Eminent Domain — Who’s Next

    “The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that local governments may force property owners to sell out and make way for private economic development when officials decide it would benefit the public, even if the property is not blighted and the new project’s success is not guaranteed.” The quote is from Washington Post Staff Writer, Charles Lane, dated Friday, June 24, 2005.

        Eminent Domain — Who’s Next
Joe Leonardi

I remember when this ruling was announced, talk radio, editorials, letters to the editors and other forms of public media were full of anger, outrage and flat out disbelief that this could happen in our United States. However, with the passage of time, the outrage died down, other news items captured our attention and the discussion, if not the discord, faded away. Then, like a bolt of lightning, it hit home.

While campaigning in downtown Scranton, I visited Buona Pizza and spoke with Giovanni Piccolino. He explained to me the city intends to use “eminent domain” to take his family’s business and turn it over to a developer. The explanation, as I understand, is that improvement of the downtown hinges upon taking the Buona Pizza building from its current owner.

Growing up, I was taught “eminent domain” was to be used for public works that would benefit, will benefit, the entire public. Thanks to last year’s Supreme Court ruling it is apparent that now — the public good includes the right for a City or State government to seize your property then, in the hopes of increasing tax revenue, turn it over to a private developer.

Aside from being wholeheartedly opposed to the Supreme Court decision, I wonder what is going on with Scranton’s leadership. There is no question that the revitalization of downtown districts should be encouraged. Instead of strong-arming business owners, finances should be either lent or granted to those willing to take the risk to develop our commercial centers. Additionally, what kind of leadership opts to oust a successful member of the downtown community? One who set up shop forty years ago and stuck it out through the good times, bad times and sometimes downright horrible times. Not only has this business persevered all these years, Buona Pizza managed to thrive and succeed in a downtown where others failed.

It is my opinion that a true visionary, a genuine leader should reward loyalty and, in any grand downtown revitalization, in a positive manner exploit a landmark, legacy business. I think it is safe to say that the Piccolino family has earned this status.

What will happen to the downtown if this new venture, by replacing a successful business, fails? Who will be held responsible? Who will replace the tax money Buona Pizza was generating? There are many questions. It is especially reasonable to question the wisdom of trying to remove an established, successful business for what may turn out to be a grandiose flight of fancy. Whatever the answers may be, we must protect this family’s right to maintain ownership of their property.

Justice O’ Connor wrote in her dissenting opinion, “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.” Her words now ring true to Buona Pizza, the Piccolino Family, the citizens of Scranton and all residents of Northeast Pennsylvania.

Today we must make a stand, because if the City takes this one family’s property there will only be one question left — who is next?

Joe Leonardi

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4 Comments

Filed under City Council, Eminent Domain, Judy Gatelli, Scranton

4 responses to “Eminent Domain — Who’s Next

  1. That says it all Joe. All valid points. The one that is sticking with me is where you said ” What will happen to the downtown if this new venture, by replacing a successful business, fails?” It seems to me that many projects that Mayor Doherty was touting as success stories are now failures (see Southern Union, About Thyme Cafe and many other KOZ properties). The Downtown is hanging on by a thread. The mall reminds me of a flea market, the Gap just left and many of the store fronts change each month. Very basically, some businesses got very sweet tax deals and still ended up closing shop.

    Our government has no right to take our property, regardless of what the Supreme Court says. It is just plain wrong and everyone knows it. Buona’s Pizza has been there all of my life. Where does this end? What if they want the home you live in? It is not out of the realm of possibilty. What do you think we can do to help Buona’s?

    Thanks.

    Rich

  2. Hear, Hear!

    Well written, Joe. With that Supreme Court ruling fading in the minds of the public, it’s yet another of those things people will not realize until it happens to them, and then they’ll look at each other and say “They can do that?”

    But how do you get something like that turned around? Give a government the power to do something, and sooner or later it will.

    ~A!

  3. I will end “all” Eminent Domain takeover for non goverment uses, when I’m elected President in 2008. This rape of owners of land, homes, business’ will end. I will personally drive the bulldozer my self to flatten the homes of every judge of the Supreme Court and make their home a city park for “THE CHILDREN” our government is alway telling us they are doing something because it’s for THE CHILDREN, but this is now out of hand. NO more Eminent Domain take over, check out, read my coverage of this on my website.
    http://www.DonCordellforPresident.com and you will see many things Don Cordell will do to protect our citizens in the future, before they try to make us the North American Union, and give us to the United Nations. Citizens check for “REX 84” and “Public Law 87-297” about how we will be detained in Detention Centers when we have the nerve to complain about our government. If you still want a nation “Of the people, by the People, for the People”, then you have to elect Don Cordell. I want the Supreme Court to make unanamouse decisions from now on. If these judges are the smartest judges in America and they can’t agree 9 to nothing on matters before them, something is wrong. Either they are all wrong or they are all right, no inbetween. Citizens: help me save America the Beautiful, before we are disarmed, and become slaves to the United Nations. I will also close our borders 100%. NO More Illegal Aliens from anywhere.

  4. I don’t know who Don is, but his comment was well written and thought out. This site is about dialogue. While I’m still looking for a republican to support and vote for, I invite anyone who wants to leave a comment to do so.

    Thank you for your comment and keep up the dialogue

    Joe

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