July 10, 2006

Eminent Domain, Thomas Jefferson would be dismayed…

The Iowa legislature is meeting in special session on Friday to vote to override Governor Vilsack’s veto of the law restraining the power of governments in the state to take property for private development though the eminent domain process.
A lame duck with his eye on the national stage, Vilsack has threatened to take the issue to court if the override succeeds. "If this wasn’t an election year people might be reasonable about this", he says, decrying election year posturing by the legislature to call a special session. Vilsack prefers to negotiate changes in the bill during the next session. (Gazette)
The position of our local paper is not to worry, that kind of thing isn’t happening here and even if it did, shouldn’t we exchange economic development (tax revenues) for a bit of urban renewal.
There has been reams of commentary written about eminent domain since the Supreme Court's Kelo decision has brought the subject to national attention. I won’t go into any rants about the evils intrinsic to government but I would like to put it into a historical context.
Thomas Jefferson originally wrote that all men have the right to life, liberty, and property. Property of course was changed to the pursuit of happiness but Jefferson, a follower of the political philosophy of John Locke, believed the governments primary duty is the protection of those values. Jefferson would certainly be appalled that those protections could be abrogated by an overreaching interpretation of eminent domain.
I hope that you are also appalled and will take the time to contact your senator and representative and ask them to override the Governors veto.

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