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Duo tackles eminent domain

Once again, we join Red and Fred at the local café as they discuss issues of the day. Red takes a sip of his coffee…

Red: This java is good. I didn’t like it at first when they switched to this strong stuff, but now that I got used to it I think it’s pretty good. Wonder where it comes from?

Fred: A coffee farmer who is getting a premium price.

Red: Speak English, man.

Fred: This coffee comes from all over the world. The company that sells it pays coffee farmers more than the commodity price so that the farmer can help his family and have a more sustainable business.

Red: Oh. Socially responsible coffee, huh? The government just can’t stay out of everything.

Fred: This isn’t the government. It’s the private company that’s doing this. (Pause, as Fred takes a sip). If you want to see the government get socially responsible, all you’ve got to do is look across the street at that whole block of run-down buildings and that sorry neighborhood around it. The City Council is thinking about taking the whole kit and caboodle from the owners so that they can sell it to a developer. There is a big demand for that land if it was vacant. There’s a developer from Memphis who wants to put in one of those New Urbanism developments.

Red: I heard that. Only problem is, some of those people aren’t going to sell. They grew up in those houses and paid for them. Those things that we would call shacks are all they got. They may be poor and have a bad house, but they’re proud. They will never sell to the government.

Fred: What if the neighborhood got better?

Red: They call that communism, ole buddy. This is America. A man’s home is his castle. Remember, the Legislature passed a law this year that said just that. If somebody comes into my castle, I can shoot his you know what. I don’t care how bad the neighborhood is, the government can’t take a man’s land. It’s the law.

Fred: No it’s not.

Red: Get out of here.

Fred: There is a thing in the law called imminent domain that says that the government can take private property for public use if the owner is paid fair market value for it.

Red: Well, even if that’s true, it ain’t public use when the government takes it away and then sells it to a real estate developer. Why would the government do that?

Fred: To make the neighborhood better. You do agree that the neighborhood would be better, don’t you?

Red: Oh yeah, it would be a lot better. The government would get a lot more taxes too. Now there’s your real reason the government wants it. Admit it.

Fred: It is certainly true that there would be more tax revenue to the government.

Red: Why doesn’t the government just make all those owners a fair price for their property, or even a higher price?

Fred: They did that. But that “proud” owner you talked about refused to sell.

Red: Well, that’s his right.

Fred: Don’t you want to see our town improve?

Red: Yeah, man. But the government should be doing something else to improve this little ole town of ours; not taking property from poor, proud people. What we really need the government to be doing is bringing some jobs to this community.

Fred: Oh really?

Red: Darned right.

Fred: What about that project out near the industrial park? The manufacturing company wants to expand. They pay wages above the state average, and over 200 people from this town work there. They said they could hire another hundred workers if they could expand that facility. The word is that they might open a new plant in Georgia if they can’t grow here. Unfortunately, they can’t expand.

Red: Sure they can. There’s a two hundred acre cornfield right next to that plant. Old man Harris had it on the market for three years and nobody wanted it. They could just buy his field and expand.

Fred: Harris won’t sell it to them.

Red: The City Council should make him sell it to them. We need those jobs.

Fred: But the government can not just make people sell their property.

Red: Then they should use that domain thing you talked about so that the company can expand.

Fred: But that would mean that the government is taking someone’s property and then selling it to someone else for new development.

Red: Sounds good to me. We need those jobs. Hey Sue, we need some more coffee over here.

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