This one slid under the electrified fence, wriggled through the bales of razor-wire, and nearly escaped. Fortunately, my elf-eyed wife Sachi caught it in the spotlight at the last moment.
After the Supreme Court held in Kelo v. New London that the city of New London could seize non-blighted residential real estate and sell it to a developer for no other “public use” reason than the fact that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. would pay more property tax on that land, many of us predicted that it would be open season on private property… and not just residential, either. Why not seize a group of small businesses, throw the owners out with a cut-rate payout, and sell the land to a much larger corporation? Wouldn’t the public be better served by a brand, spanking new commercial apartment complex than some dirty old auto-parts stores?
Well, I know you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that the City of Oakland — whose mayor is the former governor of California and champion of the little guy Jerry Brown — has done exactly that, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Thriving businesses, including Revelli Tires and Autohouse, the latter owned — formerly owned — by first-generation immigrant Tony Fung, have been told to pack up and move out, find somewhere else, go away, because Oakland needs their property for a wonderful new private apartment complex.
Oakland also evicted Tony Fung, Revelli’s next-door neighbor and the owner-operator of Autohouse on 20th Street. “I am a first-generation immigrant, ” Fung told me. “This is my American dream.”
To hell with Fung’s dream — the City of Oakland seized it, so that someone else can build on it. And without offering enough money for Fung to relocate his business, he says.
It’s all part of Oakland’s downtown redevelopment. When reporter Debra J. Saunders caught up with Brown, he was in full Captain Renault form:
“I know Revelli,” said Brown. “He fixed my brakes, twice.” Brown lives seven blocks away from Revelli’s shop. He admitted that Autohouse and Revelli Tires are not blighted, but told of other buildings nearby that were crime- ridden and vermin-infested before the city pushed for redevelopment.
“You cannot have a downtown with this kind of abandonment,” said Brown. And: “There is a greater good here,” in eradicating the blight and replacing it with homes.
I’m shocked, shocked to find that Eminent Domain is going on in here!
Your takings, sir.
Lest we think Jerry Brown might not have a heart of gold, but perhaps some other element (Plutonium springs to mind), he hastened to reassure us that he’s still fighting for the little guy:
The mayor also made a pledge: “It’s not easy, but I personally pledge to do everything I can to get [John Revelli] located.” Fung, too.
It almost raises a lump in the throat. Or perhaps one’s gorge.
So until and unless each and every state in the Union gets busy and enacts a state constitutional amendment insisting that “public use” actually means, you know, use by the public, don’t imagine for one second that your own property is secure. Assume all property is under imminent threat of Eminent Domain whenever the local Eye of Sauron notices its existence.