Mississippi voters are set to decide on November 8 whether or not to reform the state’s eminent domain laws to better protect property owners. Only Mississippi, Arkansas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma have so far failed to act in the wake of Kelo. The Mississippi legislature did pass legislative reform in 2009, but it was quickly vetoed by Governor Barbour.
Mississippians have now taken the matter into their own hands, placing eminent domain reform on November’s ballot by way of Initiative 31. Read more about the initiative in State Senator Chris McDaniel’s op-ed in the Laurel Leader-Call, which cites IJ’s research on eminent domain.
The California Supreme Court announced today that they will hear oral arguments on November 10th on the lawsuit challenging legislation passed this summer that mandates California’s 398 redevelopment agencies make a collective payment of $1.7 billion the first year, and $400 million in subsequent years. If the redevelopment agencies refuse or are unable to make the payment, they will be dissolved.
The redevelopment agencies claim the legislation authorizes money grabs, yet they have been taking money from hardworking taxpayers for boondoggle projects for decades. Read more in the Mercury News.
On September 27, the Jersey City Council voted unanimously to pass the McGinley Square Rehabilitation Plan, which removed the threat of eminent domain that previously existed in the redevelopment plan. The original proposal had caused an outcry from property owners, rightly concerned that their homes and businesses were on the chopping block.
Read more about this exciting news here.
From the Philadephia Inquirer:
A federal appeals court ruled that the mostly low-income residents who live in Mount Holly Gardens have a right to argue at trial that Mount Holly Township’s decision to use eminent domain to evict them will have a discriminatory effect and upset the racial balance of the neighborhood.
After about 10 years of litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia reversed a federal judge who had dismissed the case, which was filed by South Jersey Legal Services on behalf of about 20 families who remain in the neighborhood.
More here. This is a huge victory for the Mount Holly homeowners. The fight continues!
The fight over redevelopment has been splashed across papers from Sacramento to San Diego this past summer. In June, Governor Brown signed two bills into law. The first dissolved the over 400 redevelopment agencies in the Golden State. The second, however, allowed redevelopment agencies to live on as long as they agreed to make a collective payment of $1.7 billion in the first year and $400 millions in subsequent years.
Redevelopment agencies are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not liking either of the two choices, redevelopment agencies barely waited for the ink on the bills to dry before filing a lawsuit. They claim the bills are an unconstitutional money grab of redevelopment dollars by the state. The case will be heard by California’s highest court, which established an expedited schedule to allow a decision to be made before January 15, 2012.
Read the Castle Coalition’s press release urging the legislature to eliminate redevelopment agencies here.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 13, 2011
Eminent Domain: The Movie
Brooke Shields to Star as Susette Kelo
In Lifetime Television Movie About
U.S. Supreme Court Eminent Domain Case
Movie Based on Critically Acclaimed Book “Little Pink House”
Arlington, Va.—Anti-eminent domain heroine Susette Kelo will soon join the likes of Erin Brockovich and Norma Rae in seeing her real-world drama turned into a mainstream movie.
Kelo lost her little pink house in a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in which the Court ruled that eminent domain could be used to take homes for private development projects—a decision that outraged the nation.
Lifetime Television is adapting the critically acclaimed Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage by Jeff Benedict into a movie that is expected to move into production this fall and is slated for release sometime next year on the cable movie station. Brooke Shields will serve as both executive producer and star. Joining Shields as executive producer are Michael R. Goldstein and Michael G. Larkin of Larkin-Goldstein Productions.
“The Institute for Justice has worked tirelessly before and after the Kelo ruling to reform eminent domain laws nationwide to better protect homeowners,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, which represented Kelo and her neighbors in their landmark U.S. Supreme Court case. This month, the Institute for Justice marks its twentieth anniversary of litigating for liberty. Mellor said, “We hope this movie will inspire further reforms to end eminent domain for private gain once and for all.”
The saga of Susette Kelo’s little pink house started shortly after Pfizer—the pharmaceutical giant—announced it would move its research and development headquarters into New London, Conn. A local development agency sweetened Pfizer’s deal by abusing its power of eminent domain; the agency sought to take a nearby neighborhood, where Kelo and her neighbors lived, to create a private development complex that would complement Pfizer’s new center. Not so much as one building of the promised development has ever been constructed and in November 2009, Pfizer announced it would close its New London headquarters. More than six years after the redevelopment scheme passed constitutional muster before the U.S. Supreme Court—allowing government to take land from one private owner only to hand that land over to another private party who happens to have more political influence—the plant has closed and the very land where Susette Kelo’s home once stood remains barren to all but feral cats, seagulls and weeds.
Little Pink House was published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group. Copies of the book may be ordered at: http://www.amazon.com. For an inspiring video taking you through Susette Kelo’s historic fight to save her home, visit The Story of Susette Kelo.
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New London politicians have finally found a “public use” for the land where Susette Kelo and her neighbors’ homes once stood. The city has now designated the swath of land a lot suitable for storm debris.
More than six years after the New London Development Corporation bulldozed the Fort Trumbull neighborhood to clear the way for private development, the land remains a barren wasteland. Most recently, the land was being used by feral cats and several bird species as nesting grounds.
New London politicians were convinced that someone else could make better use of the land than the Fort Trumbull residents. Despite seizing these waterfront homes in 2005 for “economic development” purposes, New London has yet to attract a private developer to build the luxury condos and commercial spaces they wanted instead of the close-knit community that lived there. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer even closed the local production plant central to development plans put forth by the city.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon outcome of eminent domain abuse. The Institute for Justice has documented some of the worst redevelopment failures in Redevelopment Wrecks, available here on our website.
A July 13, 2011 New York Supreme Court ruling has brought further scrutiny to the unscrupulous nature of the Atlantic Yards project.
The court’s ruling declares that Forest City Ratner Companies’ Atlantic Yards plan assumes an unrealistic 10-year construction timeline. Consequently, the developer must submit a more accurate environmental impact statement followed by review proceedings on the statement, a possible public hearing and approval pursuant with the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
The decision cites a December 2010 New York City government study finding it “unlikely that the [Atlantic Yards p]roject will be constructed on [the originally planned] 10-year schedule.” The study goes on to suggest that the completion date may be as late as 2035.
The first phase of construction, including a basketball arena and three residential buildings, will not be halted because of “the extent to which construction of Phase I has already occurred.” Moreover, the second phase, thirteen residential buildings, was not stayed as construction is not likely to begin for years.
 Develop Don’t Destroy (Brooklyn) Inc et al v. Empire State Development Corporation et al, Supreme Court of the State of New York County of New York, No. 114631/09.