November 13, 2006

Did The Voters Really Oppose Prop. 90?

By Did The Voters Really Oppose Prop. 90?

The Orange County Register's Steven Greenhut has some interesting comments on the opposition to Proposition 90, in a column written shortly before the election:

A committee of the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley met recently to discuss whether to support Proposition 90, the statewide initiative that restricts eminent-domain abuse and requires governments to pay for property taken by regulatory fiat.
Assemblyman Ray Haynes, the Murrieta Republican who is supporting 90, told me that a mayor from a nearby city stood up and issued a veiled threat. The chambers enjoy a great relationship with local city councils, the mayor said. It would be a shame if, by supporting Prop. 90, they would ruin that relationship.

"There was no question about the implication of it," Haynes said. The official was warning the business owners who are part of the chambers that if they supported restrictions on the government's ability to take and regulate property, they would pay a price when they came before city councils seeking approvals or development rights. This is common.

Or, take another example dealing with the same initiative. The League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties and the California Redevelopment Association – government-funded organizations that lobby for bigger government and higher taxes and are frantically opposed to Prop. 90 – have dumped more than $4.5 million into the "no" campaign. Some of this money is from their political-action committees but most is from what they call "nonpublic funds" – dollars supposedly raised from ad revenue, seminars and the like.

But the groups are not required to provide the Secretary of State with any accounting of the money. Even if this is above-board, Haynes asks the following relevant question: "Why is government raising money to keep its power?"

Equally disturbing, the bulk of the donations to the "no on 90" committee come from developers who gain financially when cities use eminent domain to transfer properties from small-business owners and homeowners to them.

In her dissent from the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo decision last year, allowing governments to transfer properties from average folks to wealthy developers, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party…. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

The firms contributing to the "no on 90" committee are the ones with disproportionate influence O'Connor cites.

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