Unfortunately, I'm not surprised
October 5, 2005 7:41 PM   Subscribe

The town of Riviera Beach, FL is considering the use of eminent domain to relocate 6,000 poor, predominantly black citizens to make way for a yacht club. More fallout from the previously discussed Kelo vs. New London decision.
posted by knave (20 comments total)
So? Governments at any level will use any power given to them to absolute limits of that power. This is not new.

It is just a matter of time before all states create a law against eminent domain used in this way. I encourage more blatantly classist uses of eminent domain, it will just add to support on how bad this is. A yacht club being used to displace poor blacks? I couldn't make up examples like this to cite.

I watched an HDNet report recently on this (aside, one of the best news programs on TV today, one topic presented for a half-hour that reminds us that reporting hasn't relegated itself to MSNBC and FoxNews levels).

They showed a clearly middle class retired couples being thrown out due to gentrification and Buca di Beppos. The city cited the area as blighted in an obviously bias report that would have found blight in Orange County. The ideas the city presented were shockingly communist in nature. Their basic premise was that the city needed more money to function and with the people unable to generate the income they would reallocate them for the greater good. How the city council men were able to grow up in Ohio without any concepts of the basic tenants of the "American life" is beyond me.

They also illustrated how for even good public works, like highway widening, eminent domain is often abused. While buying a property at above market value will compensate moving and rellocation for light industries such as retail, most businesses will incur costs far greater than what the government is will to put out (the example given being the heavy equipment of a body shop needing much more than the $20,000 relocation fee).

My point in recalling all this, the more this looks like an Orwellian nightmare the more major news outlets will pick up on this and the faster state and federal laws will come into force. Maybe we'll see some old fashioned politics where people stop bickering about stem cells and actually citizens' rights.
posted by geoff. at 8:07 PM on October 5, 2005

Related, sort of.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:09 PM on October 5, 2005

I was about to snark about demolishing a yacht club to build a community for 6,000 poor citizens, but instead I'll voice a hope that maybe someday eminent domain would be used for good rather than greed. We're going to have to realize that real city planning deals with the needs of all people; rich, middle class, and poor.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:14 PM on October 5, 2005

I'm sorry if I didn't define the whole blighted concept. The Supreme Court was "simply" upholding rulings regarding blight that started around mid-century. While most reasonable people will believe blight to be crack houses and hotels that cater to drug dealers and prostitutes -- it's being used in simply lower-class or lower-middle class neighborhoods and replaced with gentrified higher tax-revenue developments.

Of course, as much as I hate our current Gov. Blunt, he thinks the same as probably everyone else here on eminent domain and has organized a task force in MO. I'm really thoroughly convinced that this will be a non-issue in several years.
posted by geoff. at 8:16 PM on October 5, 2005

This pisses me off. I canvassed in Riviera Beach for Kerry last year. The people there didn't have huge amounts of money, but they were generally very friendly and seemed to be doing their best to make a respectable living and hold it together.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 8:46 PM on October 5, 2005

Best quote ever: "Mr. Frederiksen said people with yachts need a place to keep and service them."

...oh, the poor poor yachties!

Now where'd I put my anti-ship missiles? I had a dozen Silkworms last weekend, how'd they disappear so quickly?
posted by aramaic at 8:47 PM on October 5, 2005

The article says yachting and housing complex. And if it's gonna cost a billion dollars then I'm guessing a lot of that would be non "yacht club" related. It might have been nice if you introduced the link without the spin.

The article's author says it's a predominantly black area, while the resident they quoted said it's a very [racially] mixed area.

Apart from pointing out those anomalies, I'd like to say that land developers are eeevil, and I sincerely hope that Kelo v. City of New London doesn't take you Americans down a god-awful slippery slope.

BTW, you wouldn't be having those problems if you took population growth seriously. :)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:55 PM on October 5, 2005

It takes you until the end of the article to read the following:

Mr. Brown and others said this could be one of the biggest eminent-domain actions ever. A report in the Palm Beach Post said it is the biggest since 1954, when 5,000 residents of Washington were displaced for eventual development of the Southwest D.C. waterfront, L'Enfant Plaza, and the less-than-successful Waterside Mall.

Not saying this isn't a disgusting thing to try to pull, but Kelo reinforced earlier decisions, one of which paved the way for the development noted above. The majority opinion in Kelo also included the following quote, which is not often noted by its critics or even the less-than-critical:

We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power. Indeed, many States already impose "public use" requirements that are stricter than the federal baseline. Some of these requirements have been established as a matter of state constitutional law,22 while others are expressed in state eminent domain statutes that carefully limit the grounds upon which takings may be exercised.23 As the submissions of the parties and their amici make clear, the necessity and wisdom of using eminent domain to promote economic development are certainly matters of legitimate public debate.
posted by raysmj at 9:10 PM on October 5, 2005

Kelo can't take us down a slippery slope because it doesn't establish new law -- it affirms the Constitutionality of existing statutes and certain applications of same. It also does not maintain that all gov'ts at all levels must have unlimited powers of eminent domain. If citizens do not want their gov'ts to have this power, the solution is simple: Inform your state-level representatives that anyone who wants your vote must support legislation restricting this kind of activity.

