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ED's Little Acres
October 18, 2005: All politics and revolutions may be local, but some local politics and revolutions have broader implications than others. Take New London, Connecticut. As result of the city's use of eminent domain (ED) to advance a state funded yet private development project in the neighborhood of Fort Trumbull, and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to back that use, New London became the epicenter of a national issue.

In New London itself, the eminent domain battle rages on. With an ultra local political cast. Including the mayor and city council and a quasi-public local development agency. With a powerful corporation and the state government shouting directions from the wings. The usual ultra local dynamics factor in-- including lilliputian power plays and Byzantine tangles of feuds and cronyism. A torch bearing populace who've been betrayed by public servants enter stage left and right. The plot unfolds in the halls of state and municipal government and the back rooms and board rooms of Main Street. Yet though ultra local, every act of "New London Eminent Domain" bears watching. Because broader truths are being revealed.

Such as the pattern of ED being used in places with a rep for corruption. In New London, the role of Connecticut X Governor John Rowland, his X Chief of Staff Peter Ellef and their assorted cronies in the early daze of planning the redevelopment of Fort Trumbull is emerging more clearly. The subject has been in the blogosphere for some time-- now it's going mainstream. Also common are corporate or institutional entities with a stake in the use of eminent domain who sit back and let local pols and quasi-public agencies act as cat's paw. In New London, see Pfizer Pharmaceutical. Which is difficult due to obfuscation and denials. But in this instance as well, what was once blogosphere is breaking the surface.

A more pleasant pattern is the price local pols often pay when they sign on to ED. The New London city council is running scared about the November 5th municipal election. Some believe fear of voter retaliation was behind their October 17th decision to sever all ties with the New London Development Corporation (NLDC). The quasi-public agency that did the ED heavy lifting for the city, the state and Pfizer. But lived on the planet Hubris. When the NLDC recently refused to fire top execs Michael Joplin and David Goebel at the behest of the city council, the already acrimonious relationship hit the fan. Ditching the NLDC means a mountain of legal and financial complications for New London. And the Fort Trumbull project will continue to do the Limbo.

But keep watching the skies. Like alien parasites, quasi-public agencies can be hard to remove. And if the city council members who once said you go ED aren't voted out come November, they could always reverse themselves should the chore prove too onerous. Or designate a replacement driver as bad as the NLDC. Stranger things have happened in New London.

Speaking of quasi-public agencies, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in New York State is the mother of them all. Headed by Charles Gargano. Aka Mister ED. Quasi-public agencies and developers from all over the world worship the ground Gargano has cleared. Among the many ESDC eminent domain irons in the fire is the Atlantic Yards development project. Which involves 10 million square feet of Prospect Heights and Park Slope in Brooklyn. Plus the removal of loads of people and businesses. The kind public officials like to reference when touting NYC's neighborhoods. Forest City Ratner (FCR) is the developer for whom the ESDC hopes to speed the plow. On October 18th the first of only two public hearings re the environmental impact of the Atlantic Yards project will be held at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, this posting will appear after the meeting. But check out Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) for news re the hearing and future events.

If you're in Albany, New York on October 22nd be sure and catch Steven Anderson of the Castle Coalition (ED's worst nightmare) at the Turf Holiday Inn at 4:30 p.m. Courtesy of Property Rights Foundation of America. Steven Anderson's speech is titled "Eminent Domain Reforms at Every Level". (Yes!) For further info visit:

One last word about ED. The acronym also stands for an unfortunate physical condition in men. Involving inadequacy. The other ED has to do with inadequacy as well. Specifically, the inability to negotiate for other people's property without the edge of government power-- or to redevelop neighborhoods without destroying them.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"A woman who answered the phone at Goebel's home said, "Oh, forget it," and hung up.

"Council Votes To Cut Ties With NLDC," Ted Mann, The Day, 10/18/05

"People yakkety-yak a streak and waste your time of day, but Mister Ed will never talk unless he has something to say!"

Theme from Mister Ed, Jay Livingston & Ray Evans 1961

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Copyright (c) 2005 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.

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