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Joan E. Battey | June 26 2005

Quite likely the Supreme Court got a few more people listening up Thursday, with the illogical, dangerous, and agenda-driven, non-Constitutional ruling putting private property in the cross-hairs of most current and future "developers" in the country. If not already half-way into preparation, the drawing boards are going to be manned overtime now, lobbying will be reaching new heights, and consultants are likely already cranking out resumes by the hundreds. "Have power point presentation, will travel anywhere."

Lots of people will wish they had been paying more attention to the various, but steadily continuing, legally-tightening erosions of the Constitution and all our culture. The numbers have gone way beyond double-digits now, especially if you add in cases which were handed back without judgments. This decision goes far beyond merely cultural erosions, however.

Even with the alarming losses of property now already "further into plain sight" of those who didn't want to believe it all could happen, let's go a little beyond the individual losses of property sure to be increasing on a steady basis.

Everyone is going to pay for this -- financially first; culturally, second; and emotionally, third. No one is going to be immune from some part of the backlash for long.

None of us are naive enough to think (unless massive "fair value" profit/turnover is the just-below-the-surface plan), that the takings for private development are ever going to be focusing on private property of celebrities with several lavish homes across the country, or the elaborate enclaves of corporate tycoons, or the huge acreages bought up and "saved" while being put to ranching or some such play-at-landlording western spread ownership.

First and foremost targets are likely now going to be the close-in, mostly medium- or lower-priced homes on the fringes of "greater this-or-that" city or well-settled community. Fair market value will likely be, for the most part, fair to the private developer, but not to the buyout victim who will then very likely be unable to buy anything else at anywhere even close to the buyout price. Real estate is already being manipulated and sold on the basis of "moving on up to take advantage of the market before it escalates further."

Lower- income or retired people may be pushed over the edge -- then needing more "help" from agencies. The agencies will likely then claim to need larger tax-funded or non-profit-funded budgets to cope with the fall-out downside of coast-to-coast plans of developers. Developers are very likely already slathering over the wide-open prospects for marketing huge private projects, to be approved by local governments with dollar-signs in their eyes, and a deaf ear to any constructive criticism. How often do we already hear that turning down offers of economic boom prospects, or unneeded cultural enhancements, only means that someone else is going to get all that good stuff, so let's not let that happen?

Private projects may be "private" in name, but they eat up huge amounts of inducement money, tax forgiveness, grants, banking capital, etc., -- putting all that out of reach of other, less well-connected businesses, and leaving taxpayers liable for making up for any losses or unfulfilled promises.

Large developers most often have no personal loyalty to the areas they develop, and often are from out of the development town, taking the profits with them when the project is finished. Worse yet, they may be part of a huge wave of foreign opportunists! Large developers from out-of-town, very often drive local smaller ventures out of business -- and that loss is hardly ever factored into the rosy scenarios that governments buy into when the plans are first proposed.

Private development can be sports-related -- and teams based in the expensive developments can be whisked to other towns as easily as they were lured to the one with private development. Private development, such as retail outlets, most assuredly means leaving in its wake closed-out local businesses, with those owners and their families financially wiped out. Once local businesses are finished off, truly local businesses are all but forever-after priced out of any market-from-scratch building or operation. Private, out-of-town development almost always brings in fewer than promised new jobs, has lower-paying jobs, and will be hiring people who will be expected to finance taxes and local housing costs out of lower paychecks.

If private development should be of the large agricultural variety, or the large food processing variety, local citizens will rue the day they lost their local farms, with known quality local farm products.

Private development of a size large enough to warrant eminent domain takings, may soon require further underwritten improvements of, or expansion of infrastructure in the area they locate in. Further costs to the local area.

The real crunch is going to come, not too far down the road. Everyone runs in packs today as soon as ideas, new profit opportunities, or new chances to be in the wheeler-dealer spotlight are on the table. It's bad enough when it's limited to people using at least some of their own money and depending on selling to people they can convince to buy what's being offered for sale. It's a whole different situation when the pack will be lining up to get governments of all sizes to condemn private property and give them a large leg up on the cost of making a profit. Make that packs, plural !!. So far, there are only a relative few development ideas on legislative agendas. Now that the Supremes have shortened the time involved to get approval, oust private owners, and start razing, digging and slapping the projects together, we'll all be knee-deep in mud, sawdust, illegal low-pay workers, ratcheted-up real estate prices away from the construction area, higher taxes and marketing bonanzas -- coast-to-coast.

The California Gold Rush, bad aspects more than good, could well look like a Sunday School picnic in comparison. Things may even reach the point where liberals, who have been hollering foul at any idea that Supreme Court judges be chosen for their Constitutional knowledge, might want to rethink their arguments. When that happens, food banks may have to add Kleenex to the demands for peanut butter, soup and staples. Lots of spilled milk to cause lots of copious weeping in the aftermath of this grand-daddy of all the recent engineered rips in the fabric of the Constitution, the culture, and the country.

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