Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Dispatch from New London — It’s About Those Wonderful Folks Whose Plans Are so Great that they are “Well Nigh Conclusive.”

There is an expression out West that something is “snake bit,” meaning that nothing about it ever goes right. It turns out that this is also true of the East, and the latest dispatch from New London, Connecticut, proves it. New London, you will recall, is that wonderful town that gave us the Kelo case in which the Supreme Court bought the Brooklyn Bridge from the city, and held by a 5 to 4 vote that the city’s plans for a redevelopment project were so thorough and so plumb wonderful that they were well-nigh conclusive, leaving nothing for the Supreme Court to review by way of an inquiry into whether the city’s transparently private, money-making redevelopment scheme met the “public use” constitutional limitation. As you surely know, being a reader of this blog, those plans turned out to be worhless — the New London redevelopment project turned out to be an utter failure. After blowing a minimum of $80 million to probably as much as twice that amount, the city produced nothing. The 91 acres of waterfront land the city took from Susette Kelo and her neighbors remains weed-overgrown, trash-strewn and vacant.

Now, the New York Times reports that after much civic whoop-de-doo, the City of New London unveiled what “was envisioned as a striking centerpiece of [the] city’s revitalized waterfront, an eight-foot-high blackened sculpture of an upright whale’s tail from which water gushes in a gentle waterfall that allows children to frolic underneath.” Joseph Berger, Fountain Called ‘Jewel” of a Connecticut Waterfront Becomes a Health Concern, N.Y. Times, June 9, 2011, at p. A19. For the whole Times story click here.

So what’s the problem? We’re glad you asked. It turns out that after a mere two weeks that fountain had to be turned off because it became a source of contamination. A homeless man was caught washing his, er, “soiled” clothes in the fountain. A local resident complained that “people were urinating in the fountain.” You can take it from there. Local folks thereupon expressed their disinclination to let their kids frolic in that fountain, so the city shut it down, and it is now the subject of City Council inquiry. The New London City Mothers are pondering whether to solve the problem by “more chlorination, filtration, on-site supervision and perhaps even a fence. The fountain will remain closed until a decision is reached.” The director of a local museum has opined that it takes time for people to learn how to use a fountain properly. Hmm. How about putting up a sign that says: “No going wee-wee in the fountain”? We are sure the population of New London would appreciate such municipal guidance. After all, what’s a local government for if not to attend to the citizens’ hygienic needs?

We particularly like that “fence” solution because it captures, not just the municipal incompetence of it all, but its positive perversity. First, those folks spend $11 million of the taxpayers’ dollars on a fountain so designed that kids can frolic in it, and then they would fence it off so the kiddies can’t get to it. We humbly submit that not even King Solomon in all his glorious, divinely-inspired wisdom could come up with a more – dare we say it? — Solomonic solution.

And so it goes. Your tax money at work.

Lowball Watch – Maine

The Portland Daily Sun reports that a Cumberland County, Maine, jury awarded $715,000 to the owner in a condemnation action involving the taking of railroad easement rights. The city took the property in 2005, and offered $5002. Because the jury award exceeded that amount there is also interest due on the overage, so that the total amount of the award, including interest and attorneys fees (which are yet to be calculated), comes to $967,000. See David Carkhuff, City Loses $967,000 Eminent Domain Case, The Portland Daily Sun, June 3, 2011. Go to here.

Follow up. The interest figue submitted by the owner is $243,014.50. The city disputes the date of interest accrual. The court is yet to rule. Stay tuned. See here.