Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tools For Ending Eminent Domain Abuse

The Castle Coalition is leading the charge for ending the theft of property from people unwilling to sell their land, with a campaign called, "Hands Off My Home".

One tool is to ask for pledges from state governors that they oppose the practice of using eminent domain for commercial uses. Tell your governor that you want them to sign the pledge. Link. Here's the pledge:

Pledge For Governors

I pledge to the citizens of this State that I will:
Oppose efforts by my state government or municipalities within my state to use the government power of eminent domain for private development.

Support legislation and other efforts to ensure that the citizens of this State are safe from eminent domain for private development.

Also consider forwarding the Castle Coalition's model legislation to your State Representative or State Senator, especially if you have the idea that they are pro-property rights, or even somewhat awake.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Un-SuperSize Me

You all know about SuperSize Me, where filmmaker Morgan Spurlock exclusively ate food from McDonald's for 30 days and put on a bunch of weight.

In reaction to this, some people are now doing the same thing angling for different results. From CNN:
One person went so far as to make her own independent film about dieting at McDonald's. "Me and Mickey D" follows Soso Whaley, of Kensington, New Hampshire, as she spends three 30-day periods on the diet. She dropped from 175 to 139 pounds, eating 2,000 calories-a-day at McDonald's.

Actually, McDonald's strikes me as a very forward thinking company. While many Americans are indeed sleepwalking through their lives, ordering burgers and fries meal after meal, others are taking advantage of McDonald's ever diversifying menu, which generally gets healthier as the months pass, not worse.
As might be expected, McDonald's also objected to the impressions left by Spurlock's film. Walt Riker, the company's vice president of corporate communications, said Oak Brook, Illinois-based company is pleased -- but not surprised -- that some customers have lost weight eating only at the fast-food giant.

Spurlock's film "really spurred a backlash based on common sense," Riker said.

Like anything else in life, the glass is either half empty or half full. McDonald's offers all sorts of selections, but ultimately, it's the choices the consumer makes that dictate weight gain or loss, health or ill health. It's just a cop-out to abdicate that self-responsibility.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I Love My Home Town, But...

Another Hamilton County GOP Sneak Attack Tax

Remember: I speak up about my home town's policies because I love it, and want it always to improve, and never to drift from the things that made it great.

So it was said, on Page 4 of the Republican Party's pamphlet, "How To Govern," that the best thing to do when considering a tax at a public forum is to make sure the public has as little notice about it as possible, so as to minimize the opposition.

I got an email this afternoon from a Fishers restaurant owner advising me that the Town would be considering a 1% food & beverage tax at their Monday, August 15 meeting. He got the email from the Town Manager.

As of this post (date and time stamped below), the agenda is not yet posted on the Town's website.

The meeting is merely 4 days and 22 minutes away, and the public has not been notified, except by me, via a restaurant owner.

That's very convenient, if the objective is to minimize opposition attendance. It's very convenient if the objective is to make sure that the Libertarian Party can't stage another one of its pub crawls. Clearly, the objective is to minimize public input and participation.

That's just lousy representative government.

In the meantime, write the Council and tell them you are opposed to any increase in the food & beverage taxes. Here are the email addresses for the Fishers Town Council Members:

Scott Faultless, President -
Stuart Easley, Vice President -
Timothy Lima -
Eileen Pritchard -
Daniel Henke -
Charles White -
David George -

It didn't take long for me to have to work against my own letter of praise. *sigh*
I Love My Home Town

I was absolutely delighted when my home town of Fishers, IN was named one of the Top 25 places to live by Money Magazine. I had heard criticisms of Central Indiana from some friends and family based on their vastly outdated notion that this is 'flyover country'.

Guess what? New York City isn't on the list. Neither is Cleveland.

The Fishers Topics printed my letter in today's edition. It is reprinted below:
As a Fishers resident, I took a great deal of pride in the town's recent ranking as one of the best American communities in which to live. This ranking is a tribute to those visionary people who helped create what we see in Fishers today, from developers to civic leaders.

I believe my experience is fairly typical of so many other Fishers residents. After living in Marion County and comparing notes on the communities throughout the region, my wife and I made Fishers the place to live and to raise our family, as a matter of first choice.

The excellent school system, the parks, the friendly people, and the relative laissez-faire approach to government are but a few of the qualities that make Fishers so attractive.

