I can?t remember who first issued the warning, but they were more on-target than they would ever know. No man?s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session. If quotes won Pulitzers, this one would qualify. Make it a Nobel.
Let?s add the United States Supreme Court to this list of entities dangerous to the basic concepts of liberty and to your property rights. In 1795 the Supreme Court described the power of eminent domain as ?the despotic power.? Things change. In the mid-1990s the Supreme Court opened a floodgate of government abuse of private property rights with its interpretation of the ?public use? restriction on government seizures of private property contained in the Fifth Amendment. The Supremes essentially said that any use of private property that could in any way benefit the public legitimizes the seizure of that property from its rightful owner, including the general catch-all of increasing tax revenue.
Since the date of that Supreme Court evisceration of private property rights, local governments have engaged in an orgy of land seizures, often at the behest of private developers, for projects that in no real sense constitute a ?public use.?
For an example let?s pay a quick visit to San Diego?s popular Gaslamp District. There we will find Ahmed Mesdaq?s Gran Havana Cigar Shop and Coffeehouse. Mesdaq has owned his business in the Gaslamp District for 13 years. He recently spent $2.5 million to purchase and renovate his current location. Someone else, though, has their eyes on Mesdaq?s property. A private developer named GRH LLC wants to build a Marriott Renaissance Hotel on the site of Mesdaq?s business. They have tried to buy his property, but Mesdaq says no. He likes his location, he just spent big bucks renovating it, and he wants to stay there. He feels that he can?t find another suitable location in the district for the price that has been offered. That should be the end of the story. Sadly, it?s not.
Enter the San Diego City Council. On April 27th the city council voted to take Mesdaq?s land away from him and hand it over the GRH. The council decided that a nice 334-room Marriott on that property is more to their liking than a cigar and coffee shop because the hotel will generate more in property taxes. Mesdaq will be paid a ?fair? amount for his property. ?Fair,? as determined by the city council, not the free marketplace. Mesdaq will essentially be out of business.
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