Why are California Republicans Permitting Eminent Domain Abuse?

Partisan politics shouldn’t stand in the way of protecting private property rights. Unfortunately in California, Republicans are siding with bureaucracy, Big Government and eminent domain abuse.

In an effort to close the state’s budget gap, Governor Brown has proposed eliminating California’s 400+ redevelopment agencies. Redevelopment in California is a $1.7 billion, state-subsidized boondoggle.

Sadly, only one Republican voted to eliminate redevelopment: Chris Norby. Every other Republican sided with Big Government, and so the bill to protect private property rights came up one vote short.

California is desperately in need of closing its $25 billion budget deficit as well as providing greater protection to property owners. Brown’s proposal addresses both. As the Institute for Justice explains in its report, California Scheming:

In a state where thousands of properties have been threatened and continue to be threatened, California is in desperate need of meaningful eminent domain reform that will respect the rights and property of its residents. The preceding legal overview in California demonstrates just how difficult it is for private property owners to defend themselves against California’s redevelopment machine, which siphons billions and billions of dollars into a closed economic system that benefits private parties and hurts not only property owners, but all taxpayers as well.

IJ has catalogued nearly 200 projects across the state that have threatened or used eminent domain for private gain; within each of those projects, hundreds, if not thousands of homes, businesses, churches and farms have been impacted.

Steven Greenhut is a recognized expert on California property rights issues. In a recent op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal he writes:

[I]n the last 60-some years, redevelopment agencies have become fiefdoms that run up enormous debt and abuse eminent domain by transferring private property to large developers promising to build tax-generating bonanzas. Today, there are 749 such projects. In the late 1950s, there were only nine….

In the 12 years I’ve spent reporting on this issue, I’ve seen an agency attempt to bulldoze an entire residential neighborhood and transfer the land to a theme-park developer. I’ve witnessed agencies declare eminent domain against churches–which pay few taxes–in order to sell the property at a deep discount to big-box stores that promise to keep city coffers flush. Working-class people and ethnic minorities often are the victims of this process since they often live in the vulnerable neighborhoods, and they have less muscle than big business developers….

While economic development and local control are crucial issues, it’s hard to understand why any Republican would believe that a regime of government planning and subsidy is the best way to achieve those goals. They should be standing up against the abuses of property rights and the fiscal irresponsibility inherent in the redevelopment process and championing market-based alternatives to urban improvement–even if it means defending a proposal from a Democratic governor they often disagree with.

This is an historic opportunity to finally end eminent domain abuse in California, which has been fraught with abuse, fraud, and waste. California needs your help! Do you work in media? Do you have a blog? Is there anything you can do to help?

Simply put, we have a chance to stop Big Government in California. But action is needed now, or it will be too late. For more, visit www.ij.org and check out our facebook page.