Last night, IJ Director of Community Organization Christina Walsh sat on a panel with the local NAACP presidnet, the director of the Clarksville Urban Resource Center, and a representative from the Department of Justice at forum to allow Clarksville citizens to speak out about the city’s downtown development plan and the ways in which the city has treated those threatened by eminent domain. At least three representatives from the Department of Housing & Urban Development attended the forum.
According to Christina Walsh, all the government officials were keenly interested in hearing what the people had to say about the plan and about the ways in which their elected officials have been treating property owners.
With the possibility that Clarksville would have applied for federal HUD funds in the redevelopment project, Walsh reminded those in attendance that as long as the Bond amendment is still in the HUD appropriations bill, federal funds cannot be used in projects that use eminent domain for economic development that primarily benefits private entities.
“Clearly, the confluence of bad law and politically connected developers here does not bode well for the citizens of Clarksville, who have been virtually abandoned by the very political officials they elected to represent their best interests,” said Walsh. “Local governments very often disguise their intentions of transferring perfectly fine properties to private developers, declaring so-called ‘blight removal,’ ‘urban renewal,’ or ‘slum clearance’ as the justification for eminent domain.
“…[T]hey hide behind this ‘public use’ concept in their quest to acquire property for the private use of developers.”