by Daisy Mae
This is the outline for a speech on the abuses of Eminent Domain.
I.For anyone who owns property, there is a very real threat that the government will come and demand that you sell them all or part of your land, home, or business under the law known as eminent domain.
A.Today many ranchers I know, including my grandparents, fear losing land due to a new coal railroad, owned by the Canadian Pacific company, which is forcing them to sell land along the new railroad's path under the law of eminent domain. This land the railroad wants does not skirt properties, but rather runs right through many of them, coming dangerously close to a homestead that has been around for many generations.
B.I propose that eminent domain is innately outdated and corrupt and therefore should either be completely reworked, or more preferably be committed to the history books.
C.I will demonstrate this to you by defining eminent domain, presenting a few key cases, explaining what the law could mean for you, and what you can do to help.
Transition: I will begin by explaining a little about what eminent domain really is.
II.In the article entitled Eminent Domain and What It Means to You, Lauren Davis writes that eminent domain is the government's ability to take private property for its own public use, with or without the owner's consent.
A.This means that if a property owner does not willingly sell, the government can come in and take the property, giving the individual payment and notice to vacate the premises.
B.Eminent domain has been around as long as the nation and the Fifth Amendment states that, “private property [shall not] be taken for public use without just compensation.”
C.Traditionally the term public use referred to the building of roads, schools, parks, military bases, police stations, or any other essential public facility.
i.In recent years courts have upheld cases where the government takes lands and then gives them to private developers to construct anything that could be construed as being in the best public interest.
D.The California Eminent Domain Handbook, which is used as a reference nationwide, states that public use can be interpreted broadly and, “The project need not be actually open to the public to constitute a public use . . . only a public benefit.”
E.Some cases of eminent domain have been carried out solely to increase tax revenues. Another tool developers use to seize prime land under eminent domain is to call the property in question blighted, claiming that it is dilapidated, rundown, and an eyesore.
Transition: Now let's look more closely at a few key eminent domain cases.
III.Davis' Article stated that Lake Zurich, Illinois used eminent domain to force seven property owners, who owned restaurants and apartment buildings along the town's lake shore to sell their land.
A.One family, Robert and Sarah Hudson, owned a apartment building that had been in their family for decades and they did not want to sell to the government.
B.The city eventually won and a building called The Grandview was built on the site.
i.It houses apartments on upper floors with restaurants on the ground floor.
C.So the Hudson's were forced to abandon their inheritance in order for some rich developer to make a profit off of needs that were already being met within the community.
IV. In another instance, Susette Kelo's home in New London, Connecticut was taken by eminent domain so a resort hotel and conference center could be built.
A.The location was prized by both parties as having a great view of the water.
B.Kelo had spent a lot of time and money improving her home but in a 2005 Supreme Court decision she lost to the law of eminent domain.
C.The court's declared that the hotel would bring in jobs and revenue which was in better public interest than Kelo's beloved home.
Transition: My next stories comes from the July 4, 2004 airing of CBS' 60 Minutes and an issue entitled Eminent Domain: Being Abused?
V.Jim and Joanne Saleet are a couple who's home of 38 years was being threatened to be seized under the law of eminent domain.
A.Why? To increase the tax revenue in the town of Lakewood, Ohio by erecting privately owned, expensive condos.
i.According to the Saleet's attorney, Dana Berliner, “This is a nationwide epidemic. We have documented more than 10,000 instances of government taking property from one person to give it to another in just the last five years.”
B.The city's justification for doing this was that the Saleet's home is blighted because it does not have two bathrooms, a two-car garage, and a lot larger than 5,000 square feet.
C.Happily the Saleet's are winning their battle and still reside in their Lakewood home.
VI.A New York City man, named Wallace, was not so lucky.
A.Wallace, who owned property a few blocks from Time Square, was forced under eminent domain to sell his corner lot that had been in his family for more than 100 years.
B.Now, in its place sits the new headquarters of the New York Times newspaper.
i.The newspaper teamed up with a major real estate developer to convince the state to use the reason of blight to force Wallace out.
C.Even though Wallace fought that his property was not blighted, he lost and his property was sold to the Times, a private business, because their presence would make the block “prettier” and thus benefit the public.
Transition: My final example is a case that involves a man named Jerry Jones.
VII.In The Dallas Morning News, Jeff Mosier wrote that, under the headings of eminent domain and blight more than 100 homes and businesses were condemned to make way for the Dallas Cowboys football stadium in Arlington, Texas.
A.The people who lived there were not extremely poor, but neither did they pay the city two million dollars annually in rent which the stadium now does.
B.I hope this demonstrates that eminent domain is used by the rich to take land they covet when property owners refuse to sell, regardless of the public's best interests.
C.Whereas many may see a major football stadium in their community as “neat” or “cool,” it is no way an essential public facility which warrants the displacement of dozens of individuals.
Transition: Eminent domain is currently a threat to anyone who owns or rents private property.
VIII.According to Davis, “the ability of the government to basically give your land to someone else to use is now legal.”
A.Property is especially at risk if it is in a desirable area, close to water, or simply has a beautiful view.
B.As a citizen you have two options when dealing with an eminent domain case.
i.You could fight, which quite frequently is unsuccessful, or you could simply negotiate an acceptable price, called just compensation, and sell out.
IX.An individual can fight to keep their property, but The California Eminent Domain Handbook says that successful challenges are the exception and not the rule.
A.Usually the most a person like you is able to do is delay rather than prevent the government taking the land that you owned and paid taxes on for years.
B.In most cases, the government will win, no matter the individual circumstances, which is the sad and scary truth.
X.You can and should do something about this law which affects many Americans.
A.Inform members of your community so everyone is aware of eminent domain and its many flaws.
B.Write letters to your senator or representative asking for or demanding a change.
C.Most importantly don't forget that eminent domain is a very real threat.
XI.To conclude, the policy of eminent domain has become corrupt and out of date in recent years.
A.It benefits the rich who can use the law in their favor whether or not the result truly benefits the general public.
B.Thousands of individuals have been adversely effected and I believe that eminent domain is no longer necessary or good.
C.It should be laid to rest or reworked to only relate to true public needs and not the frivolous amnesties potrayed in the cases I described.
D.So whether you write a letter to a politician or simply imform your roommate about the evils of eminent domain, do something to put an end to the law's abusive powers.
E.Individuals should be able to feel safe that their home will continue to be theirs when they wake up in the morning.
(2004, July 4). Eminent Domain: Being Abused? Is Seizure of Private Property Always in Public's Interest? 60 Minutes [Television broadcast]. CBS.
(2008). The California Eminent Domain Handbook. In A. J. Hazarabedian (Ed.), [Brochure]. Glendale, CA: California Eminent Domain Law Group.
Davis, L. (2007). Eminent Domain & What It Means To You. Message posted to http://www.indiana.edu/~tgfolio/projects/davisl/eminentdomain.html
Mosier, J. (2008, Sept. 10). Court case challenges eminent domain for Dallas Cowboys stadium. The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved Mar. 22, 2010, from http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/cowboysstadium/storie...