Saturday, June 25, 2005

Government Taking Property - Washington State

The US Supreme Court made a decision this week that extended the Constitution and shrunk our property rights. No longer does "for public use" mean for public use. It now means for public or private use. The constitutional protection against the government taking our property has limited the government to taking property for public use. We all understand that that means for a street or other public right of way or building. But cities discovered that they could get more tax revenue by taking homes to make a large parcel of land for a major retailer. But that's taking the land to sell it to a private company. Unconstitutional. Until this week. I have heard several places that Washington is one of the few states that has stronger wording in our constitution and so we will be protected from this decision. That sounds good to law professors who look at our laws and constitution from the distance. But here we see a history of ignoring the constitution so the powerful can do what they want. The Washington Supreme Court hasn't been limited by the Washington Constitution any more than the US SC seems to be. I thought I remembered a recent case here on this very point. But after doing some research it was a different point of law, but still of great concern. In the 1998 time frame in downtown Seattle a new shopping complex was being developed - Pacific Place. The city of Seattle bought the parking garage and gave it to the developer - taking tax revenue and giving it to a private party. That's also a violation of our WA Constitution. OK, I looked for it and couldn't find it - this is my memory. And a giveaway of $50 million wasn't enough for then-mayor Norm Rice. The city paid $73 million even though it had just been built at a cost of $50; Rice threw away another $23 million. I bet he made some friends for life by that give away of public funds. The state Attorney General investigated and found this to be OK, despite violating the wording of the Constitution. Then the state Auditor Brian Sontag also OKed it. And they cited WA Supreme Court decisions on the Mariners' baseball stadium and something else. So I accept small consolation in knowing that our state constitution has the right words. Power talks in this state. Update 6/26. The Castle Coalition is an organization that is publicizing eminent domain takings by governments and how to fight one.


tradersmith said...

This decision isn't getting a whole lot of press. I guess the politicians need time to "tool" up their opinions.

This was an unbelievable decision.

One thing that is good is that the property goes to a private entity who then has to pay tax on the 'former' City property.

tradersmith said...

I also heard the word "states rights" used with respect to this decision. It is up to the states to determine property rights within their state.

I kind of go along with that until I hear different. I believe the least power in Washington, DC, the better.

Ron said...

The Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are based on the principle that first of all people have rights. Second, government is allowed to work in limited areas. The SC's Velo decision modifies the Bill of Rights and takes away one of our rights and gives it to the states and local governments.

The founders' intent was that the power be in the people, not in Lynnwood, or Olympia or WA, DC. So the word we should be hearing is "people's rights."

tradersmith said...


tradersmith said...

Today, 7-8, I noticed Weyrich on Newsmax had a good article on the takings issue and some advice on how to fight it.

It involves getting a politician to take a pledge not to use the 'takings' provision for a private developer's profit.

I think I might do that locally with a letter to the editor.