Friday, July 01, 2005

House Votes To Undercut High Court On Property
The Kelo decision has caused such massive public outcry that politicians are seizing on the opportunity to portray themselves as friends of the ordinary property owner. Bills aimed at preventing the use of eminent domain for economic development are moving through several state legislatures, including here in Illinois. And now Congress is getting into the act:

The House voted yesterday to use the spending power of Congress to undermine a Supreme Court ruling allowing local governments to force the sale of private property for economic development purposes. Key members of the House and Senate vowed to take even broader steps soon. Last week's 5 to 4 decision has drawn a swift and visceral backlash from an unusual coalition of conservatives concerned about property rights and liberals worried about the effect on poor people, whose property is often vulnerable to condemnation because it does not generate a lot of revenue. The House measure, which passed 231 to 189, would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to force people to sell their property to make way for a profit-making project such as a hotel or mall. Historically, eminent domain has been used mainly for public purposes such as highways or airports. The measure, an amendment to an appropriations bill, would apply to funds administered by the departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said they will push for a more inclusive measure that would apply to all federal funds.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Volokh Conspiracy - - Eugene Volokh on Takings, Kelo, and privatization

The funny thing is that, in Kelo v. City of New London, it is the (mostly liberal) majority's test that would give the government flexibility to serve public goals by taking property and selling it to private parties, when the government thinks the private parties will be better positioned to provide the public benefit. And it is the conservative dissenters' test that would give the government a strong incentive to own and operate various enterprises itself, or insist that whoever owns and operates them labor under the burdens of being a "common carrier." -- New Reality Show to Exploit Stereotypes for Suburban Dream Home
Here's a press release found by Nancy Levy that ocmes from a civil rights website. They are upset over a new ABC reality show:

A new ABC reality TV series has sparked outrage from fair housing advocates, who say the show could give homeowners the idea they can engage in housing discrimination and stereotyping without any consequences. According to ABC's web site, in "Welcome to the Neighborhood," seven diverse couples will compete to win a beautiful dream home on a "perfect" suburban cul-de-sac in Austin, Texas. Each week of the six-week series, the competing families will participate in a "challenge" given by three neighborhood families who will serve as "judges." ABC's web site states that "the three neighborhood families who will be judging the competing families all love their quiet, picturesque community and are used to a certain kind of neighbor--one who looks and thinks just like them." The families who will be choosing their neighbors are white. The competing families include an African American family, a Latino family, an Asian American family, and a white gay couple who has adopted an African American baby boy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Drought in Chicago - Parts of Midwest Bake in Summer Heat
In case anybody was wondering, we are experiencing drought conditions here. It hasn't rained more than a few drops in many weeks. Lawns are brown, plants are dying, trees are in danger, the wells most communities in Lake County get water from are drying up and having to be drilled deeper...oh, and developers are dumping a bazillion gallons of water on their new subdivisions to get the lawns and artificial lakes jump-started.
The Advocate - Proposal: Replace Souter's home with 'Lost Liberty Hotel'
Time for the Great Karmic Wheel to make a great big U-turn in Justice Souter's direction?
Institute for Justice $3 Million National Campaign Tells Lawmakers: “Hands Off My Home”
Campaign Seeks to Protect Homeowners & Small Businesses After U.S. Supreme Court Eminent Domain Ruling

Fred Pilot called my attention to this:
Through IJ’s Castle Coalition—a nationwide network of citizen activists determined to stop the abuse of eminent domain in their communities—the Institute for Justice today announced the “Hands Off My Home” campaign to give ordinary citizens the means to protect their homes from government-forced takings for private development. The Institute also made an initial commitment of $3 million to fund the national effort to combat eminent domain at the state and local level. IJ made the announcement less than one week after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Kelo decision allowing governments to take property from the rightful owner only to hand it over to another private party for his or her private gain.

My Way News: Chinese riots
As China transforms its economy major civil disturbances are becoming common. The scale of this privatization, much of it dealing with land ownership rights, probably dwarfs even what happened in Eastern Europe. The social dislocation is beyond anything the West has experienced. Just keeping things in perspective...

BEIJING (Reuters) - Thousands of Chinese rioted in a dispute sparked by a lopsided roadside brawl, set fire to cars and wounded six police officers in an outburst likely to worry communist leaders in Beijing desperate to cling on to power. The official Xinhua news agency, in a rare report on a local disturbance, blamed Sunday's riot in Chizhou in dirt-poor eastern Anhui province on a few criminals who led the "unwitting masses" astray. The violence was the latest in a series of protests which the Communist Party, in power since 1949, fears could spin out of control and become a channel for anger over corruption and a growing gap between rich and poor...Protests have become increasingly common in China, fueled by corruption and the widening wealth gap, but authorities are keen to quickly quash dissent and preserve stability...There were more than 58,000 protests, many of them over land rights disputes, across the country in 2003, a Communist Party-backed magazine, Outlook, has reported. This month, villagers in northern Hebei province protesting to keep their land were attacked by a group of armed hired toughs. Six farmers were killed and 48 injured in the ensuing battle.

AB 1098 Assembly Bill - Bill Analysis
The ever-alert Fred Pilot noticed this intriguing paragraph in a bill introduced in California to improve member access to HOA and condo association records. The passage is from the arguments against the bill contained in this bill analysis:

The public policy concepts adopted by the California legislature in 1985 established CIDs to relieve the tax burden from local government. The ability to collect assessments to sustain the infrastructure was afforded as well as establishing equitable servitudes via a contract (the CC&Rs) with the owners. In doing so it (the Legislature) did not envision these volunteer driven communities to mirror government. Therefore, CIDs were not given the protection and insulation afforded to government and elected officials.

Let's unpack this. It seems to reflect the following view: state government "established" residential private governments in 1985 so that local governments wouldn't need to raise property taxes. (Keep in mind that in 1978 Proposition 13 made it impossible for them to do so.) So, CIDs are a way for government to circumvent limits on taxation that were put in place through direct democracy. And CIDs are intentionally illiberal. You are going to get more local government whether you want it or not, and if you won't pay for it, you will get it on the cheap.

Now, keep in mind that what the voters wanted in passing Prop. 13 was a cut in property taxes through reduction in government spending. What they got was an additional level of government that is now costing them a fortune in assessments, along with a ton of headaches. Add up the property tax bill and the assessments, and then you see the real cost of local government in the post-Prop. 13 era.

And how can people continue to view HOAs as always being purely private institutions, when you read something like this? It is becoming obvious that HOAs are, in some places, an extension of the local state. They clearly have the potential to be used by government to extent it's taxing and service delivery capacity and its power--even if the voters have said, "no, thank you."


Monday, June 27, 2005 Housing bubble trouble - Mass. home sales plunge 11.1 percent
Did you hear something go "pop"?

The bubble hasn't burst, but the air may be leaking out. Massachusetts may be finally entering a buyer's market for homes, experts said yesterday after new data showed the volume of single-family house sales plunged in May by the largest amount in nearly three years. About 4,142 single-family homes sold last month, down 11.1 percent compared to the same period last year. It was the second straight month in which the number of year-over-year home sales declined in the Bay State, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported.