July 30, 2005
Dominion of the sovereign
Look up eminent domain in the dictionary and you will be surpised to read the definition: "The dominion of the sovereign power over all property within the state by which it can appropriate private property for public use for just compensation." Okay, that is pretty straight-forward. The "sovereign"--the state or other governmental body, acting with the power of kings of old, can seize any private property for "public use."
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supremes ruled that public use includes the government seizing private property for private developers. You know. If Wal-Mart or a condo developer wants your property they go to local officials and propose taking your property to create jobs and economic development. But the court's ruling is scary.
A Republican Congressman was quoted by the NY Times saying, "This decision opens a new era when the rich and powerful can use government to seize the property of ordinary citizens for private gain." Welcome to reality-city, Congressman McClintock. Welcome.
The rightwing House of Representatives voted 365 to 33 condemning the court's decision. Various state legislatures are now working to protect private property through constitutional amendments limiting eminent domain. Right meets left. Libertarians, Greens, Democrats, Republicans and other politically homeless are furious.
Ah, but not in Wisconsin. No siree! In the land of La Follette, Muir, Leopold and Nelson, John Gard and Jim Doyle agreed to expand the reach of eminent domain. I'm not kidding. In Wisconsin, private utilities can exercise eminent domain power over all private property and, thanks to Gard and Doyle, they now have the same right to take public land. Think about it.
Back to the definition. It is the power of "the sovereign." In Gard-Doyleland, private corporations are now "sovereign." Unbelievable. Wisconsin now leads the nation in giving power over our land to private corporations while other states rush in the opposite direction. What do you think?
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I heard you talk about using eminent domain once in reference to cities using it to keep teams in a city when owners wanted to move. I have wondered since then, especially these days in light of all the companies moving jobs out of the country, if it couldn't be used to freeze the companies assets while the workers figure out if they can purchase and run it democratically?
So a company gets ready to pack up and leave and the city or county or whichever entity uses eminent domain to seize it and stop the sale of machinery, buildings, land, etc. The city then determines if the employees want to continue running the company. Assuming they would, to keep their jobs, the city would guarantee a loan amount needed to purchase the company and its assets. The employees keep their jobs, the previous owners get paid and the likes of Bain Capital are cut out. The best thing, though, is that the community gets to keep a thriving part of itself alive through the ownership of the employees.
How do we start to do this? I will run for a county board seat to try and initiate a program like this.
-Terry Meyer | Eau Claire, WI | November 20, 2012