Should the public know when the government is taking public property?
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Should the public know when the government is taking public property?


– Most people would never
imagine being forced to sell their private property
against their own will, but the government makes
this exact scenario happen in the name of the greater public good. The 5th amendment of the US Constitution allows private property
to be taken for public use so long as just compensation is given. The 14th amendment reaffirms this and adds that due process of law must be used in order for
government to take property. While public use was initially limited to government functions that
would benefit the public, such as a new water or railway system, the interpretation of
what public use means has expanded greatly over time. For example, take the case of Kelo versus City of
New London, Connecticut. Susette Kelo and her neighbors were told that they had to move out of their homes and find a new place to live because the government would
be using eminent domain to forcefully buy their
property from them. The property was not going to be used to build a school or public building, but instead was intended to benefit the expansion of Pfizer,
a private drug company. Susette challenged this taking in court and ultimately lost in
a five to four decision before the US Supreme Court. In their majority opinion,
the five justices stated that economic development
was a good enough reason to use eminent domain. Government would be allowed
to take people’s property in order to sell it off to other companies that could increase the tax base. This decision rightly outraged
people across the country which led to the Kelo Effect; 44 states passed laws or
constitutional amendments to increase private property protections against the use of eminent domain. Utah was one of those states. The legislature has passed
numerous laws since 2006, enacting some strict
rules for eminent domain. But abuse can still happen. Just last year in Salt Lake City, the state lost a court
case when they tried to use eminent domain
to take a person’s land to swap property with
Rocky Mountain Power. Where else and how often
is this happening in Utah? Do people know they have a right to challenge eminent domain in court? And is government only using
eminent domain when it should? All of these questions
are difficult to answer without easy to access information regarding where, when,
and how eminent domain is being used in Utah. In order to ensure the
law is being fairly used across the state, this information needs to be made public. Our property rights depend on it. For Libertas Institute,
I’m Nichelle Aiden. (deep bass techno music)

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