On Friday, Institute for Justice senior attorney Scott Bullock will make a major announcement concerning the renewed call for the use of eminent domain in the Fifth & Forbes area of Pittsburgh. He will be joined by one of the property owners threatened by eminent domain, George Harris. The news conference will take place at Harris Bros. Florists, a 101 year-old family-owned business that could be bulldozed if the proposed development plans go forward.
In November 2000, Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy pledged not to use eminent domain in future efforts to revitalize the Fifth & Forbes neighborhood. Mayor Murphy now seems poised to break that promise and bring eminent domain back into the area under the cover of recommendations made by the “Plan C Task Force.” Eminent domain is one of the most awesome powers possessed by government. It is the ability to throw someone off of their land and out of their homes or businesses. It is strictly limited by the Constitution to projects for “public use,” such as for roads or buildings the public will actually own and use. Mayor Murphy could once again threaten to abuse eminent domain and take land from Pittsburgh businesses to give to handpicked private developers.
In March 2000, the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm and the nation’s leading advocate against eminent domain abuse, pledged to defend for free Fifth & Forbes business owners who wanted to keep their property. In addition to preparing for litigation, the Institute launched a major public education campaign concerning eminent domain abuse, including holding rallies, publishing op-eds, testifying before legislative bodies, and placing billboards throughout the city criticizing the potential taking of businesses.