Sustainable development, smart growth and Kelo: Organized theft by any name
By Tom DeWeese
Put yourself in the homeowner's shoes. You buy a home for your family. Perhaps it's even handed down from your father or grandfather. It's a place you can afford in a neighborhood you like. The children have made friends. You intend to stay for the rest of your life.
As you plant your garden, landscape the yard, put up a swing set for the kids, and mold your land into a home, unknown to you, certain city officials are meeting around a table with developers. In front of them are maps, plats and photographs – of your home. They talk of dollars – big dollars. Tax revenues for the city, huge profits for the developer. A shopping center with all the trimmings begins to take shape. You're not asked for input or permission. You're not even notified until the whole project is finalized and the only minor detail is to get rid of you.
Then the pressure begins. A notice comes in the mail telling you that the city intends to take your land. An offer of compensation is made, usually below the market price you could get if you sold it yourself. The explanation given is that, since the government is going to take the land, it's not worth the old market price. Some neighbors begin to sell and move away. With the loss of each one, the pressure mounts on you to sell. Visits from government agents become routine. Newspaper articles depict you as unreasonably holding up community progress. They call you greedy. Finally, the bulldozers move in on the properties already sold. The neighborhood becomes unlivable. It looks like a war zone.
Like being attacked by a conquering army, you are finally surrounded, with no place to run, but the courts. However, you're certain of victory. The United States was built on the very premise of the protection of private property rights. How can a government possibly be allowed to take anyone's home for private gain?
Under any circumstances this should be considered criminal behavior. It used to be. If city officials were caught padding their own pockets or those of their friends it was considered graft. That's why RICO laws were created.
Finally, five black robes named Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer shock the nation by ruling that officials who have behaved like Tony Soprano are in the right and you have to vacate your property.
These four men and one woman have ruled that the United States Constitution is truly meaningless. Their ruling in the Kelo case declared that Americans own nothing. After declaring that all property is subject to the whim of a government official, it's just a short trip to declaring that government can now confiscate anything we own; anything we create; anything we believe.
Astonishing. The members of the Supreme Court have nothing to do but defend the Constitution and keep it the pure document the Founding Fathers created to recognize and protect the rights with which we were born. They sit in their lofty ivory tower, never worrying about job security with their life-time appointments. And yet, they have obviously missed finding a copy of the Federalist Papers, which were written by many of the Founders to explain to the American people how they envisioned the new government would work. They have missed the collected writings of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington, just to mention a very few. It's obvious because otherwise, there is simply no way they could have reached this decision – unless implementing another agenda was their purpose.
I don't have the benefit of the Justices' grand staffs or unending salaries. But just a little research has turned up pretty much everything Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer would have needed to reach a logical conclusion that protection of private property rights are the most important rights, vital to the very foundation of a free society.
Our Founding Fathers left no doubt in their writings, their deeds, or their governing documents as to where they stood on the vital importance of private property. John Locke, the man whom the Founders followed as they created this nation said, "Government has no other end than the preservation of property." John Adams said, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God; and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence."
One would be hard pressed to find a single word in the writings of the Founding Fathers to support the premise that it's okay to take private property for economic development. To the contrary, they believed that the root of economic prosperity is the protection of private property.
So how did Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer miss such a rock solid foundation of American law? Perhaps they didn't. Perhaps they chose to ignore it in favor of another agenda. Specifically, Agenda 21.
For several years, certain members of the Supreme Court have been discussing the need to review international law and foreign court decisions to determine U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Justice Breyer has been the most outspoken for this policy, saying, "We face an increasing number of domestic legal questions that directly implicate foreign or international law."
What international laws are these? In general, the most pervasive are a series of UN international treaties, including several that address issues of climate, resource use, biological diversity, and community development. Specifically, Agenda 21, signed by the United States at the UN's Earth Summit in 1992, calls for implementing what former Vice President Al Gore called a "wrenching transformation" of our nation, through a policy called Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development is the official policy of the United States and almost every single city and small burg in the nation.
Sustainable Development is top-down control, a ruling principle that affects nearly every aspect of our lives, including; the kind of homes we may live in; water policy that dictates the amount each American may use in a day; drastic reductions of energy use; the imposition of public transportation; even the number of inhabitants that may be allowed inside city borders. Most Americans have heard of a small part of this policy operating under the name Smart Growth. Agenda 21 outlines specific goals and a tight timetable for implementation. In June, 2005, the UN held a major gathering in San Francisco where the mayors of cities from across the nation and around the world gathered to pledge to impose Sustainable polices.
In order to meet such goals, federal, state and local governments are scrambling to impose strict policies on development and land use. The use of Eminent Domain has become a favorite tool. Sustainable Development calls for partnerships between the public sector (your local government) and private businesses.
Now, as the public/private partnerships move to enforce Sustainable Development in local communities, an unholy alliance is also forming, allowing corrupt politicians to line their pockets and gain power as they partner with select businesses and developers to build personal wealth and power. They plot to take land that isn't theirs for personal gain, while claiming it's for the "public good." That's all the excuse they've needed to hide their true intent.
However, things have been changing as such brutal, organized theft has spread across the nation in the name of community development and environmental protections. American have started to fight back to protect their property. In Oregon, people went to the ballot box and shocked lawmakers by passing Measure 37, which says the government must either pay full price for any land taken, or waive the regulation and leave the property owner alone. In Wisconsin, the state legislature passed a bill to stop Smart Growth policies that are destroying property owners. In Michigan, the state Supreme Court overturned the precedent-setting ruling it made more than 20 years ago that allowed the use of Eminent Domain in taking property for private use. In fact, it was that original ruling that had been used by communities across the nation to justify their own Eminent Domain takings.
Clearly, the nation has started to rise up to stop this assault on private property. Without the power to grab property at will, the ability for communities to implement Sustainable Development has come into question.
Those who support Sustainable Development and Agenda 21 needed something big to put things back on track. The Supreme Court, which has already stated that it must look to international laws and treaties to decide American law, provided the answer. Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer chose Sustainable Development and Agenda 21 over the Constitution of the United States.
However, the effort may well be backfiring on the Sustainablists as the nation is reacted in force to protect property rights. Now, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress are rushing to produce legislation to restore property rights protections. Even Americans who have rarely uttered a political thought are suddenly becoming feverish with zeal for the Fifth Amendment. Americans may be learning all over again what the Founding Fathers knew – that the right to own and control private property is the most important right
That is all well and good, of course, but Americans must do much more than just get upset. They need to get behind those legislative efforts at every level of government to assure passage. They must dig in at the local level to foil efforts by their mayors and city councils to impose Eminent Domain against their neighbors. We must run this organized theft (now masquerading as the "common good") out of town on a rail. And don't forget to leave room on that rail for Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer.
Tom DeWeese is president of the American Policy Center, a grassroots think tank located in Warrenton, VA. The Center maintains a website at www.americanpolicy.org.
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