Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

EDITORIAL>> Some private demagoguery

The candidates for governor were stumbling over each other ó we choose our verb carefully ó to demagogue the U. S. Supreme Courtís decision last month that upheld the government taking private property for other private use as long as it has a legitimate public purpose.

Asa Hutchinson was first. He deplored the 5-4 decision and said he would not support condemning private property for any but legitimate government use such as roads, but he wasnít specific and wasnít asked to be. He said the state might want to examine its laws and clarify them to be sure that private takings for private purposes were not allowed. Attorney General Mike Beebe and Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller were close behind, Beebe even suggesting that the state Constitution already prohibited it with a powerful statement about the sanctity of private property.

But Beebe didnít finish the sentence. The provision simply says government canít take private property without properly compensating the owners. The legislature can authorize the condemnation of private property for other than strictly governmental purposes, and it has done so.

We would point out the 2000 constitutional amendment, initiated by the General Assembly, that authorizes what is known as tax-increment financing ó converting taxes levied for schools and other local governments to aid private development.

The legislature then provided by statute for local governments to condemn private property for projects that will create jobs and enhance the community, like movie theaters, golf courses and shopping malls.