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Eminent domain: an imminent rip-off

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By The Staff

Commissioner Kevin McCasky’s “controlled” discussion of the proposed Northwest Parkway (to connect C-470 with E-470) at the Lake House town hall meeting on Nov. 2 raises the question of whether building the Northwest Parkway with private funds depends on the government’s use of eminent domain.

McCasky cut off discussion of the Parkway when Charles Kohlhaas, a retired School of Mines professor, attempted to raise questions about what it would do to Golden. Charles wanted to discuss how the Parkway would affect traffic in the narrow Golden valley. The abrupt cutoff of the discussion left some of us with a sour feeling about the Lake House meeting. It appears as if McCasky is open to only hearing from people who share his own opinion. It is too bad he does not really want to hear from the public.

The use of eminent domain by government to take private property and turn it over to private companies thwarts the public will. The public is not given the chance to approve or disapprove taxes to build the project nor does it get to vote on the use of eminent domain to get the property needed for the project.

If the public is not willing to democratically support a project by increasing taxes to pay for it, why should eminent domain be used to bypass the public’s will and give property to companies? Companies are in business to make profits and/or pay executives lavish salaries. If companies will not buy property on their own at market prices, they turn to government to use eminent domain to obtain the property at discounted prices. This leads to the obvious question: Did they “buy” eminent domain with political contributions or making under-the-counter deals? Not only is this cheaper for the companies, which may be given the land paid for by taxpayers; it harms the people whose property is taken.

Eminent domain should not be used to obtain private property and turn it over to corporations. It has sometimes been misused to take property away from small businesses and private owners and give it to large corporations, such as Walmart. We have seen numerous cases of the damage this process has done to small businesses. We have occasionally seen cases where the public has fought back and defeated the taking of property for businesses. Eminent domain should be used only for tax-supported public projects that the people are willing to support, such as schools and public roads, not for privately owned toll roads.

Do not use eminent domain for the profit of large corporations that force out small competitors. Do not use eminent domain as a way to bypass the will of the people. Government should be responsive to the people, not to the dollar or to corporations seeking to take private property from unwilling parties.

If the Northwest Parkway cannot be supported by public taxes and can be built only by private corporations using eminent domain, then it should not be built.

This week’s Candid Curmudgeon column was written by Garth Coombs, a retired chemical engineer. The Evergreen Curmudgeons are a group of retired professional men who are citizen advocates.