Saturday, March 04, 2006

Jack Hatch: "I'm for the little guy, except when my money's involved"

There’s an interesting letter to the editor on eminent domain in today’s DMR. Okay, the only interesting thing is who wrote it. Senator Jack Hatch, the for-the-little-guy-unless-it-hurts-my- business-interests liberal from Des Moines, spits out the paper facts on the use of eminent domain for economic development.

In a Feb. 22 letter to the Register, attorney Scott Bullock from Arlington, Va., lists several Iowa cities he claims have abused eminent-domain authority.

Bullock visited Iowa to address Iowa legislators. I hope he learned eminent domain was not used in any of the projects cited.

One of the projects mentioned is located in my senatorial district. Nate Niceswanger continues to operate ZZZ Records in Des Moines' East Village. He relocated there, with financial assistance from the city, when the Masonic Temple building in the Western Gateway was undergoing renovation.

Facelifts in these areas are part of successful efforts to revitalize the city's newest residential and retail district, leading to jobs and quality-of-life improvements enjoyed by Iowans. Niceswanger is an important part of this revitalization, and his presence there is vital to the continued attraction of the East Village. Politics may have entered into the initial conflict between the city and the owner of the building, but an abuse of eminent domain never did.

Other examples, not listed in Bullock's letter, have required use of eminent domain as a last resort. When that results in improved access to the airport and downtown, or in more than 1,000 new jobs, the public benefit is evident.

Iowa's economic future depends on maintaining a proper balance between private investment and public good. Rely on facts, not fear or fiction, in finding that balance.

State Sen. Jack Hatch, Des Moines. (link)

Classic Hatch: it’s only politics and not the application of eminent domain at issue in most of these economic development land disputes.

Of course, what Jack fails to mention is that “the politics” have everything to do with the rhetorical threats of applying eminent domain unless the city/developer/big money types get what they want, which is the land at a cut-rate price. Slick by half.

This is where my gut check libertarian sensibilities kick in; The House & Senate GOP types running the bills to curtail the use of eminent domain for economic development are bucking some of their big money players. The Chamber Alliance, the Professional Developers of Iowa and other economic development fat cats just hate the idea that they might lose the ability to bully landowners with a threat of eminent domain.

The economic development guys keep workin’ the back rooms in the vain hope that the GOP supported bills will go away. It’s not going to work because at the core of every single Republican is a latent libertarian bent. Republicans bury it on some of the social issues, perhaps a mistake to be paid for later, but when an issue so clearly attacks the central right to own property, well, the GOP guys get their backs up and stick on the issue.

It’s always good when truth prevails in the application of the political process. We could use more of it.

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