Eminent Domain

Who owns your property?
Who owns your property?

Richmond, CA is angering the banking industry.  My town is using a big money tactic against the corporations who thought it was a political power tool to be used only by them.  Surprise! Surprise!  Eminent domain might be coming to your local city council soon.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, eminent domain is “a right of a government to take private property for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction.”  Normally this type of action is against the wishes or rights of property owners.  Big business and government have reaped the financial benefits through the unethical practice of eminent domain.

Why is the city of Richmond making Wall Street nervous?  Peter Dreier of The Huffington Post: “In Richmond, a blue-collar Bay Area city of 103,000 people where home prices have plummeted by 58 percent since the 2007 peak, thousands of homeowners have lost their homes to foreclosure, and about 12,000 families–half of all homeowners with mortgages in the city–are underwater, their homes worth much less than their mortgages.”  The Richmond city government sent a letter to 32 banks asking to buyout 624 underwater home loans.  If the banks refuse to negotiate updated affordable loans, the city will use eminent domain to obtain new and more affordable ones.  Finally a win for average Americans!

Richmond Mayor Gail McLaughlin in Bloomberg News: “The banks and financial institutions are not helping..  Their greed caused the problem and they have no solution for cities like Richmond…Cities like Richmond have a right and obligation to utilize such a program for the public benefit.”

Richmond, CA standing up to banks...
Richmond, CA standing up to banks.

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  This concept has been debated and defined by old and current political powers.  Notable eminent domain cases include Kohl v. United States, United States v. Gettysburg Electric Ry. in 1876, 160 U.S. 668, 679 in 1896, Albert Hanson Lumber Company v. United States, 261 U.S. 581 in 1923, U.S. v. 480.00 Acres of Land, 557 F.3d 1297 in 2009, and many others.  In the past, some cases were used to secure natural habitat and public lands.  However, the cases of lately appear to secure corporate influence and interests.

Eminent domain should help not hurt Americans.  The same banking institutions that created insane subprime home loans and “creative” unethical banking practices (for example: targeting minority neighborhoods) that tanked the economy, have done absolutely little to help struggling homeowners.  Instead they want to stop cities from using eminent domain to improve communities.  What’s the bank solution?  Do nothing.  It’s all about the bottom line.  That attitude isn’t sitting well with citizens and I’m proud of Richmond for taking action.

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