While town residents and officials revel in this ranking, let us all keep in mind the difficult task that lies ahead: making a great community even greater.

Many communities experience declines after years of ascent. This is because they drift from the things that made them great in the first place.

Let us never lose sight of the things that make Fishers great: high standards for quality of life balanced by low taxes.

Let us be mindful, too, that when people speak in support of the things that make Fishers great, and in opposition to policies that would set us adrift, they do so because they love their community, and want it continue the climb to No. 1 in the rankings.

Mike Kole, Fishers
Tell Me Why We Need NASA?

NASA's been dragging along with the Space Shuttle program -1970s technology, by the way- and not getting around to real human achievement in some long time.

Here's the real deal: private trips to the moon. It won't cost taxpayers a thing. Those who want to play astronaut can do so for the princely fee of $100 million. All the while, humans get closer to the day where our Universe more literally expands. From the AP story:
"For the first time in history, a private company is organizing a mission to the moon," Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson said at a Manhattan news conference Wednesday, a day after space shuttle Discovery safely returned to Earth. "This mission will inspire countries of the world, citizens ... our youth."

Anderson said he already has prospective "private explorers" who are interested in the trip and could afford the ticket.

How lame is NASA's track record in my lifetime? It started so well, with landings in the late 1960...
The initial travelers would be the first to orbit the moon in more than 33 years, according to the Arlington, Va., company. Only 27 people have ever made such a journey.

This is the clarian call for the end of the directionless black hole for money that is NASA, and the encouragement of more private entities to explore at their own expense, and yet to all of our benefit.
Opponents to Eminent Domain Heard

Yesterday's legislative study committee hearing was a libertarian dream come true. Citizens from all backgrounds- rich, poor; black, white; Democrat, Republican, Libertarian- expressed a common understanding of the slippery slope that is the doctrine of the common good. Legislators listened earnestly. The lead speakers were from the Institute for Justice and the Reason Foundation. Indy Star story.

Dr. Sam Staley spoke for the Reason Foundation. This link is text to his remarks.
Stephen Anderson spoke for the Institute for Justice and the Castle Coalition. CC provides model legislation, much of which I hope becomes law in Indiana.

For my part, I spoke off-the-cuff, abbreviating my prepared comments to focus on two concepts:
  • Your home is your castle
  • Your home is the very American Dream itself
I really loathe zero-sum games, but through the obvious injustice of Kelo v. New London, libertarian principles have at last been clearly illustrated to the average American. The danger of not acting in defense of the individual, but for the so-called "common good" has been laid bare.

Municipalities such as New London have indeed been acting in the interest of what they call the common good, which is to say, a fatter tax roll. If the tax roll is fatter, more people can be better served with those tax dollars. If sacrificing the homes of a few homeowners is what it takes, so be it.

It's all good, until you become the sacrificial lamb. The sacrificial lambs are the handful of individuals who own their properties. They are pitted against the collective whole of the society.

Libertarians defend the individual because we believe no person should be a sacrificial animal. No person. No matter how seemingly powerless or small. Ever.

Let us hope that finally, a good percentage of Americans come to understand that there is no such thing as the common good. More importantly, let us hope that they have come to understand that the individual must be defended in every area of life, but especially in the right of property.

Please continue to communicate with your State Senators and State Reps. Urge them to enact a total ban on the use of eminent domain for commercial purposes. Based on what I observed yesterday, Indiana lawmakers are very receptive. Let us take full advantage. The committee meets again in October, and the more they hear from foes of eminent domain, the better the chances of getting the most restrictive law.

The Libertarian Party needs to track the legislators carefully, and make it a point to run strong candidates against any State Rep or Senator who would vote to permit cities to help steal private property.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hearing Wednesday Afternoon

The issue of eminent domain abuse will be discussed at a public hearing Wednesday afternoon, at the Statehouse. I will attend, and intend to speak before the study panel. The text of my prepared speech follows below.

If you can attend, please do. If you can call or write your representative, please do. Your home should be your castle.

Good Afternoon. My name is Mike Kole. I reside at 7916 Turkel Drive in Fishers. I am a Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State.

I’d like to thank the members of this study panel for the opportunity to share my views with you on the important subject of eminent domain.

The US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Kelo versus New London left most Americans stunned, and the reason is very simple. Like never before, most Americans, and most Hoosiers, are property owners. Unfortunately, like never before, property owners feel threatened.

