Friday, June 24, 2005

22: “…With Local Implications”, Part 1

Yesterday, there were two court decisions released that have local implications. Both were bad news.

The United States Supreme Court issued a decision on a Connecticut case that now allows local government to declare eminent domain on any personal property and turn that property over to private developers.

If that doesn’t send a Big-Brotherish chill through you, read what implications Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Conner wrote as part of the dissenting opinion:

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

The plaintiffs filed suit after the city of New London declared eminent domain to take their property in a reported “working class neighborhood” to turn over to developers for a hotel, a health club, and offices.

This blogger imagines the celebratory partying in Straban Township is still going on. Mr. Monahan, Mr. LeVan, and "The Strabaddies" were probably doing circle…dances.. all night. And not without good reason. There was a second opinion rendered yesterday.

The Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania rejected suit to declare the state’s gaming law, Act 71 of 2004, unconstitutional. The suit had claimed that the original bill, which started out as something regarding the State Police, was amended into the now infamous Act 71. What was originally 31 lines of incomplete legislation, was crossed out and 146 pages of Act 71 was inserted into the bill. According to the plaintiffs, the state Constitution does not permit a bill to be amended to change its purpose. Also, the plaintiffs claimed the state Constitution limits a bill to one subject. In his opinion, Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ralph J. Cappy held that:

"Keeping in mind the trepidation with which the judiciary interferes with the process by which the General Assembly enacts the laws, we conclude that as a matter of law, there was a single unifying subject to which most of the provisions of the act are germane, the regulation of gambling."

One other point in this ethically challenged piece of legislation was tossed out of the bill, and ruled unconstitutional – the section that allows the new Gaming Control Board to ignore local zoning ordinances in determining where a casino can be built. Cappy wrote:
"The General Assembly has failed to provide adequate standards and guidelines required to delegate, constitutionally, the power and authority to execute or administer that provision of the Act to the Board."

Lest you get all excited about this one minor victory, just keep in mind what "The Strabaddies" did on May 2 when they reclassified almost 80% of the open and agricultural land in the township for commercial, residential or industrial use. They will not pass up an opportunity to pave anything over. They’ve done their work. Today’s Gettysburg Times triumphantly blares its front page banner headline, “Court upholds slot machine law”.

The real newspaper in the area, the Hanover Evening Sun, includes a sub-article to its front page coverage of the state Supreme Court decision. In the article, titled “Straban back in the game”, Evening Sun Reporter Travis Lau writes: “Don’t complain to us. That’s what Straban Township officials have told residents who oppose a casino proposed to be built at Gettysburg Driving Range, near Routes 15 and 30 on the township’s southwestern fringe.” Later, he quotes Supervisor Jay McDannell, “We still stand in the same place that we did…We’ll do what the people want.”

With the history that "The Strabaddies" have accumulated over the past 20 years in their relationship with developers, and their fetish for asphalt, McDannell’s words should read, “…We’ll do what the developers want.” Do not expect the Straban Township Supervisors to lift a finger to stop the casino, no matter how much they may publicly claim to oppose it. They have played that game for years, deploring this development, and that building and then voting to approve what the developer and builder want. Afterwards, they complain publicly how “painful” it was to vote that way. Remember, these are the people who have brought you their own “Golden Mile” along York Street from Route 15 to the Marsh Creek border with the Borough of Gettysburg. These are the wonderful folks who ‘zoned’ Camp Letterman out of existence – never mind it was the largest temporary Civil War hospital, and thousands of men who fought in the battle here were treated there, some passing away, others surviving. Certainly, according to "The Strabaddies", there was no real historical significance to Camp Letterman. They may claim that if it was significant, the National Park Service would have encompassed it within the boundaries of the Park, but do not be fooled. That is done only by an act of Congress, and it happens rarely.

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