P.O. Box 75, Stony Creek, New York 12878 - 518/696-5748
Founded 1994

The right to own private property is a fundamental American freedom that
guarantees personal liberty and promotes economic prosperity.



November 7, 2005

Dear Property Rights Advocate:

This year, the U.S. Supreme Court hammered us with the declaration that our private property rights matter little to the elite jurists. The Court's unconstitutional Kelo v. New London decision gave government carte blanche to use eminent domain to take private property from one party to transfer it to another private party.

But the ruling also precipitated a groundswell of outrage against the abuse of eminent domain by overarching government.

We must not allow the intensity of feeling about private property rights resulting from the Supreme Court's dictum to die down before We, the People, win back lost freedoms!

Contrary to the Supreme Court majority, the words "public use" used in the Fifth Amendment and the words "public purpose" used to justify eminent domain for economic development are not interchangeable.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stated in her dissent,

 "To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings 'for public use' is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property—and thereby effectively to delete the words 'for public use' from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

Only a restoration of the definition of  "public use" as interpreted by the courts for nearly two centuries of American jurisprudence, will protect the security of homeowners, business people, and communities from the grasping hands of callous government working in tandem with the wealthy and well-connected to take property from people in established neighborhoods for their private use.

We must stand on this principle and never retreat.

It is my hope that by working together we can call a halt to the second great wave of eminent domain for urban redevelopment that is sweeping the country. We must not allow more ordinary, hard-working immigrant and middle class homeowners and small business owners to lose everything they own for a meager substitute, appraised value. What replacement is appraised value for the home, for the years of work to build a business, and for the friends and neighbors of the community, who are dispersed to the four winds by eminent domain?

Eminent domain is the most radical of government powers, historically called "the despotic power," passed to our Republican form of government from the common law of England, because it was the only way to handle the necessity of placing public structures on land that was already privately owned. Highways, bridges, city halls, parks, even schools and hospitals, are some of the legitimate public uses for which eminent domain can be constitutionally imposed. Eminent domain was never intended to take property from private parties to transfer the property to different private parties for economic development, no matter how many planners dance on the head of a pin to define the public purpose of the change in ownership.

Citizens of every background and ethnic origin are united against the New London ruling. Organizations ranging from the NAACP to the AARP submitted arguments to the Supreme Court in support of Susette Kelo's side. The first wave of eminent domain fifty years ago destroyed urban communities wholesale for "slum clearance." At our Eighth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights last year, Dr. Mindy Fullilove described the tragic consequences to Black families and culture of destroying thousands of neighborhoods. She declared that Black people said at the time, "Urban renewal is Negro removal."

Today, using an arbitrary mixture of blight declarations and planners' imaginings for urban redevelopment, cities, towns, and non-elected quasi-government corporations and authorities are destroying the security of Americans in their homes, businesses and neighborhoods. Churches, museums, thriving businesses, and even homes of generations are not exempt.

The condemnations have a consistant element: The private parties who lose everything are not as well placed and have less wealth than the private parties who will benefit from government using its sovereign power on their behalf.

Justice O'Connor's oft-quoted words are unmistakable:

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

We must reverse the perverse thinking that Justice O'Connor condemned.

As you know, the Property Rights Foundation of America has worked for many years for justice in the face of eminent domain. Last year, this work seemed to culminate in our two "friend of the court" briefs to the Supreme Court, at the petition for certiorari and argument stages, in support of Susette Kelo and her neighbors. In the face of disappointment, we have forged onward. We need your help to carry forward our work more powerfully at this watershed time. Reflecting the significance of our web site, PRFA is interviewed regularly by media from around the nation who are covering eminent domain. Citizens facing eminent domain call PRFA for help. Members of the legislature ask for our viewpoint and publications. My testimony requested by the New York State Legislature—twice during the past three weeks—is having influence. We need to reach out even more.

Please contribute as generously as you can to the Property Rights Foundation of America. Our stance for private property rights and respect for private property ownership is all-important at this time.


Carol W. LaGrasse

P.S. One of our best ways of outreach is when people who believe in the work of PRFA bring in their friends and family members. Please consider reaching out personally for private property rights at this juncture.

A copy of the latest annual financial report of the Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc. may be obtained from the organization or from the Office of the Attorney General, Charities Bureau, 120 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10271.

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