This issue isn’t like so many other political issues you will consider. It doesn’t matter if one is rich or poor; a Democrat, a Republican, or a Libertarian. If you are a property owner, your stomach sank when you learned about the Kelo decision, because you knew at that moment that you were vulnerable in the one place you want security the most- in your home. In your property.

The idea that your home is your castle is probably one of the most deeply held, most typically American sentiments that define us as a free nation, and separate us from the rest of the world. The Kelo decision flies in the face of this principle.

There is a reason that American society has stood as the most stable society on this earth for more than 200 years. It is not our system of government, per se. It is the fact that our governments have been instructed to respect the property rights of the people. American citizens were secure in the knowledge that nobody, no matter how poor or relatively powerless they might appear, were the absolute owners of their properties, and that nobody, no matter how wealthy or powerful, could take that property from them.

Perhaps you have been to Atlantic City. If you have, you may have seen the home in the middle of the casino parking lot. A widow named Vera Coking owns her home in an area where Donald Trump wanted to expand a casino and a parking lot. Mrs. Coking refused. Her home still stands, surrounded by the parking lot. She stayed as a matter of principle. She simply did not care to sell at any price. Her home is her castle. Fortunately, her property rights were upheld in a court of law.

When property rights are upheld, not even Donald Trump can get your property from you, unless you agree to sell.

That’s no longer true, thanks to the Kelo decision. There now exists the very real threat that Hoosiers can lose their properties to re-development, whether or not they agree to sell their land; whether or not it was even for sale. And it isn’t merely smaller property owners who are at risk.

Because taking land by eminent domain for commercial purposes is driven by the tax revenues produced by the property, current owners are threatened by any project that could be proposed that would fatten the tax rolls faster than the current user does.
Hoosiers who own small parcels in genuinely blighted areas, or those merely declared blighted, are now at very much at risk of losing their property to any developer who would bulldoze the old and build the new.

If you think that change is a good idea, be certain to consider your own home. You might live, as I do, in a nice suburban home, in an affluent community. We are at risk all the same. If a developer proposes a redevelopment for your neighborhood that would bring more tax dollars to your town or city, you had better be ready to pack your bags. You are at risk.

The neighborhood of modest homes is at risk of being replaced with upscale homes. The neighborhood of upscale homes is at risk of being replaced with multi-use, residential / commercial complexes. The residential / commercial complex is at risk of being replaced with a 12-story office building. The 12-story office building is at risk of being replaced with a 20-story building.

Churches produce no tax revenue whatsoever. Are they now at risk? This Statehouse produces no tax revenue. In fact, this is where the tax revenue disappears from. Could we get a redevelopment project here?

I digress… But the point is clear. There is always somebody out there with a bigger bankroll, with a bigger plan, and with more political pull. At any moment, absent new legislation that would ban eminent domain for commercial use, a plan could come along and pull any Hoosier out of their home… their castle.

While it is important to fund our municipalities for their core functions, it is more important to protect the property rights of each and every citizen, as a matter of principle.

The greedy appetites of our towns and cities are beginning to run amok in the quest for more and more revenue. In order to grab more money, some Indiana municipalities have shamefully run roughshod over the rights of property owners and allowed others to take their lands. In the home of the free. Where the home is the castle. It’s disgraceful.

Fortunately, the Indiana Legislature has the opportunity to return the sense of security to all Hoosier property owners- rich or poor, large or small- by banning the use of eminent domain for commercial purposes.

Let Indiana join states such as Alabama in banning eminent domain for commercial uses. 31 states, including Indiana, are studying the issue of eminent domain abuse. Let us be certain that Indiana is not a state where property owners have to fear redevelopment, where they have to look over their shoulders. Let us not drive property owners who want to be secure in their ownership away from Indiana.

I urge the Legislature to act to ensure that Indiana is one state where property rights are protected and secure.

I urge you to pass legislation that bans the use of eminent domain for commercial purposes.

I thank you for your consideration.
Membership Changes at National LP

The membership structure of the national Libertarian Party has long been criticized. Mainly, there are thousands of people who vote Libertarian, but for every 1,000 who do, only one person has joined the party. The membership fee has been cited as the primary obstacle.

Because those fees led to a funding program for state affiliates (in addition to supporting the national office), a doubling of the fees was recently considered. Price elasticity and all.

