Who Hijacked Our Country

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eminent Domain — The Morning After

Poor, poor New London, CT. She was hardworking, virtuous, popular, did everything right, played by the rules. Then she got seduced by a slick smooth-talking stranger who promised to take her away from all this. She fell hook, line and sinker, and said “Fuck You, I’m Outta Here!” to all of her lifelong friends.

Everything was great for a few years. It seemed almost too good to be true. It was.

Now he’s left her — penniless, barefoot, pregnant, with a house full of hungry screaming kids and bill collectors knocking on the door.

Pfizer vs. the property rights of New London homeowners — this was the case that changed the meaning of “eminent domain” four years ago. For centuries the government has taken private property for “public use.” It’s a necessary evil, without which we probably wouldn’t have any railroads, highways, parks, hospitals or schools.

But about eight years ago, city officials in New London came up with the retarded “reasoning” (using the term loosely) that the term “public use” now applies to ANY private development project that MIGHT bring more tax dollars into a community.

Some New London residents filed a lawsuit to prevent their homes from being demolished to make way for Pfizer. One judge after another sided up with Pfizer and the New London city government. And in 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 ruling, upheld these imbecilic lower court decisions. Eminent Domain could now be used to uproot ANYBODY from their own property, as long as the new property owner was wealthier and would (probably) bring in more tax money.

And look at what happened. Pfizer is now planning to move 1,400 jobs out of New London. The “urban village” Pfizer was planning — which was the entire reason these homeowners had their homes yanked away from them! — has never been built. It’s a huge empty parcel blighting the New London landscape. (The linked article has a picture of it.)

Susette Kelo is one of the people whose homes were stolen out from under them by New London city officials and Pfizer. She said: “I’m not surprised that they’re gone. They didn’t get what they wanted: their development, their big plan.”

Scott G. Bullock is the attorney who represented the New London homeowners in court. He said Pfizer‘s announcement “really shows the folly of these plans that use massive corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain for private development. They oftentimes fail to live up to expectations.”

Robert M. Pero is one of the New London city council members who led the drive to evict his own constituents on behalf of Pfizer. His punishment for selling out his city — he’s going to be the new mayor next month. (Talk about the Peter Principle!) He said: “I’m sure that there are people that are waiting out there to say, ‘I told you so.’”

They’ll probably say a lot more than that, you cocksuckin’ son of a whore. I’d say it too if this wasn’t a respectable family blog.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Excellent post, Tom. It leads me to wonder why Pero hasn't been voted out instead of elected mayor.

I've never been to New London, but this makes me suspect it's the kind of place where it's everyone for himself and what happens to the rest happens. That's sad.

As for Pfizer: Phzzztt! Hope your next big ripoff project ends in more costly lawsuits than a deadly dangerous, half-assed-regulated drug.

November 14, 2009 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

SW: Thanks. It doesn't say much for New London voters that they elected Pero to the mayor's office.

Grim article about Pfizer and Lipitor. No wonder Big Pharm keeps pushing for tort reform.

November 14, 2009 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger rockync said...

New England seemed to be rife with towns willing to hop on that corporate eminent domain train.
I'm not sure how such a thing could have gained legal ground in the first place - just horrible.
But it's hard to feel too sorry for idiots that then vote the bastard that caused this clusterfuck back into office.
I'd say more but as you pointed out this is a family blog... ;)

November 14, 2009 at 6:41 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Trying to be responsible, I should say my reference to "deadly dangerous" was over the top. Some people take Pfizer's statin product without problems. IMO, the company and FDA way underplayed potential harmful effects, though, leaving other people to get hurt.

November 14, 2009 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Lew Scannon said...

Our governments are so willing to give everything to the corporations, our neighborhoods and even our homes, with no promise or commitment from the corporation at all. They'll just pack up and leave after sucking every dollar they can from the community.

November 14, 2009 at 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

That's sad. I remember the story, but not the failure of Pfizer to build.

There was a big stink about eminent domain around these parts a few years ago when governor Prick Derry wanted to cut a 1/4 mile wide swath (superhighway, rail, etc) out of the state from Mexico to somewhere way the fuck away, all in the name of commerce. He lost.

And wait a gull-durn minute...If ever there should be tea-bagger like protests, it should be over shit like this. Where the fuck were they then? Where was the outrage over government overstepping its bounds then? Oh, wait, that's right - there were no corporations or special interest groups paying for television and radio commercials, organizing, and writing their protest signs for them.

