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: www.prfamerica.org
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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