Your home is your castle—unless the government thinks it should be a shopping center. Learn how citizens and local governments can protect homes and businesses from government takeovers.
Just two months ago, Arizona voters sent a resounding message to their government: hands off our property.
Passing Proposition 207 by a 65 percent majority, despite doomsday scenarios from elected officials and bureaucrats, the voters put the clamps on regulations that exceed normal governmental purposes and diminish the value of private property (known as "regulatory takings").
'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.
Proposition 207, the initiative to protect property rights, is a great example of citizens using the initiative process exactly the way it was intended. This is the legitimate response of citizens attempting to protect themselves from local governments aggressively encroaching on their property rights, when other attempts to obtain relief have failed.
In the past year, people around the country have become quite concerned about private property rights. That's understandable. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. City of New London gave governments the green light to seize homes, lands, or businesses through eminent domain if they could conjure up some better use for the space. That's one way to enhance curb appeal, Soviet style.
The U.S. and Arizona constitutions require government to compensate property owners whenever it seizes their land. However, government often passes laws and regulations that depress property values or completely prevent the use of private property, essentially taking the property without explicitly taking title to it. In these instances, loopholes in judicial interpretation of the constitution often allow government to escape having to compensate property owners. These "regulatory takings" became so severe in Oregon that, in 2004, voters overwhelmingly approved a law called Measure 37, which required the government to pay people whenever it conscripted their land for public purposes, even if it did not seize the title outright. This law followed an earlier attempt, called Measure 7, which, despite overwhelming popular approval, was deemed unconstitutional in 2002 by the Oregon Supreme Court. But in February 2006, the court upheld Measure 37, leading many defenders of private property rights to hope that similar reform might be possible to protect home and business owners in other states.
Got curb appeal? Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, America has seen a proliferation of private property takings for things as insignificant as a property’s appearance. Local governments are abusing their power of eminent domain to create new shopping malls, condos, and industrial parks. Fortunately, the abuse can stop at Arizona’s doorstep.
On June 23, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the city of New London's use of eminent domain to condemn several properties the city claimed stood in the way of additional tax revenues and new jobs. However, Justice Stevens, author of the majority opinion in Kelo, explained that nothing precludes states from restricting their takings power. Doing so is a first step toward assuring homeowners that they can keep what they own. Nationwide, states have accepted Justice Stevens' invitation and proposed statutory amendments restricting eminent domain authority. Now, Arizona should take the opportunity to reexamine its slum clearance and redevelopment statutes to help ensure the security of private property.
The Arizona Supreme Court yesterday rejected Tempe's request for a special action in Tempe v. Valentine. At issue was whether Tempe's proposal to condemn private property to make way for a developer to erect a shopping mall met the constitutional definition of "public use." At the trial court, Tempe lost; prompting the city to file its special action petition.
PHOENIX -- On Tuesday, February 22, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of Kelo v. City of New London, marking the first time in 50 years the court has considered the meaning of the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.