'Star Wars" teaches that the empire always strikes back - and it's doing so big time in opposition to Proposition 207, the Arizona property rights initiative.
Using taxpayer funds to campaign against a pro-taxpayer initiative, bureaucrats and those who profit from government urge a "no" vote on Prop. 207, warning in hysterical Chicken Little fashion that it will end civilization as we know it. You can trust us to protect your property rights, they say.
But Arizonans like Randy Bailey have learned the hard way not to trust government officials looking to increase tax revenues or to take property rights without paying for it. The city of Mesa used eminent domain in an attempt to take his family-owned brake shop and give it to a local developer - along with a $2 million subsidy - to expand a hardware store in the name of "economic development."
In Arizona today, a city can use eminent domain to take your property if a building a mile away is dilapidated by calling the entire area "blighted." Have you ever been to the lovely shopping area in old Scottsdale? The city did just that, declaring the area blighted in hopes it could attract a developer to bulldoze it and build a resort.
At least if the city uses eminent domain, it has to provide the property owner with some compensation. But if the government takes your property through regulation rather than outright confiscation, under current Arizona law it needn't pay you a dime.
That is a favorite tactic in Pima County: If government wants an open space, for example, it doesn't purchase the property, but instead forbids development - even if you had a pre-existing right to build a home or business.
That's the problem that Prop. 207 addresses, in a very modest way. It completely exempts zoning for traditional purposes: public health and safety, traffic control, water regulation, nuisances, public morals, federal regulations, etc. But when government changes the rules about how you can use your property for reasons unrelated to traditional governmental objectives, and if that regulation decreases the value of your property, it either must let you do what you had a right to do in the first place or pay you for the loss of your property value.
That is called fairness. And what it puts an end to is not legitimate government regulation, but theft.
In Oregon, a far more sweeping initiative was passed, and not a penny has been paid in compensation. Why? Because most government zoning regulations are not impacted by the law, and in other instances government decided against regulation once it had to bear the costs of its own policies rather than imposing them on a single property owner.
When I represented Randy Bailey in his challenge to eminent-domain abuse, government officials and special-interest groups warned that if we won there would be dire consequences. He did win, and little has changed except that property rights are a little bit safer.
Take it from Randy Bailey. If you own a house or business in Arizona or aspire to do so, you need to protect yourself against overzealous regulators. Prop. 207 is a good place to start.