Today, the Libertarian Party announced the end of membership fees altogether. The best thing is that focus will shift from trying to build membership to winning elections. There's a novel idea! From the LP's website:
The shift to a zero-dues structure will essentially move the National Libertarian Party from an organization heavily focused on membership to an organization that is focused on winning elections above all else. The national staff has already started planning to make a seamless transition to zero dues and is beginning to develop training programs to assist the states.

The membership drive was carrying on over the last few months. For my own part, I have struggled with the renewal of my national membership. Mainly, I would like the focus to shift to property rigths and fiscal issues. But, I only have so many dollars to ladle out, and because I believe so solidly in the Libertarian Party of Indiana, for the most part, my money has stayed at home, supporting my state affiliate.

I am pleased that membership remains a feature for those who wish to declare themselves members. With the cost barrier removed, I think we'll see a good many who've resisted come to us.
Gardening Results

Now that Ame & I own our home, I have been interested in gardening again. This year's effort was pretty modest and experimental in nature. I was mainly attempting to find good locations for the kinds of plants I wanted to grow, namely: several varieties of Sunflowers; herbs such as cilantro and basil; vegetables such as cucumbers and bell peppers. I planted green, yellow, orange, and red peppers.

Of course, that means that I found places that were not well suited for certain plants. Also, despite a good amount of area, very little of it gets direct sunlight, which limits production. The front of the house gets the most direct sun.

The sunflowers thrive in direct sunlight, and look great in front of the house to boot. The Mammoth Sunflowers grew ridiculously tall. I thought 8 feet would be enough room under the roof line!

They are heavy with seeds, many of which will be saved for next year's plantings. That's a big deal, because ten of the sunflower plants sprouted on the day Isabel was born. I'm very excited about propagating those plants by saving the seeds. We'll always have Isabel sunflowers!

This fits in with our tradition of planting our Christmas trees. We planted the first one this year on New Years Day, and it has thrived.

I planted four cucumber plants, and have reaped the first five cucumbers. Beware, my co-workers. You will soon have cucumbers for your salads to last the next month. I know I do already.
The peppers are really late. The reason is that I left my starter plants in flats, and happened to be away from home in April when we had an unexpected heat wave, with 80-degree temperatures. They all died. In fact, only the herbs and sunflowers survived that heat. I learned the lesson: Get the plants into the ground! The second flats of peppers are now beginning to produce fruits. In about two weeks, I'll be overwhelmed with peppers.

I will plant more basil next year. I planted ten of the lemon basil variety, and they are only now really full with leaves. I've only enjoyed the leaves sparingly, because I've wanted to make sure there would be enough to make a pesto. Next year, it will be ten traditional basil and ten lemon plants. Now I have enough for the pesto.

See me for cucumbers and peppers!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Sites To Check Out

For those very interestedly following eminent domain issues in the wake of the Kelo v. New London decision, I recommend checking out the Eminent Domain Watch blog. EDW has links to several eminent domain notable sites and tracks news articles and cases from all 50 states. Great source!

Also, check out the Institute For Justice website. IJ litigated on behalf of Kelo in the sadly losing effort, and is probably the most prominent of those sites.
Republicans Do What They Are Good At

They're good at raising taxes. Well, that's how you balance a budget, right? Well, you can also hire a consultant. Don't follow? Keep reading.

Because Republicans aren't fiscal conservatives, they are only dimly aware that the other way to balance a budget is by cutting spending.

As professional politicians, they completely understand one thing about cutting spending- it leaves interested parties howling. Interested parties often contribute funds to campaigns, which means they could contribute to campaigns of other candidates. Never mind the taxpayers. The taxpayers don't howl quite so loud, or so close to the ear of the professional politician, so they can be easily enough ignored.

Fortunately, the Libertarians in Hamilton County have been tenacious in their criticism of these GOP flaws. It will be hard for Republicans to raise another tax in order to balance the budget. They already raised one this year.

All of this leads to why the all-Republican Hamilton County Council hired a consultant to examine the budget and to find cuts. They could do as I did- look over the budget, and in about an hour, they could come up with the necessary cuts in the area of about $1 million. However, that would leave them open to the howling. Better for the Councilors to have a consultant point to cuts to make so that they can hide behind him. I can just see the conversation between a Councilor and a Department Head now...

Department Head: "How could you cut my budget by 5%? I helped you get elected! We've been through the wars together. How could you do this to me?"
County Councilor: "You know I wanted to save your budget. Heck- I wanted to give you a 5% increase. But that lousy consultant told us we have to cut your budget. You know how bad it would look if we failed to act on the consultant's advice. We paid him close to $50,000."

