Castle Coalition Trains & Inspires Owners & Activists
By Scott Bullock
They came from all over the nation, but they were united by a common foe: local governments abusing the power of eminent domain. During the last weekend of March, we hosted the second annual Castle Coalition conference for more than 30 property owners and activists who are fighting attempts by government to take land for private economic development. As with last year’s inaugural conference, we provided attendees with an intensive series of lectures and workshops designed to assist them in fighting eminent domain abuse in their areas. Participants learned more about the history of eminent domain, the law surrounding its use, working with the media and effective grassroots tactics to take on powerful adversaries intent on using the government to take land for private gain.
In addition to presentations by IJ staff, the activists and property owners heard from Chris Norby, an Orange County, Calif., supervisor who has made eminent domain abuse and other abuses by redevelopment agencies a focus of his political efforts. In particular, he has shown that private developers receive huge amounts of corporate welfare in the form of tax subsidies. Also, Janice Hundt of Baltimore enthralled the crowd with a nuts-and-bolts description of the campaign she and local owners and activists waged to defeat eminent domain abuse in her county, culminating with the passage of an anti-eminent domain referendum that won with 70 percent of the vote.
Providing inspiration and support to the people waging this battle right now—to individuals who often feel isolated and overwhelmed—is perhaps just as important as providing them with the information and strategies needed to defeat eminent domain abuse. Toward that end, we established two awards to recognize those who have stood up for their own rights and thereby the rights of everyone—and have won. We gave the Castle Coalition Activism Awards to Baltimore activist Janice Hundt and to property owner Judy Peters, who was successful in working with other activists to repeal a bogus blight designation in Scottsdale, Ariz.
And our first ?David Award? (as in David versus Goliath) went to the Archie family of Canton, Miss. This is the family, represented by the Institute for Justice, who stood up to the Goliaths of their entire state government and Nissan Motor Co. And the Archies prevailed! They were recognized for their courage and outstanding achievement in fighting eminent domain abuse. After setting such a courageous example, the family remains on their land that means so much to them.
Afterwards, attendee Joe Horney, a property owner in Norwood, Ohio, who faces the loss of his property, wrote: ?The presentations were first class and I left with new found confidence in what is without question a just cause. Meeting the people who are the real stories out there going through this, too, was also very important to me.?
Joe’s comments were typical of the participants who came away from the conference armed with the knowledge and the passion necessary to defeat one of the worst abuses of the Constitution occurring in America today.
Scott Bullock is an IJ senior attorney.