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    "U.S. Conference of Mayors" Fighting Remedial Legislation Protecting Property Owners From Eminent Domain Consequences Following Supreme Court Ruling

    (Sept. 27, 2005) -- After filing a "Friend of the Court" brief that urged the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against property owners in a precedent-setting eminent domain case, the "U.S. Conference of Mayors," now headed by LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill, is working to defeat legislation being advanced to protect property owners in the wake of the Court ruling.

    The Mayors' group, a private organization funded in part by memberships paid by taxpayers from cities including Long Beach, has issued a memo via its Executive Director urging Mayors of member cities "not to support legislation restricting state and local use of eminent domain in promoting economic development" and to lobby Congressmembers accordingly.

    The August 2 memo by the group's Executive Director, titled "Action Alert, Immediate Action Needed and posted on the Mayors' group website, states [emphasis below in original]:

    Please contact your Senators and Representative(s) in Congress and urge them not to support legislation restricting state and local use of eminent domain in promoting economic development. If your city has used eminent domain to assemble land needed for federally assisted economic development projects (such as an industrial park, public housing units, new housing units, downtown redevelopment, sports stadiums, public transit systems, or public roads), we urge you to call or write your Senators and Representatives and let them know the important role eminent domain played in assembling the land needed for these projects. It is important that you identify any ongoing or future projects that could be adversely impacted by proposed federal restrictions.


    Several legislative proposals (H.R. 3135/S. 1313/H.R.3315) have been introduced in Congress in response to the U.S. Supreme Courtís June 23 decision in Kelo v. City of New London. In that decision, the Court affirmed the cityís use of eminent domain in taking private property that city officials determined was needed to spur economic revitalization. Many lawmakers claim the Courtís 5-4 decision unfairly gives local governments power to take peoples homes to make way for shopping malls and other private development. As a result, several proposals have been introduced to prohibit state and local use of federal funds in any way to exercise eminent domain for economic development purposes.

    Of most immediate concern is restrictive language adopted in the FY 2006 appropriations bill (H.R. 3058) for the departments of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation. Similar language is expected to be added to the Senate companion bill. If enacted, state and local governments could lose authority to use eminent domain in connection with federally assisted projects that promote economic development. If this should happen, economic development will be difficult if not impossible for state and local governments...

    ...[I]f you have any questions, and remember to send us a copy of any correspondence you send or any feedback you receive from your members of Congress.

    Despite protracted discussion of LB Redevelopment, the LB City Council did not take a position on the Kelo eminent domain case before the "U.S. Conference of Mayors" (and the "National League of Cities" and the "League of CA Cities" weighed in on the subject. The LB City Council has likewise not yet taken a policy position on legislation in Sacramento and Washington advanced to protect property owners regarding eminent domain.

    A state constitutional amendment, advanced by State Senator Tom McClintock (R., Thousand Oaks) [the subject of a guest editorial posted on] was opposed by the "League of CA Cities" and CA Redevelopment Association (headed by former LB Asst. City Manager John Shirey); the measure was blocked last month in a Sacramento legislative committee despite testimony from multiple witnesses who cited Redevelopment and eminent domain abuses.

    Mayor O'Neill has previously used the U.S. Conference of Mayors to press for federal legislation creating transportation projects designated of "national and regional significance"...which was used by the Port of LB to seek federal funds to rebuild the Gerald Desmond Bridge and permit entry of 10,000 TEU megaships, larger than current 8,000 TEU megaships.

    However despite an April 2005 voted action by the LB City Council, Mayor O'Neill did not use her leadership position in the Mayors' group to rally opposition from coastal cities across the country impacted by then-advancing federal legislation undercutting local control over regulation and siting of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities. After the bill had cleared a crucial House hearing and was on the eve of passage by the full House of Representatives, the group's Executive Director co-signed a letter opposing the preemptive verbiage.

    Related coverage:

    Aug. 2005: Editorial: Stopping Stealth Advocacy On Eminent Domain

    Aug. 2005: Guest Op-Ed: Eminent Despotism (Author: State Sen. Tom McClintock

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