Donald Trump: His Eminence’s Domain

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

Developer Donald Trump has a history of attempting to abuse eminent domain for his personal financial benefit.

"Eminent domain" is a legal term meaning "the right of a government…to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation" — to acquire land for public projects such as roads and bridges.

In its 2005 "Kelo Decision," the US Supreme Court enabled the New London, Connecticut city government to condemn private property for transfer to other private owners for "economic development." The Court ruled that almost any potential "public benefit" – including increasing a government’s property tax base — meets the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment restriction on government taking property only for "public use."

The Kelo decision was highly unpopular. In 2005, 81 percent of Americans across party and racial lines opposed Kelo, including 85 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of independents. The decision was opposed by 82 percent of whites; blacks, 72 percent; and Hispanics, 80 percent.

But, in an October interview, and again in November, Trump claimed that the condemnation of property for transfer to private developers is "a wonderful thing" and "is not taking property" Developer Trump’s celebratory self-interest overlooks that anyone forced to relinquish private property against one’s will makes them a victim of a "taking," legally or otherwise.

The Washington Post reported on prior takings: "Since World War II, urban renewal takings and other condemnations for private development have forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom were left far worse off than they were before. In reality, owners of condemned property often don’t even get the "fair market value" that the government is required to pay them by law."
Public backlash to Kelo influenced nervous officeholders to enact new legal protections against abusive takings. In only five years following Kelo, 43 states passed constitutional amendments or statutes changing eminent domain law to more-effectively protect private property rights.
But that didn’t help the New London working-class homeowners whose properties were taken for a development that never occurred. Pfizer, the prospective beneficiary of the legal land theft, abandoned their development plans. Worse, following Hurricane Irene, New London designated the already-cleared site as a dump for storm debris. It’s still a dump, off the city’s property tax rolls, inhabited only by feral cats.

In 1994, Donald Trump urged the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut to condemn five small businesses to build an office/entertainment complex, claiming that he would turn Bridgeport into a "national tourist destination." Bridgeport, Connecticut’s most populous city, declined. Also in the mid-1990s Trump proposed building an Atlantic City limousine parking lot for the since-closed Trump Plaza. He purchased several nearby properties, but three owners, including an elderly widow, refused to sell. Adjudicating the impasse, Trump lost the eminent domain battle in court.

When a pretend-conservative, a shallow media creation, advocates private property seizures for developers’ profits, genuine conservatives should take note. America deserves a president with greater respect for private property.