Friday, June 23, 2006

The Great Texas Land Grab

Texas politicians do little to protect private property rights after the Supreme Court's ruling on eminent domain.

Kelo Ruling

Revolting development ripples through the Lone Star State

On June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court made it official. Private property in the United States--and the Republic of Texas--was up for grabs.

The stunning 5-to-4 ruling in the Kelo vs New London case meant that our state and local officials could keep using the government's power of eminent domain to take private property, then convey or lease it to a private developer--even if it merely offers a benefit to the public.

In the legalese of case law on government "takings," the Supreme Majority used what is called a "permissive approach" in their ruling.

I'll say they did.

They gave every well-connected bureaucrat, ‘pork’ speculator, and fat cat campaign contributor the green light to grab your property--as long as the rationale is plausible enough for the average numerologist, Ouija Board scholar, boondoggle consultant, or Texas Legislator.

SCOTUS ruling

A lawyer with the Institute for Justice, called it "a sad day for the country and a sad day for the Constitution."

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was born in El Paso, spoke for the minority:

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. "

The wrecking ball is in the court of the state legislatures.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing from his ivory tower, suggested we could trust our state legislatures to define what property could be taken for public use.

Say what, John Paul? Trust our elected officials?

Guess you can tell John Paul is not from Texas--even if he does have two first names.

Texas pols, not to be outdone by their brethren in Washington D.C., do much of their government "bidness" behind closed doors (click here).

Our laws and their many loopholes are ghostwritten by lobbyists, attorneys and "consultants"-- many of them former legislators-- to enrich their benefactors and cronies. And they work hard to keep it that way (click here) . More than a few Texas politicians have made their fortune through the power of eminent domain, including a former president's son and baseball team owner who happens to reside in the White House (click here and here).

Caution: Blowback may be closer than it appears

In Texas, some 95% of property is privately owned, and most of these folks are still pretty hot. Justice Stevens would be wise to take a detour around the Lone Star State if he travels this way--at least until this whole Kelo thing blows over (click here).

Even the Reason Foundation , a brain brothel with a storefront in Santa Monica California, knew the heat was coming. They advised Dubya to lie low:

Letter to President Bush: Stay on Sidelines in Eminent Domain Case

(11/1/04) The U.S. Supreme Court will decide this term whether state and local governments can use eminent domain to take non-blighted homes in the name of economic development. In this letter to the Bush Administration, Reason Foundation joins the Coalition Against Eminent Domain Abuse in urging the Administration not to file a brief in Kelo v. New London. Filing a brief against property owners in this case would be both disastrous to property rights and a serious affront to the promise of "expanding property ownership" the Administration champions.

Good call, dudes!

Porkus interruptus

Meanwhile, back at the Chicken Ranch, the Texas Legislature had already granted so many governmental and non-governmental entities eminent domain authority, they’d lost count (click here).
In the middle of their latest pork-fest, Texas Pols were caught with their pants down and their hands in the cookie jar.

Mark Twain’s saying "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session," was never more true in Texas--especially when the 77th, 78th and 79th Legislatures were at it. The greatest beneficiaries of their largesse were some of Governor Perry’s Campaign donors (click here).

Under the tutelage of the road-building lobby, the Texas legislature quietly cooked up two stealth constitutional amendments (Props 2 and 15) and a porcine transportation bill (HB3588).

The enabling legislation allowed Rick Perry's political appointees on the Texas Transportation Commission to turn TxDOT, already a multibillion dollar bureaucracy, into a monstrous special-interest pork funnel for Perry's supporters (click here).

Thanks to Governor Perry and our lapdog legislature, a host of unaccountable TxDOT bureaucrats and newly minted 'Regional Mobility Authorities' are waiting to grab private property for more than just “roads.”

They can use these new powers to condemn land and negotiate CDA’s (Comprehensive Development Agreements) with multinational corporations. A Texan's property can now be taken by the state and be dangled as an enticement for foreign and local toll road “corridor” speculators to ease the pain if their state subsidized boondoggle goes south (click here).

The Ghost of Cortez Stalks Texas

With “public-private partnerships” on the lips of every lobbyist and Enron apologist, the 79th legislature sweated last year to save Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor Plan, a massive toll road corridor and land lease scheme, big and bold enough to make any modern conquistador proud.

Trans Texas Corridor Land Grab

And now to fulfill Governor Perry’s pork-sotted “vision,” the State of Texas will need to take approximately 584,000 acres –that’s over 900 square miles of private property. In fact, TxDOT is expecting so many eminent domain cases from the TTC, that they've been lobbying the Legislature to not only increase the number of courts allowed to hear eminent domain cases, but to make the process "more efficient. "

Governor Perry backs this state sanctioned land grab--and apparently much of the Texas Legislature does too.

Forget what these porkers say. Just look at what they did.

Their actions reveal that they are little more than sock puppets for their financial backers.

Hogwash and whitewash.

Much of the public Kelo condemnation spewed by our Texas pols in 2005-- especially the weak eminent domain bill Governor Perry signed--was election year political theater of the spaghetti western genre.

The bill is so full of loopholes that it does little to protect the average property owner--and does nothing to rein in the Trans-Texas Corridor. For more on this, click here, here, here, here, here, and here.

So folks, the sad, sorry truth is that the Red Republic of Texas, with its current leadership, is flat out liberal in its use of eminent domain—and it’s about to get much worse.

Unless voters pay attention, throw these hogs out, and press for a strong eminent domain amendment, property rights, the average citizen's hedge against government corruption and abuse, will vanish faster than our Governor (a former Aggie cheerleader) can say "Adios, Mofo."

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