People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Friday, December 04, 2009

An Update On That Property Seizure Story Up In Roanoke

It appears that some of the information I provided the other day relating to the eminent domain travesty that is ongoing in Roanoke is dated.  I have further information that I'm passing along that paints a much more disturbing picture.

On Wednesday we learned in a report from Lawrence Hammack with the Roanoke Times of the plight of the Burkholder family:
It seems the only people who want the property that is flanked on two sides by Carilion Clinic's growing medical complex are the current owners, Jay and Stephanie Burkholder.

Yet the government is taking the land from the Burkholders.

Last month, a Roanoke judge approved the condemnation of the 3-acre tract as part of a redevelopment plan closely linked to Carilion's proposal to build a business park and medical school where aging industries once operated along South Jefferson Street.

Only now, Carilion says it has no interest in the Burkholders' property, which will soon be acquired through eminent domain by the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Mark Loftis, an attorney for the housing authority, said the land is being taken as part of a master redevelopment plan for the area, which doesn't necessarily have to involve Carilion. One possibility is that Carilion would acquire the land and then sell it to a developer, as it did with a hotel being built in the area.

I've  since gotten more detail on the saga.  The efforts of the Roanoke housing authority are far more heavy-handed (and wasteful)  than we thought.  (It should be noted that this came to me in email form so I'm unable to provide a link to a source as I would normally do).


● In May, 2000 in a contract between Carilion and the city of Roanoke, Carilion agrees to pay fair market value for all property Roanoke acquires on its behalf.

● In 2004, Roanoke acquires the Mennel Milling flour mill property nearby (just across S. Jefferson Street) under threat of condemnation for $8 million. This requires Mennel Milling to build a replacement facility in Roanoke County for $31 million.

● In 2008, Roanoke sells the mill to Carilion for $560,000, on condition that Carilion tears it down, at an estimated cost of $500,000.

The flour mill was so important to the development back in 2000 that the Carilion boss said the deal with Roanoke was a non-starter without it. This year, Carilion said it has no plans to put anything on the empty land.

As for the Burkholders, ever since the heat started to rise, Carilion has begun to disavow any role in the taking of the their property or any interest in even having it.

● The housing authority has no plan for, or potential buyers of the property.

So, here’s where we stand: There’s no public use, benefit or purpose to come from the condemnation of the Burkholder property. But Roanoke will take it anyway because it can. The United States Supreme Court made it possible.

Head swimming?  It gets worse.  Carilion, under the terms of the 2000 contract, must pay Roanoke for the property. But don't shed tears.  They will, of course, get it for a song. And, if Roanoke's largest employer can find a buyer, Carilion will make a tidy profit from the government's action.

As for the Burkholders, the couple whose lives are being smashed in this land-grab, will never be made whole.  And taxpayers will have a hole on Reserve Avenue where once there was a thriving business.

For the love of God.

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Virginia's premier newspaper columnist, Bart Hinkle, has more:
Roanoke: Eminent-Domain Case Looks Like Kelo Redux

When the Supreme Court handed down its disastrous 2005 ruling on eminent domain in Kelo v. New London, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor made a prediction. "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party," she lamented, "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." Kelo, in effect, took away David's slingshot and gave Goliath a bigger club.

Time is proving O'Connor right. So is the city of Roanoke.

In a case remarkably similar to New London, Conn.'s, seizure of Susette Kelo's home for economic development related to a Pfizer research facility, Roanoke has been fighting to seize a building housing a flooring company owned by Jay and Stephanie Burkholder for the benefit of Carilion Clinic (formerly Carilion Health System).

In 2001, the Roanoke City Council and the city's Redevelopment and Housing Authority mapped a redevelopment area around Jefferson Street, and hired a consultant who determined that a majority of the area was blighted or -- consider the implications of this -- "improperly developed."

The city began buying out property owners in the designated area.

The housing authority offered to buy out the Burkholders, too. They declined. So the housing authority decided to take their property by force. It initiated condemnation proceedings, even though the Burkholders' building was not designated a blighted property.

The Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause states: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." For decades, a plain reading of that language prevailed: "public use" had to mean something actually was employed by the public, as for example by riders on a railway. But the Supreme Court gradually twisted the meaning of the words. Public use became public purpose, which became public welfare, broadly defined -- meaning pretty much anything public officials want it to.

As a result, matters in many states now stand precisely where O'Connor warned they would: "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."
That's what should disturb everyone. This government seizure can tomorrow easily involve your home or farm or business. The government will continue to seize private property "because it can." Nobody's safe.

In the United States of America.  How did we let this happen?

Headline Of The Day

This says it all:

Oh, wait. That's a New York Times headline from 2003.

When George W. Bush was president.

But Bush is gone. Soooo.

That same New York Times this morning:

How profound an effect one election can have on a person's outlook on that glass-half-full thingie.

my my my my my.

What About Those Coalfield Jobs, Barry?

Obama is scrambling these days to stave off worsening unemployment numbers worsening favorability poll numbers.  That's what that goofy "jobs summit" was all about. The one that had little to do with creating jobs and everything to do with a clueless president desperately looking for headlines.

But let's talk about job creation.  Or more appropriately, job preservation.

