So who or what is the California Eminent Domain Report? Here is how they describe themselves on their site:
Nossaman's Eminent Domain and Valuation Group consists of leading California eminent domain lawyers. Our attorneys are experienced practitioners in all aspects of eminent domain and other valuation disputes, representing public agencies, landowners, and business owners.
Sounds impressive. And would you believe that they have now written about Sierra Madre on two different occasions? It looks like our Eminent Domain Initiative (identified by CEDR as "Ordinance 1304") is now getting some serious attention out there beyond the Michillinda Curtain. Here is how their first article (12/10/09) about our initiative reads:
Sierra Madre Lets Voters Decide Breadth of Eminent Domain Power - Sierra Madre will allow its citizens to decide whether the city can use the power of eminent domain for private purposes. According to a Pasadena Star News article, "Sierra Madre resident(s) will vote on eminent domain," the city council agreed to put a proposed measure on the April 2010 ballot which would prevent the city from (1) condemning property and turning it over to a private developer, and (2) funding or cooperating with any other city agency using eminent domain (such as the Redevelopment Agency.)
Wondering why the city does not simply pass an ordinance prohibiting the use of eminent domain for private purposes if the board members are against such use? The answer, apparently, is that the board considered doing so in reaction to Kelo, but ultimately determined such an ordinance could be overturned by future city councils. If the measure is passed by the voters, it would be much harder to overturn.
The California Eminent Domain Report stayed on this case, and returned on March 2nd to the always exciting political battlegrounds of our little foothill village for a follow up report. And in what they describe as "some colorful debate," they analyzed the MVN's take on the issue, and then compared it with the reporting of yours truly.
On February 27, Susan Henderson offered a Mountain Views News article "Eminent Domain Measure -- Yes or No?" She purports to analyze the measure in the broader context of recent eminent-domain-reform efforts, including California's Proposition 99, passed in 2008 in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's much maligned 2005 Kelo decision. She ultimately concludes that the measure is irrelevant, and amounts to mere political "grandstanding" by Sierra Madre's Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray.
Now you might recall that we here at The Tattler took exception to Susan's politically motivated slap at our Eminent Domain Initiative, and the CEDR took note.
On March 1, "Eric Maundry," aka City Council candidate John Crawford, responded in a Sierra Madre Tattler piece called "Has The Mountain Views News Come Down On The Side Of Eminent Domain?" ... Mr. "Maundry" contends that the measure has real teeth, prohibiting the City from all eminent domain for redevelopment purposes --- i.e., eminent domain where the goal is to turn the condemned property over to another private owner for redevelopment.
So having compared the general thrust contained in each of these two Sierra Madre articles on the matter, how did this fine legal firm comprised of experts in the field of eminent domain law decide which argument had the greater merit?
As to eminent domain and the impact of Ordinance 1304, I have to side with Mr. "Maundry." The ordinance goes well beyond the limited restrictions Proposition 99 offers state-wide, and should, if approved, create a real barrier against eminent domain for redevelopment purposes. Especially with respect to businesses, no current federal or state prohibition exists on condemning property for redevelopment purposes, as long as the condemning agency makes proper blight findings. Ordinance 1304 would change that, at least in Sierra Madre.
I have given some further thought as to whether or not Susan Henderson actually is in favor of government seizure of peoples' homes so that somebody can make some money. And while some might find my new conclusion overly generous, I am of the opinion that she is not. Rather I now believe that when she wrote her report on this topic, she didn't really understand what she was talking about. Which is why the conclusions contained in her article are so absurdly wrong.