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April 19, 2005

The unlimited potential for corruption in "economic development" eminent domain cases

We have yet another example of the outrageous eminent domain abuse that is the subject of a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case (addressed more than once in this blog), the city of New London, Connecticut is trying to kick people out of their homes in the name of economic development (read "increased tax revenue").

Chicago is doing something similar, the details of which ought to make a reasonable person furious. The Sportif Bike Shop has been operating profitably in its current location for 35 years. Well and good, except for the fact that a developer wishes to raze the entire block that includes the bike shop so he can build a seven-story condominium. Everyone on the block has sold out except the owner of the bike shop.

Time for some good old fashioned Chicago-style cronyism. The developer is buddies with (and a significant contributor to) one of Chicago's aldermen, and wouldn't you know it, the city is going to bat for the developer. The city is diverting real estate tax revenue from Sportif and some other nearby businesses so they can hire an outside lawyer to do the legal work required to evict the bike shop owner from his property.

This is another reason why the exercise of eminent domain must be restored to its constitutional boundaries — the sky's the limit when it comes to the potential for corruption in the way it is currently used.

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