Monday, June 27, 2005

Our house was our castle and our keep

Just in case you thought you really owned all your posessions... Surprise!

God bless the people in New London that just lost land their families have occupied for decades. Maybe that shiny new hotel would give them a job in the gift shop. It might comfort them to know that even though they can't go home again... at least they could shop there.

The frightening thing is that it's not isolated to Connecticut. Before the ink was even dry on the Zimbabwean Supreme Court decision, Freeport Texas was already gassing up the bulldozers to demolish a seafood processing facility to make way for a private marina. How much more elitist can you get? Run blue-collar jobs out of town so that some fucking snowbird can park daddy's yacht a little closer to the hotel.
The biggest hypocracy comes a few paragraphs down where the city's director of financial development claims that the new hotel would bring 150 to 250 jobs... hey Brainiac: how many jobs are you running off by razing a couple of large food processing facilities? And furthermore, how much better is the pay in a food-packing plant compared with foodservice or housekeeping in a hotel?
The city council needs to take a hard look at changing the name of the town, because "Free" is the last thing you should be calling it.

Similar things are happening in Chicago and San Diego as well.

From the original article:

City Manager Richard Brown said he expects more lawsuits, but believes the land fight is over and doesn't expect a showdown when bulldozers arrive in the neighborhood. Landowners in the lawsuit, however, pledged to continue their fight.
"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said Von Winkle, who said he would battle beyond the lawsuits and fight the bulldozers if necessary. "I won't be going anywhere."

How many people want to take bets on another "Roby Ridge" breaking out? It might not happen in New London, but it's only a matter of time before someone puts their foot down and asserts their inalienable right to life liberty and pursuit of property.
Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't want to see people getting hurt. I do, however, put a lot of stock in the "Four Boxes" philosophy of dealing with the government, and it looks like the first three have failed these people. Most folks can't really look at things in the long term when an overzealous alderman is staring at their home over the top of a bulldozer blade. Paitence tends to evaporate pretty fast in that sort of situation...

Update: I just stumbled onto the Eminent Domain Watch site while reading up on the proposed Lost Liberty Hotel. Not surprisingly, I'm not the only Texan who's pissed about the prospect of city governments becoming claimjumpers. (I always liked that word... I so rarely have an opportunity to use it in a sentence.)
Rep. Frank Corte Jr. (R-San Antonio) is proposing a constitutional amendment to limit the instances in which eminent domain can be used, and will ask Gov. Perry to add it to the special session so that it may appear on the november ballot. It might not happen in time to help the shrimp facility in Freeport, but it should keep another one of these landgrabs from happening again. More details here.


Anonymous Rachel said...

there's not many things that happen in the United States that disappoint me, but this, unfortunately, is one of them... is there much by way of compensation for the workers and the previous owners?

12:01 AM, June 28, 2005  
Blogger Stewed Hamm said...

The owners will recieve "fair market value" for the property, but the actual amount will be less than fair, by definition - because they have no choice in when or to whom they're selling.
I'm not sure how much negotiation (if any) goes on with getting a fair appriasal of the property's value, and what all gets considered. I've got better things to do than probe the depths of real-estate law (unless there's pictures of those liberty and justice personifications... they've got nice racks.)

Ahem. Sorry.

The plant employees will get the shaft, but good. While they're entitled to unemployment benefits, many of them won't accept it because they have more pride in themselves than that. The city will probably make lip service about them being able to apply for jobs at the new hotel complex, but that doesn't do them any good.
"Oh joy! I can get a shitty job that makes half my former pay, but only after I sit on my duff for a year while they build the place. Sign me up TODAY, man!"
I imagine many of them will take whatever crappy service job they can until a new processing plant is built. (assuming it's located nearby) The rest will leave town, and the city itself rots.

This is happening all over the US as small towns try to live year-round off the tourism dollars of their large neighbors. In the meantime they drive off the high-paying industrial jobs that provide the backbone of the community because they're not glamorous enough or don't contribute to the city's "picturesque image."
It's rampant throughout the north along the Great Lakes, and it's sad because it's entirely unnecessary.

4:04 AM, June 28, 2005  

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