Monthly Archives: September 2009

Take a Moment to Bow Your Head in Remembrance and Gratitude


         Maybe it’s our inattentiveness (though we doubt it) but we note that most of the day has gone by without anyone taking proper note of today’s date: September 1st, 2009, the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II. To most Americans World War II began on December 7, 1941, the date that lives on in infamy, to borrow FDR’s line, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. But to much of the rest of the world the war began on Septemeber 1st, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland thus setting off the horrors that would engulf the world as a result.

       Much has been said about that war, and much more could be said, but we won’t attempt to do so here. We only wish to take the time to reflect on the heroism of the many who fought in that war to protect our liberty and to vanquish our vicious foes who slaughtered millions in their failed effort to dominate the world. We also wish to acknowledge the contribution to that effort of Winston Churchill, in our opinion the greatest man of the 20th century, who with astounding clarity saw what was coming and tried to warn his countrymen of the danger ahead. We wish we had another Churchill now, someone with a similarly clear vision of what lies ahead and similar rhetorical gifts with which to arouse the citizenry and make it mindful of the new horrors that face us.

Just Deserts in Pennsylvania

         The Los Angeles Daily Journal informs us in an Associated Press story that justice has been done in Pennsylvania, in the case of a developer named David Katz who . . . Maybe we better quote from the article (David Porter, L.A. Daily Journal, Aug. 28, 2009):

          “The dispute began in the mid-1980s after Katz bought about 730 acres in a mountainous area straddling Interstate 84 where Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York Meet at the Delaware River [in Westfall, Pennsylvania].

          “According to a lawsuit filed in 1994, some Westfall residents tried to prevent Katz from developing the property, first with threats and then by gaining seats on the township’s board of supervisors and changing zoning laws in closed-door meetings, a violation of the state law.

          “Some of the harassment turned ugly, according to court papers; machinery and property were vandalized and Katz was subject to anti-Semitic slurs and threatened with a gun at least once.

         “A federal jury found Westfall guilty of violating Katz’s civil rights and awarded the developer about $10 million in 1999. He later settled with some of the individual board members — none of whom still serves on the board — and agreed to forgive the judgment against the town in return for the town providing water and sewer lines to the planned development.

         “But he later sued for breach of contract, and a federal appeals court upheld a $14 million judgment in 2005. The settlement calls for no interest to accrue [on that figure].

          But Katz, evidently a reasonable man, eventually settled for $6 million — six times Westfall’s annual budget. “Under the terms of the settlement, taxpayers in the township of about 2500 people will be assessed a special tax to pay Katz four payments of $75,000 per year for the next 20 years. The settlement calls for no interest to accrue”

New London Disaster

National Journal Online                       

Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009

The New London Disaster

Why The Supreme Court’s ‘Kelo’ Decision Was A Waste

Gideon Kanner is a professor of law emeritus at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and has been the editor of Just Compensation, a monthly periodical on the law of eminent domain, since 1974. He is past president of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers. Kanner was counsel for property owners in a number of precedent-setting eminent domain cases before the California Supreme Court.


          Few Supreme Court decisions have angered the American public more than Kelo v. New London. Polls taken after the Supreme Court’s 2005 5-4 decision showed public disapproval rates of as much as 90 percent — figures unheard of in political polling.

The Kelo majority held that the Fifth Amendment’s limitation on takings of private property for “public use” only was no obstacle to New London’s taking of unoffending homes in a lower middle-class New London neighborhood, then razing them and giving their sites to a private redeveloper for construction of high-end condos and shops. The city contended in defense of its action that this would attract a more affluent population to New London, by then an old, down-at-the-heels town that was facing problems after the U.S. Navy’s closure of a local submarine base. This redevelopment, thought the city, would create needed jobs and generate higher tax revenues.

The city contended in court that its thoroughly formulated and carefully vetted redevelopment plan would dovetail with plans of the Pfizer pharmaceutical company, which had built a $300 million research center across the Thames River from the redevelopment project. Pfizer’s well-paid professional employees, the city contended, would become the clientele of the upscale businesses and dwellings planned for the redeveloped site. As the Supreme Court put it, “local planners hoped that Pfizer would draw new business to the area, thereby serving as a catalyst to the area’s rejuvenation.”

The city’s contention was characterized by the Connecticut Supreme Court, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, as an effort “projected to create in excess of 1,000 jobs, to increase tax and other revenues, and to revitalize an economically distressed city, including its downtown and waterfront areas.” New London’s lawyer took the position in oral argument that even if the city were to take a Motel 6 to replace it with a Ritz Carlton in order to generate higher tax revenues, that would be a permissible “public use.” The court’s majority agreed, thus deferring entirely to the judgment of municipal redevelopment agency functionaries, and de facto allowing them to pass judgment on the constitutionality of their own handiwork. Thus, it was the perceived quality of the town’s redevelopment plans that carried the day.

But as the Kelo case wended its way through the courts, the city’s vaunted plans began unraveling. By the time oral arguments were heard by the Supreme Court in April 2005, the proposed five-star hotel that would cater to Pfizer’s conjectured upscale guests was scrubbed. It went downhill from there. Even though the redevelopment project was begun in 2000, and the court ruled in favor of the town in 2005, nothing has been done on the ground after the taken neighborhood was razed, except for an attempt to create a Coast Guard museum, which ran out of funds and had to be abandoned. By degrees, the 90-acre tract of waterfront land that comprised the redevelopment area became a trash-strewn, weed-infested urban wasteland. The latest dispatch from New London’s newspaper, The Day, reported that the site is becoming a favorite of birds and bird watchers.

The redeveloper chosen by the city (who was slated to get a 99-year lease for $1 per year) was unable to secure financing even before the crash, and eventually withdrew. No substitute redeveloper has been selected and none appears interested in giving it a try. And as for Pfizer, the glowing projections of increased employment also proved chimerical. Instead, after the Food and Drug Administration disapproved one of its promising new drugs, Pfizer had to retrench and lay off some 10,000 employees.

The cost of this moral and economic debacle came to some $80 million in state and municipal funds. A viable, well-maintained lower middle-class neighborhood was destroyed, and some 90 acres of urban land were removed from the tax rolls for an indefinite period of time, with nothing to show for it except a tidal wave of public ill will directed at the court and at the process of eminent domain in general.

Your tax money at work.