The Department Head goes away steamed, but knows she can't make too great a fuss. It would be foolish. She goes back to her office looking for a way to create an 'emergency' by which she can be given an appropriation of funds at a later date. The County Councilor knows that he will vote for the appropriation at that time.

The Republican Party will crow to the media that the Libertarians are all wet, that they know how to balance a budget without too many tax increases, and that besides, the consultant was a real value, turning up $1 million in cuts for the low price of about $50,000. Over time, the budget will be overspent by 'emergency' appropriations, so that there is no real-life savings at all. A consultant will get fat. The County Council will be spared an angry mob of insiders. The taxpayers will get rooked.

Business as usual, brought to you by the Republican Party.

My letter to the Noblesville Daily Times on the subject was printed today.
The Daily Times article on the hiring of the consultant.
Great Newspaper Reading

Few places I know of have as great a newspaper environment as Hamilton County. There are two local papers. The Noblesville Daily Times is a daily, while the Noblesville Ledger is a twice-weekly. Each has a special weekly edition for Fishers, where I live.

Both papers have real news staffs who cover actual news. Don't laugh. Look at your local newspapers and see if the majority of the front page isn't comprised of AP, New York Times, or other stories. Our local papers write about actual local news. Moreover, it isn't fluff. The Times and the Ledger cover Council meetings and goings-on that truly impact people.

The Indy Star gives Hamilton County more real news coverage than Indianapolis at times. The Star doesn't cover every council meeting within Marion County, but they do frequently manage to cover Hamilton County events. Well, this is where the high-dollar demographic can be found. Ergo, the coverage.

Anyway, today's Noblesville Daily Times is outstanding. Here are some links, for your pleasure.
  • My letter to the Daily Times on the GOP's hiring of a budget consultant.
  • The Supreme Court's Kelo v. New London decision is front page news as the Indiana Legislature studies the topic, with a hearing Wednesday. I could have been quoted in this article since I will attend, but the Reason Foundation was cited, and that's very good.
  • Raymond Keating's editorial offers a brief personal responsibility quiz. It should be published in every newspaper across the country.
Which leads me to recommend this to you: Forward a link to this blog entry to the editor of your local paper. Tell the editor that you want real news, and to cut out the fluff, and that you want a libertarian viewpoint at least occasionally represented. As with politicians, editors need to hear from you if you believe their direction is misguided. Likewise, if you like what you see, offer compliments. I subscribe to the papers. I tend to think they like that as much as a note of praise.
Eminent Domain Hearing Approaches

Here's the reminder: Go to the Statehouse Wednesday to be seen in heard by a House study panel. The House seeks input on the issue of eminent domain. Many Libertarians, including myself, Mike Sylvester of Fort Wayne, and Margaret Fette of Bloomington will be on hand to make our case for restricting the use of eminent domain in the most severe way.

Kenn Gividen, former Libetarian candidate for governor, made his case on the pages of today's Indy Star.
The motive to abuse eminent domain is simple: It will increase revenue by reassigning real estate to those who will pay higher taxes. Low-income families are the logical targets.

One example was seen in New London, Conn., where local residents were forced to sell their modest homes. The city handed over its power of eminent domain to the New London Development Corp., a private body, to take the entire neighborhood for private development. One resident, Susette Kelo, sued NLCD for the right to retain her home. The case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Kelo lost her case.

This decision threatens every property owner in Indiana. Local government can force you to sell your property to a private enterprise. Unless, that is, Gov. Daniels and the Indiana legislature take the necessary steps to prevent it. On Wednesday, your voice can help make the change.

It isn't just low-income families who could suffer. Sure, the high-end homes in the Lockerbie Square neighborhood are fabulous. But what if a developer came up with a mixed-use plan for higher density luxury condos and retail space- all of which would generate greater tax revenues? Poof! That's what would happen. The City of Indianapolis would gladly facilitate the theft of those older homes in favor of re-development. So, Kenn's right. This threatens every property owner in Indiana.

If you can't attend, make sure to email or call your state Representative. Follow this link to find out who your legislator is:

Let you rep know that you oppose the use of eminent domain for any commercial purposes, and that you oppose the widespread abuse of eminent domain in general.

If they don't hear from you, they assume it doesn't matter to you.