Why Is Defense of Private Property a Republican Issue?

“Republican candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are calling for changes to state laws defining when a government can seize private property,” writes Michelle Washington in this morning’s Virginian-Pilot. Virginia Republicans have jumped on the issue in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that expanded the definition of “public use” to include expansion of the tax base — giving local governments more latitude in seizing private property for economic development.

In a Tuesday news conference, Attorney General candidate Bob McDonnell said that “public use” should be better defined. “Whatever public use means, it will not include the primary purpose of economic development or tax enhancement.”

A word to the Democrats. Don’t let the Republicans dominate this issue. When local governments want to take land for redevelopment purposes, they’re not going after the mansion on the hill. They’re taking run-down property on land that some developer thinks he can make more valuable — in other words, they’re taking land from the poor and the powerless, supposedly a Democratic constituency.

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  1. You are ignoring the Libertarians and Greens.

    The Democrats do not stand for anything anymore.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    While we are refining the meaning of public use we might as well tie down the meaning of public benefit, too.

    That run down property some developer thinks he can make money on may very well already belong to a reublican.

  3. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    This partisan firestorm over Kelo v. New London is akin to the witch hunt for ladies on welfare driving Cadillacs. There are some abuses and there is a need for prudent review of the power of eminent domain.

    Jim is right, it should not be a partisan issue but not just for the reason he suggests.

    What I see in the media is property rights interests dashing to the aid of widows about to be thrown out of their home.

    What I see on the ground are owners of derelict shopping centers, abandoned concrete plants and run down rental property licking their chops over being able to cash in on playing dog in the manger.

    Failure to reuse vacant and underutilized land (aka, brown-field and grey-field sites) is a prime cause of dysfunctional human settlement patterns.

    Of course governance agencies need to have well considered comprehensive strategies and plans to improve those settlement patterns. The use of eminent domain to build roads in the wrong place or for bad urban renewal projects has not helped the image of intelligent use of this power.


  4. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    EMR, lots of good points in your comment.

    For me, I await the rundown strip shopping mall that is returned to green space.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Give it a few hundred years. It will get there.

  6. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    An intelligent redesign of your old stomping grounds of eastern Prince William would provide the opportunity for several strip center to green space conversions. And a relitive balance of jobs/ housing/ services/ recreation/ amenity (including green space).


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for AG (for those who didn’t know), certainly isn’t letting it be a Republican-only issue.

    The Farmville Herald had a terrific editorial supporting Creigh’s position on the ruling.

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