Tarnished Star

I used to be somewhat a fan of the Dallas Cowboys.  But these days I’m having a hard time of it.  Ever since the city of Arlington stole the homes of some of its residents to build the Cowboys a new stadium I just can’t get into them.  I see red every time I think about it.  So I’ve decided that I will not be watching any games from now on, I won’t purchase any of their merchandise for myself or anyone else, and I will never attend one of their games just on the general principle that I don’t want to support the organization in any way, shape, or form if they’re willing to accept and benefit from the theft of land.

The abuse of eminent domain is something that infuriates me beyond belief.  My first impulse when I see it is that the politicians involved should be gibbeted from lampposts at the town’s entrance as an example to others of what happens to thieves.  But then I remember that other parts of our laws frown on such behavior (unfortunately). 

I realize that eminent domain is sometimes a necessary evil.  But it should never be used for the benefit of any private enterprise.  If a company wants to build something, they can negotiate with the owners just like anyone else.  If the owners don’t want to sell, then too bad. 

Now I’m sure there will be people who object to my use of the term theft.  But, it seems to me, that there are major conflict-of-interest issues with having the same governmental entity that is taking the land decide its value.  If the owner is compelled to sell a property at less than his/her asking price, then he or she has been deprived of the value and that is theft. 

Of course, the next objection is that some people would demand much more than the land is worth.  To which my reply is, “So?”  While some ascribe this to greed, it’s usually a signal to the marketplace that they DO NOT WANT TO SELL.  Many of the people in Arlington were in situations where taking the city’s offer, even if it was “fair,” would have ruined them financially.  Because they were in an older neighborhood they often had older homes that were worth less.  But at the same time, new developments in the surrounding area have driven up new home prices.  It would have been impossible for many of them to afford a similar home and lot in an area reasonably close to their current locations with the amount being offered by the city.

Perhaps one way to fix this would be to require that the injured party be made whole again.  So instead of paying “fair value” (whatever the city decides that to be), there should be some sort of third-party, independent, evaluation of the replacement costs of the home and land.  This would be what it would cost for the purchase of a new home of the equivalent size (with equivalent size lot) within no more than five or ten miles from the original home (so that they can maintain job and family ties).  Would this be more expensive?  Yep.  That’s the whole point.  Cities ought to be forced to pay what’s really fair, not what they can get away with.

I’d also like to see this used for the Trans-Texas Corridor.  I really don’t like the idea of eminent domain used for a privately-financed road (and I could give less than a damn about the rhetoric being spewed from mealy-mouthed spokesmen about how it’s going to be state-owned; it either has to be 100% state owned and financed or it’s private, but eminent domain privileges should only be used for a fully state-funded project)


  1. Jim Carson says:

    Since we have no yardarms, and I shudder at the thought of my hanging from one, I’d offer the following:  Make every politician voting in favor of an eminent domain action be recorded on video making a statement such as:

    I, Jim Carson, am exercising my right and/or duty as Councilman of the City of Keller by condemning the property of Aubrey Turner for the purpose of expanding Wisteria Lane.  I have endeavored to find a voluntary solution for the relief of traffic on Wisteria Lane and found none.  Mr. Turner will be fairly compensated for the loss of his property, his moving expenses, and the disruption and/or permanent loss of value to his business.  I regret that this action was necessary to serve the public interest.

    Substitute Dallas Cowboys Stadium for expanding Wisteria Lane, and your Council Members might start to get a little squeamish.

  2. It would certainly be nice if they had to acknowledge it so explictly and publicly.

    I think everyone in Arlington (except for the people who were affected by the condemnations) had stars in their eyes at the thought of the stadium (and the associated revenue).  It was easy for them to forget the consequences of their actions.

  3. David Bond says:

    Amen brother, just ask the family that was kicked off the ranch they had owned for over a 100 years so we could be ‘blessed’ with the presence of Texas Motor Speedway.