An Opportunity to Reverse Kelo

Kelo v City of New London was a 2005 case involving our Constitution’s 5th Amendment Takings Clause: a homeowner who didn’t want to sell her home in New London, CT, to a property developer who said he needed the property to finish out the development of shopping mall. New London agreed on the developer’s representation that his mall would produce more tax revenue for the city than the homeowner’s property tax remittances. In the resulting suit, the Supreme Court decided that government has the authority to commit such a Taking and redistribution for the public purpose of increasing government’s tax revenue.  The Court said that one man’s private purpose is superior to another’s so that other must surrender his property to the one.

What the Takings Clause actually says is

…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

For public use, not for public purpose, and certainly not for a private enterprise’s claimed public purpose.

Now a case is developing that should end in the Supreme Court and present the Court with an opportunity to reverse that shameful ruling.

A public school district in Texas is pursuing an eminent domain process to remove a 78-year-old man from the home that his family has owned for more than a century in order to build a high school football stadium parking lot.

The 78-yr-old homeowner’s daughter, Tara Upchurch:

I want you to understand what the significance of this place is for my father. It is where he played as a child with his grandparents, where he woke up 4 a.m. to milk cows, it’s where he spent 39 years happily married to my mom, and it’s where he raised a family, and it’s a place we never thought he would leave[.]

On the other hand,

Aldine ISD is planning to build a $50 million football field and parking lot on his property and is using eminent domain options after the Upchurch family rejected an initial offer to purchase the property last year, KPRC reported. Eminent domain allows the government to acquire private property for public use.

Aldine ISD wants it, and its desire is more important than a property owner’s…ownership. Well, then. That settles it. That’s what Kelo has wrought.

Private property ownership isn’t actually ownership: if another private entity wants it, all that one needs to do is to persuade a government or quasi-government that its desire is greater than the original owner’s ownership, and the owner must give it up.

This is the mess that Kelo caused, and this is the mess that the Supreme Court should get an opportunity to clean up, and it should clean it up.

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