Saturday, November 14, 2009

A defender of eminent domain: it should be a local decision (but what about AY?)

Two more commentators have joined the online New York Times discussion (previous coverage) regarding Pfizer's pullout from New London and the aftermath of the Kelo vs. New London eminent domain case.

Yale Law School professor Thomas Merrill, a supporter of eminent domain, writes:
I do not believe that this sad episode means we should overturn Kelo and ask federal judges to arbitrate questions about when eminent domain should be used. The solution is not to nationalize eminent domain, but to localize it. If a proposed project is one that will have primarily local benefits — like economic development — then local citizens should decide whether to pursue it, not some state redevelopment agency or the governor’s office.

Local residents will have a better idea whether a project is likely to succeed, and what impact it will have on those who are forced to move. It is particularly important that these projects be funded with local dollars — either local tax revenues or block grant monies that can be used for a variety of purposes — rather than federal or state grants controlled by people outside the community. The New London project was almost entirely funded by the State of Connecticut. This is the root cause of a series of calamities that now leave virtually everyone worse off.
(Emphasis added)

While Atlantic Yards would have both state and local benefits (according to proponents), it would most affect the city of New York and borough of Brooklyn. But a state redevelopment agency--the Empire State Development Corporation--is in charge. And no local elected official had a vote.

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