Monday, December 28, 2009

Programming Note

Will return to posting on January 4, 2010!

Monday, December 14, 2009

LSU Board: Expropriation is fine by us

The LSU Board voted to allow the state to proceed with expropriation (the Louisiana civil law term for eminent domain) of properties in the proposed LSU medical center footprint in Lower Mid-City.

The resolution allows state officials working on the projects to seek a court order to seize private property if the owners refuse to sell. A judge would decide the purchase price the state must pay.

While government takings of private property are permitted for a very loosely defined "public purpose" (no longer a public use, as we saw in the notorious Kelo case in Connecticut) under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, property owners must be given "just compensation" for the taking to be permissible.

And, although the U.S. Constitution authorizes a state or local goverment to exercise their power through takings, it must be remembered that even when something is authorized doesn't mean it's the right way forward or the best policy.  Just because it's authorized doesn't mean the state should do it.  Employing expropriation for a project that does not entail a crucial, necessary, "this is the only way we can possibly do this" justification is highly reprehensible.  I think we have precisely that unfortuante situation in the case of Lower Mid-City - an argument that locating the hospitals there is the only way forward when it most clearly is not.

Bringing in the heavy hand of government to drive someone from - and destroy - his or her home is a power that should only be used as an absolute last resort.  This sort of government power over individuals fits squarely within the basket of grievances that led us initially, as a nation, to declare independence.  Its use, especially on a large scale, beyond the rarest of instances undermines the legitimacy of government, no matter how much process is involved.

In the article linked above, a state official notes that "nobody has outright refused to sell their land for the hospital projects yet." And while it's clear that some individuals inside the footprint are not going to go without a fight (only eight out of 450 parcels in the two footprints have even been acquired at this time through regular buyouts), I find it interesting that LSU is opening the door to expropriation before it has even contemplated paying out higher amounts to some individual property owners who hold out longer.  Expropriation is clearly not a last resort here in the minds of the LSU board members.  Instead, it's a proactive tool being used unscrupulously to force a project forward, damage to unwilling property owners be damned.

And the truly sad part of this move is the end result.  So many of the properties that may ultimately be subject to expropriation (including those that contribute to the tax rolls, that aren't harming anyone else, that aren't blighted, that rebuilt post-K in reliance on government statements and policies), especially in the LSU footprint, will be used not for a nice, dense, beneficial hospital building, but for...acres of ground level parking lot. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chimneys


It's interesting, when you stop, step back, and look at some shotgun houses...just how large they are.

Compared to the average ranch home in Metaire, the actual frame of this building at S. Johnson and Palmyra, for example, looms large.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another Suit in the VA Controversy

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has filed suit in federal court here in New Orleans to stop the demolition in the VA footprint.  Judge Eldon Fallon of the Eastern District of Louisiana has been assigned the case.

The Trust's suit alleges a violation of NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act.  Interestingly, The Trust filed a similar suit on seemingly the exact same grounds in federal court in Washington, D.C. back in the spring of 2009.

Dick Moe of the National Trust lays out a reasonable case for the new suit:

"We took this action because time is running out for the residents of Mid-City," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust. "The acquisition process is moving forward swiftly, and it compels us to ask for an expedited response. We fear that if we waited for the agencies to proceed through the courts at a slower pace, the ongoing process of acquisition would make it much more difficult for the court to evaluate the legal issues objectively."

The acquisition process in indeed proceeding in the VA footprint.  Several properties have already been purchased by the state.  If the acquisitions aren't halted, the state will doubtless begin to argue soon that it has proceeded too far to turn back.