Don Surber (who lives outside of Charleston, WV):
Obama hosts a job summit while his EPA kills jobs
Charleston Daily Mail

The Associated Press outlined four ideas that President Obama should consider for his job summit tomorrow. How about we start with keeping the jobs we already have in the coalfields? Not only does mountaintop mining provide coal mining jobs, but it provides cheap electricity to attract other jobs, and it provides flat land in a state whose main deterrence to economic development is its lack of flat land.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson has not only stopped future permits but she went back and retroactively pulled 79 existing mine permits, including 23 in West Virginia.

The White House believes it must honor all contracts with ACORN — for whom President Obama has a major conflict of interest — but feels it does not feel obliged to honor permits. [link]
Surber goes after southern West Virginia's lone congressman, Nick Rahall (Democrat) as well, for sitting back and letting the EPA run roughshod over those who keep sending him to Washington.  Those being the miners in the coalfields who are wearing that big Obama bullseye on their backs.

To you folks over in the coalfields: Don't be fooled when you read about our president doing everything he can to help you out in this time of great hardship.  His administration presses on, doing everything in its considerable power to throw you out of a job.

Climactic Climate Implosion

I recall the final scenes in the movie "Reign of Fire" (God help me; I enjoyed watching it over and over again), in which the dragons, after having taken over the world and having consumed all available foodstuffs on the planet, started eating each other.

I'm reminded of that spectacle by reading this morning's news.  The climate "scientists" who are at the center of the Climategate controversy, with nowhere to turn, are now eating each other:
Climategate: Phil Jones accused of making error of judgment by colleague
By Chris Irvine, London Telegraph

Prof Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has been accused of manipulating climate change data following thousands of leaked documents that suggested academics delete sensitive emails to evade Freedom of Information requests from climate change sceptics.

One of the scientists to whom the emails were addressed, Professor Michael Mann, the Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University has moved to distance himself from some of the comments in the emails that suggest scientists did not want the IPCC, the UN body charged with monitoring climate change, to consider studies that challenged the view global warming was genuine and man-made.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight, Prof Mann said: "I can't put myself in the mind of the person who wrote that email and sent it. I in no way endorse what was in that email."

Prof Mann also said he could not "justify" a request from Prof Jones that he should delete some of his own emails to prevent them from being seen by outsiders.

"I can't justify the action, I can only speculate that he was feeling so under attack that he made some poor decisions frankly and I think that's clear." [link]
I can't help but see this as the act of a desperate dragon ... er, scientist.  The accuser here, Michael Mann, for those of you who don't know it, is up to his eyeballs in this scandal himself.  He too has been accused of manipulating data and participating in the cover up.  He too is soon to lose his job (he's already lost all credibility).

So they're now turning on each other.  A spectacle to behold.

Oh, by the way, if you haven't seen the movie, the dragons all die and we win in the end.

How Times Have Changed

Google the words "Washington Post editorial executive privilege" and you get 2,640,000 hits.  With most of those editorials having to do with George W. Bush and the abuse of that executive prerogative in the U.S. attorney firing incident.  Seemingly so anyway.

And now that Barack Obama has started to invoke executive privilege as well, is the Washington Post going apoplectic again?

Maybe tomorrow.

But not today.

Quote of the Day

From James Taranto:

"At this point the best that can be said for Obama is that he may yet live up to the standard of leadership set by his predecessor."

Read the whole thing.

Quote of the Day

Uh, make that Quote of Tomorrow since I've already got a quote for today.

From the U.K. Register:

"Reading the Climategate archive is a bit like discovering that Professional Wrestling is rigged. You mean, it is? Really?"

Climategate.  Professional wrestling.  Let's work that analogy.

The similarities rock the synapses.

Quote of the Day

OK, I know it's getting out of hand.  This is Quote of the Day After Tomorrow.

Ralph Peters on Obama's plan to win the Afghanistan war by abandoning Afghanistan to its fate in a year and a half:

It’s as if, during WWII, we’d told the Japanese and Germans that we really meant business, but intended to quit by 1944.

In Obama's world, that makes perfect sense.

Stuck On Stupid

So Obama calls a jobs summit to which he invites the best minds in the country to figure out how to get the problem with rising unemployment turned around.  Does he propose that which will actually stimulate growth and bring American business back?

Does he call a halt to debt-financed spending?

Does he propose to eliminate the heavy burden of federal regulation?

Does he offer to end the practice of dumping crippling mandates on the states?

Reduce payroll taxes?

Create a fair tax system that no longer punishes those who create jobs in this country?

Get the EPA off the back of America's once-powerful manufacturers?

Bring energy independence? Drill, baby, drill? Nuclear?


"Not to tip our hand too much, but one of the things I would be surprised if we don't end up moving forward on is an aggressive agenda for energy efficiency and weatherization."

11,000 more Americans lost their jobs this month.

With no end in sight.

- - -

And speaking of being stuck on stupid:

It worked so well the first time ...

- - -

"I've never run a business.  I've never met a payroll.  I wouldn't know a Profit & Loss from a Prophylactic.  I couldn't make a return on investment if Martha Stewart provided the recipe.  But here's how I'm going to create jobs ..."

It's a Cruel World

I've always had the utmost respect for Tiger Woods.  But if the stories are anywhere close to being true, he deserves every bit of this:

The Woods Family Christmas Card