Latest from the Correspondents' Corner

In April 2002, the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency voted to use eminent domain to push many tenants out of a mall so that they could build a project on a much larger, glitzier scale, to be named “Destiny USA.” But the business and homeowners took destiny into their own hands: they joined together to form the “Salina 29,” led in part by Phil Jakes-Johnson, and began their activism by attending the Castle Coalition’s national conference in 2005. In January 2007, after almost two years of persistent activism, OCIDA took eminent domain off the table for the plan.

How Do You Spell “Em-men-nent”?

By Phil Jakes-Johnson

Syracuse, New York

In March of 2005, I learned how to spell “eminent” without any hesitation. That was the month Onondaga County, N.Y., decided my business, along with 26 other businesses and two homes, would be a great place to have a 325-acre research park.

My first informal organizational meeting of property owners revealed the myriad of opinions and personalities affected by this land deal. I thought people would be excited about the new project that said we would be bought out by another private company eager to use our land.

My enthusiasm was not shared throughout the group. Some referred to the deal as a “bargain-basement” buyout. Others were not opposed as long as proper compensation would to be implemented. We knew that eminent domain was on the table, but we were unclear as to how our land was going to be used for public good. We thought that if our buyer was another private company, then eminent domain could not be used.

As the details of the project were revealed, we realized that eminent domain was in fact possible and happening. Our land was being assessed, not for the benefit of public good, but for the benefit of another private company. The situation grew more complex, and it became clear that if we wanted to protect our land we would have to be a conglomerate of 29 and not 29 individuals fighting alone.

Read the rest here.