March 25, 2008

Amend the State Constitution to Protect Property Rights

By Amend the State Constitution to Protect Property Rights

PLF client Homer Tourkakis has this article in St. Louis Today this morning, explaining why the only hope for protecting property rights in Missouri is to amend the state Constitution. Excerpt:

My wife, Julie, and I opened our dental practice in 1985. We raised two beautiful daughters and sent them to Missouri colleges. We've tried to be good citizens, providing good health insurance to our employees and treating patients who couldn't always afford to pay.

But our contributions to the community didn't count for much when the city of Arnold decided to redevelop the area called the Arnold Triangle where our business is situated. Eminent domain once was limited to public uses such as roads, courthouses and schools, but a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling confirmed the right of local governments to use it to evict property owners like me to make room for other businesses that generate more economic activity and more tax revenue.

The city likes to emphasize that eminent domain law requires compensation. What it doesn't say is that the compensation I would receive doesn't come close to covering the costs of moving. Setting up our dental practice required extensive modifications to our office and the purchase of expensive and fragile equipment. Moving our equipment and setting up a new office would impose tens of thousands of dollars in costs, maybe more, that wouldn't be covered by the city.

But ultimately, this fight is not about money. If a big developer wants land, it should get it the same way I did: by buying it from a willing seller. If I'm not interested in selling — which I'm not — no private business should have the right to force me off my land.

(Read the rest…)

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