Friday, December 30, 2005

More Eminent Domain Abuse

I ask Colts fans going to Sunday's final regular season game against the Arizona Cardinals to take a minor side trip as they drive in. File past the NK Hurst Company's facilities just south and west of the RCA Dome and understand what is happening there.

NK Hurst is a family business. Hurst weathered tough times as the inner city underwent decline in the 1970s. They put their faith in Indianapolis and resisted the temptation to flee to the suburbs, or to other Indiana cities. They remained to this day, and would continue if allowed to.

What is Hurst's reward for their perserverance? A slap in the face. Their land is being stolen by the Stadium Authority, who is using eminent domain procedings to do quickly and on its terms what fair negotiations take a while to achieve and on more just terms. From the Indy Star report:
Company vice president Jim Hurst, who learned of the lawsuit this morning, said he was surprised and offended by the court action because he thought negotiations were progressing.

“Our business is again under direct threat,” he said.

Hurst said that the family needs more land for employee parking and its storage trailers than what the stadium is offering. They've offered alternative ideas to the stadium authority, which have been rejected.The stadium authority acknowledges that they filed this action on the last business day of 2005 to pre-empt any changes the Indiana General Assembly may make in the 2006 session.

Look on it well, especially if you take the position that Hurst is just one small property, and is being served up for the greater good.

Eminent Domain represents a threat to the security of every property owner in our state. No matter if you own a simple residence or a productive business, government can steal your property from you and deliver it to those who would dream up something bigger- usually for the purpose of swelling the tax rolls. Or, in this case, as a political feather in a Governor's cap.

The legislature may put an end to this awful practice in the 2006 session, as a joint committee has been studying the issue in the wake of the Kelo v. New London decision. While the legislature should ban all commercial use of eminent domain, such a ban is of no use to the NK Hurst Company. The Stadium Authority filed its motion on December 30, 2005, which means the action is not subject to any subsequent change in the law. From the Star:
And that has legislators furious. Sen. Jeff Drozda, R-Westfield, who will likely help sponsor eminent domain legislation next year, said the stadium's actions were "highly suspicious and disingenuous."

The only just recourse would be for the Authority to withdraw its filing. Hopefully Senator Drozda and others who support curtailing eminent domain abuse, such as Rep. Dave Wolkins, will exert pressure to that end.

That is very unlikely to have a significant effect anyway, as the Governor worked so hard twisting arms behind the scenes to make Republican county councilors go on record voting for 1% food & beverage taxes they would rather not have on their records.

So, make sure to file by the Hurst property. Unless and until the legislature of this state acts to end commercial eminent domain takings, your home or business property could just as well suffer the same fate as the Hurst's- theft, and the wrecking ball.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Good Show, Dan

It was very good to hear Dan Drexler alongside his Democratic and Republican counterparts this morning on WXNT's "Abdul In The Morning" show. This was his first public forum with the other Executive Directors, and he sounded right in place.

I was especially pleased at how Dan distinguished the Libertarian Party from Luke Messer and the Republicans. Reponding to Democrat Mike Edmonston's charge that since Daniels took office, the state has slipped in job creation ranking, Mr. Messer was talking about how the new Daniels Administration has created in other ways. Dan picked up the cue and noted that the Administration has created new levels of bureaucracy.

Messers response was the tired hyperbole that a Libertarian government would result in lawless anarchy, when in fact, Libertarians would bring fiscal sanity- the kind the GOP used to talk about (but never achieved) when Ronald Reagan was President. It appears the Republicans are done with even talking about it.

Good show, Dan!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Radio Alert

Be sure to tune in Thursday to "Abdul in the Morning" on WXNT 1430-am, as Abdul conducts a year in review program with top officials of each of Indiana's ballot access political parties.

Libertarian Party of Indiana Executive Director Dan Drexler will be there, presumably with his Democrat and Republican counterparts at 8am. The show airs each weekday from the ungodly hour of 5:00 am through 9:00.
Latest Writer's Bureau Column

I am on a rotation with four other writers in the Libertarian Writer's Bureau. The Bureau's work goes out to every newspaper in the state of Indiana. It was picked up locally by the Noblesville Daily Times in their Monday, December 28 edition. Too late for Santa Claus perhaps, but none to early for the citizens of our state. Link.
A shopping list for the Legislature
By Mike Kole

I have a wish list for the Indiana Legislature.

