Thursday, June 23, 2005


Lets all take a moment to mourn for our country. Private property rights died today at the hands of supreme court justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Anthony Kennedy. Remember these names. It's entirely possible they'll be as infamous as King George the Third one day.

Speaking of King George, at least he was insane. What are the justices' excuses?

One of the saddest experiences of my life was watching the Louisville Airport Authority seize Highland park and its surrounding neighborhoods over a decade ago. It still smarts. Smaller middle and lower class homes were forcibly taken to "expand" Standiford Field, creating the "Louisville International Airport." (It's a fine example of creative advertising, as the only way you're leaving Standiford Field/LIA on an international flight is in a UPS box.) Except that the expansion never happened. Instead, a few tacky motels went up. The remainder of the area is derelict; the houses gone, the yards overgrown with weeds and the streets filled with dumpings of debris. (I saw a couple of couches there recently, if anyone needs a mid-seventies foldout in need of a little reupholstering.) Yet once this was an historic area of Louisville. Nearly every family has come through Highland Park at one time, or another. It was cheap real estate, and truly "ethnically diverse." In the early part of the century it housed the railroad workers, the immigrants; in the thirties it was home to families moving from farm life to factory work; in the forties it was full of young families saving for their first home. (My mamau grew up there, and went back with her young husband and a couple of babies while waiting for this very house to be built.) In the sixties and seventies it was one of the few places a single mother or a retiree on a fixed income could afford to buy a decent house. The eighties saw the influx of a new wave of immigrants; Korean, Laotian, Vietnamese; as well as refugees from the Soviet Union. Catholic Charities helped place these families in low income housing, and very often, that housing was in the heart of Highland Park.

It wasn't much to look at. Mostly shotgun houses; narrow streets and alleyways. But there was James Russell Lowell school, where both my grandparents had been students. There was the house where my Uncle was born. There was the house my great grandparents lived in. Most disturbing of all, there was the house inhabited by one of my Mamau's relatives. Losing her lifelong home in her final years almost certainly shortened her life.

It was bad enough when the government could take your home for a public work. (I'd suggest further reading on the "Land between the Lakes" and the "Land between the Rivers" for your edification. I get too angry when I talk about it, I tend to use bad language and villify John F. Kennedy. People get nasty when you speak ill of the dead. Suffice it to say, families who had owned their land since before the American Revolution, were tossed out. Their homes burned, their belongings stolen, sold to tourists, or destroyed. People died. And this happened in our lifetime, under the guise of creating 'public space' for hunting and fishing, as well as more tax revenue. Except the tax revenue never materialised, and the area still doesn't financially support itself. I guess people have better places to go fishing. )

But as horrible as the above examples are, things got worse today. Infinitely worse.

Imagine it. Your home brings in say, 800.00 a year in taxes. That same property, commercially zoned, could be worth three times that in tax revenue, to say nothing of the economic impact of additional job revenue. THERE IS NOW NOTHING TO PREVENT THEM FROM SEIZING YOUR HOME, AND GIVING IT TO A BUSINESS/DEVELOPER/CORPORATION. That's what this decision means. You no longer own your own home. You have it conditionally on the sufferance of your local government, and if they so choose, they can take it. For any reason, or no reason at all.

You know, even Mad King George limited his tax-seeking to import tariffs. He didn't come after the privately held houses, farms, and businesses of the American colonists. And the last time somebody got tax-happy and infringed upon our liberty, we had a little revolution. Maybe we need another one.

Some links for the curious:


Captain Midnight said...

Nicely said! I quoted you in my recent post.

Ornithophobe said...

Aww, shucks! What a lovely compliment to make it into the Captain's post! I'm all flustered and blushy now!