Friday, July 15, 2005

30: “The Twilight of Oppression”

"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."
--William O. Douglas

The late Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court is probably spinning in his grave over the recent Supreme Court decision Kelo v New London. The Supreme Court ruled that government authorities have the right to seize private property in order to allow developers to build on the site. The only stipulation is that it must be for the public good.

The Fifth Amendment says, in full (applicable portion in bold):

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

has this to say about the case:

“In 1998, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer built a plant next to Fort Trumbull and the City determined that someone else could make better use of the land than the Fort Trumbull residents. The City handed over its power of eminent domain—the ability to take private property for public use—to the New London Development Corporation (NLDC), a private body, to take the entire neighborhood for private development. As the Fort Trumbull neighbors found out, when private entities wield government’s awesome power of eminent domain and can justify taking property with the nebulous claim of “economic development,” all homeowners are in trouble."

The implications for Adams County are disastrous. In a county where most of the agricultural and open townships are fighting development, there are politicians at all levels of government, from the Straban Township supervisors ("The Strabaddies") to the Adams County Commissioners ("The Addams Family"), to the unusually taciturn state representatives, to the Adams County Economic Development Corporation (that suddenly gained vast new power with the Kelo decision), who are all, essentially, rolling over and playing dead to the developers.

On the southwest border of the county Wormold Development out of Maryland is looking for every legal loophole they can find to win a court battle so they can place an 1800 unit housing development in Liberty Township. For the record, that is more homes than there are in the Borough of Gettysburg.

In the northern part of the county, sprawl is creeping down from Cumberland County and Carlisle, which has become a major trucking hub because of Interstate 81. Adams residents pay the price for not developing by enduring the trucks that move both ways on U.S. Route 30 right though downtown Gettysburg. Sooner, rather than later, however, there will be a bypass put in that will connect Interstate 83 in York with Interstate 81 somewhere around Chambersburg or Shippensburg.

Straban Township, of course, wants to develop itself, to pave itself over and eliminate 80% of the green space (open and farm land) in the township. It is likely that most of the farmers there are unaware of "The Strabaddies" and their municipal land grab. Why else would they rezone the entire township and pass the new plan one day after publicly announcing it in the newspapers? Are "The Strabaddies" against the casino? Of course not, silly. They are even pressing the state legislature to allow them a bigger cut of the casino pie so they can start their own police force. Really! This blogger can recommend an investigation for that force to take on once they are established.

It will not be long before the missing Adams County Commissioners show up long enough to surrender their right to declare eminent domain to the Adams County Economic Development Corporation, as the City of New London did to their EDC.

The Adams County Economic Development Corporation has been working in secret for 15 years or more to bring development into Adams County. Sadly, they refuse to accept that it is not necessary in a county with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. There is only one reason for all this development: greed. (See the top right of this blog page for a description of greed.)

And so, the twilight of oppression deepens and the people of Adams County will drift rapidly into becoming “the unwitting victims of the darkness” – victimized by their own elected officials, and unwilling to do anything about it.

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