Rick Torres and Phil Blagys, Republican candidates for City Council in Black Rock, share this commentary challenging the legislative body’s role in a proposed land deal.
Here we go again. The Bridgeport’s City Council appears to have acted once again on behalf of the connected rather than on behalf of the law. The Mayor and the City Council’s Economic Development Committee attempted to use “eminent domain” to benefit Sal DiNardo, a well-known developer who wants to purchase property adjacent to land he currently owns in the South End.
The Connecticut Post story from September 23rd, describes how the mayor along with the City Council’s Economic Development Committee acted on behalf of Mr. DiNardo in a plan to take the property in the South End currently owned by a British Company. It is unclear to us as to why the city has any role in this at all. After all, Mr. DiNardo is a private businessman and the owners of the property are also private. If Mr. DiNardo wants the property he should acquire it through a normal property transaction.
However, even if this case technically meets the threshold established by Kelo vs. New London, (and this is questionable at best), it is worth noting the words of former United States Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor who wrote in her dissenting opinion:
“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, 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.”
It is also worth noting that the private property seized by the city of New London remains vacant today, some eight years after this decision, as the very development for which it was taken never materialized.
At the very least, when private property is threatened by government, a public hearing should be scheduled to allow all affected parties an opportunity to make their case known. In this instance, according to the CT Post, this initiative originated in the Mayor’s office and the plan was then approved by the City Council’s Economic Development Committee without the actual owner ever being apprised. We would like to know City Councilman’s Steve Stafstrom’s views on this matter as he sits on this very committee. Why was this a legitimate case for applying eminent domain? Was the owner of this property kept in the dark regarding this plan as reported by the CT Post? And, if so, why? It seems to us that Justice O’Connor was truly prophetic when she wrote “the beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process.”
We stand for openness and transparency in government. Whether the deal involves a driveway in Stratford or land in the South End, it is vital that they do not avoid the scrutiny of the city’s taxpayers. And we firmly believe that private property must be protected both from onerous taxes as well as government overstepping its bounds. No matter what your opinion of this company’s treatment of their property in the South End case, it seems clear that this was an egregious extension of municipal power to benefit a long-term donor who also currently owes millions to the city in back taxes. This kind of behavior needs to stop.