I'm not looking for goodies or expensive toys. I am seeking items that would bring good will, security and prosperity to all Hoosiers.

As our state legislators return to the Statehouse for the Committee Days that will help to formulate the next legislative session, it would be a good and positive sign if three things went straight to the top of the list.

Eminent domain belongs at the very top. The Kelo v. New London case shook most property owners to their foundations. Why? The sort of eminent domain taking practiced increasingly by municipalities threatens every property owner in our state.

Kelo showed that private property is not merely open for taking for genuinely public purposes, such as for bridges or drainage projects. Cities and towns can now take private land and give it away for redevelopment projects that will result in a higher tax base.

It doesn't matter how big a property owner you are. If you own a simple residence in a neighborhood, your land can be stolen and given to the developer of a luxury home subdivision. The luxury homeowner is no more secure, as his land can be swapped in favor of a shopping center. Even Wal-Mart can be replaced by a 12-story office complex, which in turn can be replaced by a 20-story building.

No matter what property you own, a developer can conjure something that will deliver more tax dollars by the structures in place. Kelo creates a climate of insecurity.An absence of trust in the state of private property will chase people away from our state to take refuge where they can feel secure that their right to property will be protected by the state, not threatened by it. Alabama and other states have passed tough restrictions on the use of eminent domain for commercial use. Indiana must follow suit. It would be embarrassing to have people flee Indiana for Alabama.

The state budget is next. Now that we've had the tax amnesty program and the controversial cuts at the BMV, it's time to get serious about restoring fiscal sanity. This means a minimum 1 percent across-the-board budget cut. Make no mistake: the budget increases that are smaller than the increases in previous years are not cuts.

Cutting across the board means department heads can't point envious fingers at other departments that might have been spared a cut. Having a Republican majority in both the Indiana House and Senate means there is no reason for the Legislature to hide from cuts. They have the numbers.

Moreover, they have a governor who earned his nickname, “The Blade,” for his willingness to cut budgets at the federal level. Here in Indiana, it's time to put away the penknife and tweezers and get some real cutting tools into action.

Cutting 1 percent is nobody's idea of a radical proposal. If Republicans lack the will to cut a measly 1 percent with this kind of majority, they simply lack the will. Libertarians in the same seats wouldn't flinch from the job.

Finally, it's time for another look at municipalities engaged in annexations. While the rules were clarified for cities and towns regarding what they can and cannot annex, not enough thought was given to the forced nature of so many of these takeovers.

It is perfectly admirable for a city or town to annex a neighborhood that voluntarily seeks to be added. On the other hand, forced annexation is the equivalent of a hostile takeover. It is an ugly and greedy process and should be banned statewide.

The right to self-determination is the very principle that founded our nation, and forced annexation negates this right for residents and business owners in areas targeted for forced annexation. On that principle alone, the practice should be banned, but there are more reasons.

Too often the real reason a town council craves the addition of a neighborhood in an unincorporated area is to add it to the tax rolls. With the added assessed value, the city or town can float more bonds. Meanwhile, residents who were getting along just fine without the town are presented with higher property taxes if they give in or an expensive legal bill if they fight.

Cities make flimsy promises because it's all they have to offer. The township resident doesn't need city police protection because they have the county sheriff. Likewise for fire protection, highway maintenance and other services. Councils, and especially the citizens, would be better served with councils looking for ways to spend less money rather than hunting creative ways to grab dollars, while offering no value in exchange. Forced annexation is wrong and needs to stop.

Should the Legislature address these three items correctly, they will go a long way toward making Indiana a more secure, productive and harmonious state — one that would serve as a wealth and job magnet instead of the kind that results in the brain drain that we have sadly become accustomed to.

Mike Kole of Fishers is the former chair of the Libertarian Party of Hamilton County. He wrote this article for the Libertarian Party of Indiana.
Back From Cle

My trip from Cleveland was enjoyable, as always. It felt like being on tour, whisking from one set of relatives to the next. It's great to bring back the love and support of those who care for me.

It's not great, however, to bring a head cold back. If it seems like I am underproducing here at the blog, chalk it up to that.

However, as the pipeline sometime crawls a bit slowly, I can report that the Noblesville Daily Times recently printed my current article for the Libertarian Writer's Bureau. Here's the link. Because the link will expire in a week, I'll post the text above.