Emininent Domain & Justice O’Connor

There’s a terrific OpEd piece in The New York Times today, timed to coincide with 1) our celebration of our freedoms and 2) the impending replacement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court.

She argued in one of her last decisions that the concept of eminent domain as outlined in the constitution mut be taken too far.

Eminent domain is the idea that private property can sometimes be taken by the government if it creates a larger public good, for example, public roads.

But she decried extending this idea too far. D evelopers might take land willy nilly for the greater economic good of the area. This argument could be used to take anyone’s home whenever someone with deep pockets thinks they have a better use for the property.

Unfortunately, Justice O’Connor was on the losing side of the argument, so now eminent domain abuses “for the common good” can flourish.

The OpEd author, John Tierney, is a Pittsburg native. He has watched eminent domain’s abuses ruin a once vibrant downtown. Over five decades in the quest for the modern renewed city, the heart of Pittsburgh — with its homes, families, small businesses, even jazz clubs — has been replaced by cold corporate towers and empty plazas. The people living there and the life of the community have been drained away.

Voila, the Pittsburg Renaissance.

So, as we ponder a replacement for Justice O’Connor, let’s think about Pittsbugh, where its urban renewal policy has been turned into urban destruction.