QED. What's next?
posted by aaronetc at 9:12 PM on October 5, 2005

The next time I see an Escalade parked outside Section 8 housing I'm going to vote Republican.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:11 PM on October 5, 2005

You'd rather they moored their yachts ON those poor black folks? BEAST!
posted by HTuttle at 10:52 PM on October 5, 2005

heheh, potential catch-22 here. Boot people out of the city/county, and they lose their voice at the city/county's polls.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:10 PM on October 5, 2005

The sorry results of prior eminent domain redevelopments.

There's little optimism to believe the record will improve. Urban Renewal didn't get its nickname Urban Removal for nothing. Still, this isn't a rich community forcing out a poor neighborhood it doesn't want -- it's a "landlocked" city making tough choices for which some of its own citizens will suffer. The development is intended to include affordable housing and resettle as many of the original owners as possible (and as are interested), and the city's goal is to expand not just the tax base but the employment base.

It's important to realize that the city created the CRA (redevelopment) zone, then sought bids. It's interesting to note that the developer they chose was an active boatbuilder corporation rather than a real-estate mogul. The boat-builder is moving its plants to the city from New Jersey. They will also underwrite, to the tune of half a million dollars the first year, a charter school for learning marine trades.

It's easy to dismiss this as has been done above, but many communities are going to be making similar decisions knowing that the legal climate is favorable right now. I'm all for protecting people's property rights -- and I'm sympathetic when it's poor people vs. rich people -- but this is basically an economic development opportunity that from the city's perspective is almost too good to turn down. People need jobs as well as homes, and if the city has no other way to provide them ....

In any case, eminent domain has not been used yet.
posted by dhartung at 11:53 PM on October 5, 2005

Property grabs and the Gulf.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:21 AM on October 6, 2005

I grew up one house away from the beach. . .very middle class. . . today, there is no chance of that happening anywhere in this country, as people with money will grab the land, either by driving up property values, or by outright stealing, as in this case. . .

With that history, reading about these instances makes me almost uncontainably angry.
posted by Danf at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2005

"This is a community that's in dire need of jobs, which has a median income of less than $19,000 a year,"

What are those poor black people complaining about!? They may all lose their homes but gosh at least 2 or 3 of them will get jobs as janitors!

They showed a clearly middle class retired couples being thrown out due to gentrification and Buca di Beppos

I live in a suburb outside Raleigh. The neighborhood I live in is mixed. We all have 1/3 to 1/2 acre lots with mostly cottage-type homes (very appealing to gardeners like myself) and the population is about half black and half white. Some people take care of their property better than others but as far as I know there hasn't been much crime. For example, my husband has lived here 15 years and has never had a robbery.

So imagine my shock when the city released its new $60,000 city plan and my neighborhood was gone.

In its place were mixed business and townhouses to be built near a new transit stop. The city aldermen apparently consider our neighborhood to be a "slum."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:29 AM on October 6, 2005

dhartung: The nickname was Negro Removal. And urban renewal is not a disaster everywhere these days, at all. I can point you to countless redevelopment of public housing developments or public-private ventures that have not been disasters, in cities of all manner of sizes. And D.C., of course, wasn't exactly built by the private sector alone, as the author (bewilderingly--but she's with the IWF, so she has to say this, I guess) seems to imply.

I sincerely doubt the New London thing will work, and the L:'Enfant Plaza area is indeed ugly (which reflects the era in which it all built up as much as anything), but you're implying that all government and public-private ventures fail, which isn't so. Plenty of purely private ventures are ugly as sin as well, as any drive throughout any American city or suburban area will let you know.
posted by raysmj at 8:38 AM on October 6, 2005

heheh, potential catch-22 here. Boot people out of the city/county, and they lose their voice at the city/county's polls.

Catch-22? From a ... certain perspective, it sounds more like a win-win situation.
posted by kafziel at 9:55 AM on October 6, 2005

ray, thanks, but you've cited one nickname and I've cited another (for one thing, not all the urban removal districts were majority minority) -- and as for the other statement, I wasn't implying anything of the sort, just that this sort of thing often doesn't seem worth the cost in dislocation of lives, down the road. I've seen plenty of TIF districts in Wisconsin and Chicago that were at best fair-to-middling successful, but at the same time I understand the frustration of city officials. Very often this sort of development is the only chance they ever get to be the catalyst for something happening, rather than reacting to someone else's initiative.

I do think that we've gotten smarter over the years -- Pruitt-Igoe was one generation's emblematic shot at this, but nowadays the model is closer to, oh, South Street Seaport.
posted by dhartung at 10:08 PM on October 6, 2005

Thurston Howell was unavailable for comment
posted by Smedleyman at 1:15 PM on October 7, 2005

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