And that is the case in Eastern Connecticut.
The Kelo decision is wrongheaded, but there just might be a silver lining in this dark cloud. That would be the acknowledgment of the people that taking part in government is no less than acting in self-interest.
Think about this decision. And get involved.
Norwich (Connecticut) Bulletin
Eminent domain no longer requires that the taking of private property must be for a compelling reason and be for public use. It simply means that Joe Politician's deep-pocket friends have made a deal with Joe Politician. ...
Herald Tribune (Sarasota, Florida)
"We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any state from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power." ...
Ousting owners from their homes and businesses, against their will, is a drastic government action. It should only be undertaken when a vital, clearly defined public purpose is served and the owners can be justly compensated. Some economic development projects meet those guidelines, but the issue is so disputed that it landed before the Supreme Court.
Examining a Connecticut city's use of eminent domain on behalf of a major revitalization plan, the high court narrowly upheld the policy, determining that New London's plan "unquestionably serves a public purpose," (as required by the Fifth Amendment). The court majority appeared especially swayed by the goal of the plan: relieving the community's high unemployment and economic distress. The properties in question were not blighted, but New London based its action on Connecticut law that authorizes takings for the promotion of economic development. The court majority declined to "second guess" the city council's decisions. ...
The Supreme Court's deep split on this issue isn't surprising. The case is a collision of private vs. public interests, and they are hard to reconcile. The adage, "A man's home is his castle," is sacrosanct in America, yet without eminent domain the nation would lack many of its highways, schools, railroads, water systems, parks, pipelines, low-income housing and other vital public infrastructure. ...
The common good is an expanding concept, and economic development has gradually -- and controversially -- come to be included in that sphere. Thursday's court decision solidifies its constitutionality for eminent-domain purposes, but -- as Justice John Paul Stevens' majority opinion stressed -- states remain free to set tougher standards.
They should do so, without delay. Lax eminent-domain policies favor moneyed interests over average citizens. States must counter this effect with laws that set high standards for "public benefit" and clearly define what that phrase means. Furthermore, if there is voter consensus against takings of non-blighted property, state laws should reflect it. ...
We support the high court's conclusion that economic development is sometimes so necessary that it warrants the exercising of eminent-domain powers. But when the law fails to clearly define the standards that should be met, it invites the nightmare scenario that Justice O'Connor warned of in her dissent.
It's time for legislatures to straighten out the loose and wobbly language of eminent-domain laws. If politicians resist, voters can do some "just compensation" of their own -- at the ballot box.
The Chronicle (Centralia, Washington)
Freedom of speech does not confer the right to do or say anything. There are some justifiable limits, such as on the purveying of pornography, and they should include a ban on burning our flag.
The U.S. flag is particularly sacred because it is the utmost symbol of our country and the huge sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces have made in the more than two centuries of this country's existence to preserve the freedoms and protect the security of the American people. To burn it is an ultimate insult and show of disrespect to our country, all the good for which it stands, and to those who have sacrificed for it in war.
Further, banning flag burning in no way prevents other constitutionally protected political protest against our country's policies. Such a ban does not take away the freedom to protest -- it simply limits it by saying it can't be done by desecrating the flag. We'll bet that an overwhelming number of our military veterans who fought for our freedoms support protection of the symbol of those freedoms and their sacrifices from disrespect. The freedoms they fought and died for include the right to protest, but not to desecrate our flag. ...
Duluth (Minnesota) News Tribune
It was the fifth time the House has passed a flag-protection amendment. Each time the Senate has stopped the measure.
The Senate again should turn back this ill-conceived idea that would stifle political expression protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. Just as odious, if passed by Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures, it would in effect take away a right. The rest of the Bill of Rights grantsrights. (Only the 18th amendment -- prohibition -- took away a right. It was rescinded in 1933.) ...
But courts have correctly ruled that the act is protected free speech. U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., put it well in floor debate last week when, speaking in opposition to the ban, he said, "This amendment elevates a symbol of freedom over freedom itself."
King County Journal (Bellevue, Washington)
It's also hard to understand why burning the American flag would be a criminal offense, but not burning a copy of the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.
Our most serious objection to the House's action is that it would limit individual freedom rather than expand it. Consider other constitutional amendments: granting women the right to vote; abolishing slavery; securing due process. A flag-burning amendment isn't in that league.
Finally, do we really want to join Cuba, China and North Korea as a nation that punishes its citizens for desecrating the national flag? ...
Other editorials of interest:
Bluefield (West Virginia) Daily Telegram
Napa Valley (California) Register
Herald Tribune (Sarasota, Florida)