Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Integrity in Eminent Domain Actions

The actions taken by local governments and sometimes state and national governments regarding eminent domain have recently been open to question. There have been court cases which in part have supported the government position and at other times have supported the home owner. Eminent domain in its concept is a good tool which is available for government entities. However there are indications, in some cases, that this tool appears to have been abused. Local and state governments must have the resources to develop and grow in particular areas. However, when making a decision to impose eminent domain for a specific area they must take into consideration the effect on individuals.

Many times people have resided in areas for most if not all of their lives. When a government entity invokes eminent domain this affects people not only physically but also psychologically. This must be taken into consideration. The person (s) or government making the decision must honestly ask themselves a question. How would they feel if they were the person or persons being impacted by the decision?

The decision and the issues involved in invoking eminent domain must have the characteristics of integrity. The people involved in making the decision must also display the characteristics of integrity in how the decision was made. Is there a real need and not a perceived need to invoke eminent domain? Taking a person’s property is a significant event in their lives. The decision should not be taken lightly.

The questions that I feel should be asked are noted below. The answers to the questions must be honest and if eminent domain is invoked it must pass the test for integrity. The decisions must be evaluated against previous court decisions regarding eminent domain which have in some cases reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Is the action necessary for the public good?
Is the use strictly going to be for public purposes?
Are private individuals or companies going to benefit with regard to building a building for private use?
Is the action necessary to create a safer environment such as the widening of a street to ease traffic flow?
Have all options been considered as to other possible locations that have less impact on individuals.
Are government employees going to benefit from the action being taken?
Has all available information on the facts been reviewed for accuracy and completeness?

The purpose of eminent domain actions taken by municipalities is some cases are not clearly defined and leave unanswered questions as to the actual purpose of the action. Economic development is necessary if an area is to develop and grow. The use of eminent domain can have an affect upon the public opinion of the government entity invoking this power. Sometimes decisions must be made for the public good but they need to be made with honesty and integrity. Governments at all levels in their decisions are subject to the opinion of the public for their actions. Voters who are unhappy with decisions of government entities must make their feelings known. Voters have a right to replace officials if it is felt they have overstepped their authority. This can be legal or moral. I am not a lawyer but the rights of the individual as written in the U.S. Constitution must be protected.


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