Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tree-sitters evicted

Anyone in Bloomington who read this article probably had some deja vu. After all, it was only five years ago that several environmentalists camped out in trees on the property that now housed the Canturbury apartment complex. Two of the people involved in that protest would later run for County Council and County Commissioner, respectively, as Democrats.

Daryl "Dolphin" Hannah and others staged a tree-sit to protest plans to change a community farm into a warehouse. The story goes back twenty years, to when the city of Los Angeles forced a property owner to sell a piece of land to be used as a trash-to-energy incinerator. Plans for that fell though, but the city did not give the land back. Instead, Los Angeles "turned the land over to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which allowed people to begin gardening there after in the early 1990s", according to CBS News.

The first and most obvious problem here is the dishonorable behavior by the city of Los Angeles. The land was taken for an incinerator, not for a "community garden". If L.A. was unable, for whatever reason, to use the land for that purpose, the honorable thing to do would be to sell the land back to Ralph Horowitz. When Horowitz was forced to sell, he was forced to sell for an incinerator, not a garden.

I am not a huge fan of eminent domain, but I understand the need to use it for public-works projects. Even the framers of the Constitution, who were very distrustful of government power, recognized taking private property for public use is sometimes necessary, and amended the Constitution to ensure that private property cannot "be taken for public use, without just compensation."

There must be limits on eminent domain, and government should not be allowed to hold onto confiscated land and do whatever it wants with that land should the original purpose fall through. If the state of Indiana takes a piece of property for Interstate 69, state government cannot decide to build an office for some state department if political winds change and the new-terrain highway is not built.

The court did the right thing in forcing the city to sell the property back to Horowitz in 2003. For three years since then, people have continued to use his property for the gardens. These people have used his land for free for the last 14 years and now he should be able to do with his property as he sees fit.

It is annoying to see Hollywood elitists like Daryl "Dolphin" Hannah, Willie Nelson, and Danny Glover demanding that people still be allowed to use property owned by Horowitz for a "community garden". How much money do Hannah, Nelson and Glover have? They could easily buy a piece of land and donate it to the people of Los Angeles as a community garden. By asking fellow Hollywood elitists for help, they could raise enough money to buy a bigger plot. If Hannah, Nelson and Glover believe in this cause, they should put their money where their mouths are instead of demanding a sacrifice from someone else.