IJ’s Work Shows It Is Time To Respect Private Property Rights
By Bernie Lynch
I clearly remember the day in October 1998 when I called the Institute for Justice and begged them to come to the aid of our business community. We were under attack by City of Pittsburgh officials who wanted to take our property so they could give it to a private developer for a mall. IJ’s Scott Bullock, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh Law School, knew our area well enough to know that the City’s blight designation of our district was a ruse. This was an excuse to take from long-standing mom and pop shops, immigrants and a widely diverse retail mix and give to faceless corporate retail chains—all in the name of progress.
That first day, Scott gave me the advice that I imparted to others throughout our two-year battle: We might not stop city agencies from approving the plan, but we could win in the court of public opinion. Silence and acceptance would be our undoing. Let everyone know about the injustice of the plan, he advised. He may not have said the following words exactly, but what I walked away with from that conversation was, “shout…shout long, hard and loud and don’t stop shouting until justice is served.”
Two years later, with the Institute for Justice’s Scott Bullock, Chip Mellor, John Kramer and Dana Berliner guiding us in our successful grassroots campaign to gain public awareness about eminent domain abuse, our battle is over. I knew nothing about waging this type of battle. None of us did. But IJ did. IJ empowered our group to win what was considered a “can’t win” battle. Without IJ’s guidance, wisdom, experience and resources, we could not have prevailed. The leverage IJ brought to our cause cannot be overstated. We would have been seen as “a bunch of nay sayers” had it not been for the real power and force IJ brought to our cause.
The law may not have been tested in Pittsburgh, but the will of its people was. IJ put us on top and sent a strong message to a mayor desiring reelection that his method won’t work here. IJ’s staff and resources, put toward expert use, removed the threat and now have our mayor working with us, not against us. Words alone cannot express the appreciation felt by the business and property owners, customers and citizens of our great city who did not want to see the soul ripped out of our center and replaced by a mall.
I, along with many here at ground zero, will never forget that in our hour of need, it was IJ who stepped up and stood with us, when many in the community, in fear of retribution, had abandoned us. I shall fondly recall who, in these darkest and dimmest hours, gave us the hope to continue and armed us with the tools to succeed. Thanks IJ.
President of Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle Community Development Corporation Bernie Lynch worked with the Institute for Justice to successfully defend property owners against the City’s abusive use of eminent domain.