November 15, 2009 at 2:45 AM  
Blogger Holte Ender said...

Just more proof that long arm of the corporations reaches way past DC, lapping up every tax break they can, before moving on to another trough, and the politicians at every level are complicit.

November 15, 2009 at 7:47 AM  
Blogger Mauigirl said...

We had a similar debacle in our town with eminent domain. It sparked a bunch of lawsuits, a lot of businesses moved out in anticipation of redevelopment - and then no redevelopment took place. It's been stalled for years and our downtown is generally abandoned. Another example of developers + greed = bad ideas.

November 15, 2009 at 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Bee said...

We have eminent domain here, mostly it is used for road widening. There is a main artery nearby where the residents ended up with the main drag 10 feet from their front door. Now that has to suck.

New London, however, has gone to the extreme in allowing corporate eminent domain.

November 15, 2009 at 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Jolly Roger said...

And no one should forget that Holy Joe LIEberman has been in Pfizer's pocket forever. He and his wife are both shameless whores for the pharmas.

November 15, 2009 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Demeur said...

Well Tom if you'll note we have some pretty wierd laws in this state about property rights. There was that wet land law some years back that said if there was so much as a few inches of water on your property at any time of year then it was considered a wet land and you couldn't develop it.

Then there's the law preventing people in certain rural areas here that can't subdivide their property.

November 15, 2009 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Rockync: I hope Pfizer's love-'em-and-leave-'em approach will be a wakeup call for other communities. It's definitely not an incentive for a city government to sell their own citizens down the river just because of a few corporate promises.

SW: I mostly blame the FDA. Their top priority seems to be providing fast approval and a competition-free environment for Big Pharm. Protecting public health is a distant second.

Lew: Yup, sad state of affairs. I hope other communities will learn from what happened to New London. Probably not though.

Carlos: You're right about the teabaggers. When they're blubbering about high taxes and "government takeovers," they manage to forget the billions of dollars in corporate tax subsidies and the government taking people's homes for the sake of a developer. But nobody ever accused those teabirthers of being bright.

Holte: Corporate parasites and the politicians who enable them -- it's hard to say which is more despicable. But the worst part is the "reasoning" of all those judges, from the lowest-level judges all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Mauigirl: Sorry that happened in your town too. Downtowns are fragile enough anyway, between the recession and so many malls and big box stores sucking the life out of the downtown core.

Bee: I guess road-widening is necessary, at least some of the time. But it sucks for the people who live on that road, when their quaint little 2-lane road becomes 4 lanes and their huge front yard turns into a ten-foot buffer zone.

JR: That figures. I knew he was owned and operated by Aetna, among other insurance companies. He should have "Property of Aetna" tattooed on one buttock, and "Property of Pfizer" tattooed on the other.

Demeur: I didn't know Washington has that wetland law too. California has it but I didn't think anyone else did.

November 15, 2009 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Demeur said...

I think it was eliminated because so many property owners complained but I think commercial property must make accomodations if there's a wetland on their property.

November 16, 2009 at 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Group Question

I remember after the supreme court ruling that Congress was under real pressure and did enact that law that changed e-domaine. Am I wrong and only the states did it or what?


November 16, 2009 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Demeur: In general I think the land use regulations in CA and WA are pretty fair. I can see property owners or developers objecting when the rules are changed after the fact; and that wetlands law could lead to a lot of last minute rule changes.

Erik: I'm not sure about that. I know that state and local governments were encouraged to pass laws prohibiting eminent domain evictions unless it really is for public use. There was talk about a federal law withholding federal funds from states that continued to allow eminent domain abuse, but I don't think it ever got passed. According to the linked article, I think there are 7 states that don't protect landowners from eminent domain abuse.

November 16, 2009 at 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just saw this story on ABC Network News. It's the classic game of Welfare and Switch alright. Like Walmart, who has been known to move just a few feet over a line when the subsidies end, just to get new ones.


November 16, 2009 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger kimc said...

California has wetland laws like that? If it is "just a few inches of water" any time of the year, my yard qualifies: it has a small patch where the water table is about 8 inches below the surface, and when it rains a lot....
'Course my yard is about 10 feet by 20 feet....And it's a condo.
Actually, i think this was wetlands originally, back before they filled it in in the late fifties. We did have a family of ducks who showed up every spring for a while, til the kids ran them off.
When sea level rises from global weather chaos, I expect we will eventually be under water.

November 28, 2009 at 1:15 AM  

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