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Summer 2011

A Step forward for Private Property Rights

The 6th anniversary of the devastating Kelo vs. New London decision was just days before Governor Jerry Brown signed two budget trailer bills that were a step forward for private property owners. The fateful Kelo decision allowed government to seize businesses, homes, farms and places of worship to create strip malls and auto plazas all to benefit private developers and help pad local government coffers with taxpayer’s money. Since that fateful decision we have seen the abuse of eminent domain by California Redevelopment Agencies (RDA) rise by extraordinary numbers with documented cases nearing over 200. But Governor Brown eliminated the nearly 425 RDA’s with two budget trailer bills in late June. A good move to protect taxpayers since RDA’s divert over $5 billion a year in taxpayer dollars from public services, such as police and schools, to political connected developers.

RDA’s have come under harsh criticism since the Governor proposed to eliminate them nearly 7 months ago. A state controller audit revealed numerous accounting inaccuracies and failure to comply with school funding regulations in dozens of RDA’s from across the state. Cities are fearful of losing RDA’s because they have been using the tax revenues to pay city staff salaries for years. The California Redevelopment Association has teamed up with the California League of Cities to sue the state over the elimination of RDA’s.

There are legitimate uses of eminent domain such as property acquisition for public roads and schools, but RDA’s have forcibly seized successful businesses to build luxury golf courses, swanky restaurants and strip malls that today sit nearly vacant and all paid for by state taxpayers. The two companion bills passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor do not eliminate RDA’s permanently, but allow them to remain in existence if they pay into the State’s general fund. Under this condition, some 50 RDAs can’t afford this payment and will cease to exist. This means some of the state’s largest and most abusive RDA’s may continue to waste taxpayer dollars and threaten private property rights.

In the end, private property owners may face fewer threats of property condemnation with the passage of these two bills. Time will only tell.

The final decision may be in the hands of the court this issue has brought to light the assault on private property rights by the abuse of eminent domain. Moreover, it has highlighted how politicians are quick to raise taxes and cut critical programs, but eager to keep politically connected developers on the public doles. Support our legislators fight to strengthen property rights in California, and be sure to thank Assemblymen Jim Nielsen and Dan Logue for supporting the Governor’s legislation.

To learn more about RDA abuse, visit■

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