Posts tagged ‘Supreme Court Kelo’

Pfizer's Role in Kelo Takings

I have hashed through my pain over the Supreme Court Kelo decision any number of times, including my post before the decision, after the decsion, following up on more New London antics, and following up on abuses in other locations (and here).

One of the first things I did after the decision was to write the CEO of Pfizer a letter, complaining about their role in getting the New London government to take peoples homes so their managers could have nice views of the water.  I was surprised at the time that more people, particularly those on the left who don't usually need a good excuse to bash corporations, didn't put more blame on Pfizer rather than just New London.  However, up until now, Pfizer has claimed that the redevelopment plan in New London had nothing to do with them, and they just came in later as a tenant.

Based on investigation by The Day ($), the New London paper (hat tip: Volokh), it is becoming more apparent that the Kelo takings were in fact driven mainly by specific requirements set by Pfizer, and that Pfizer was hip-deep in the redevelopment planning:

Pfizer's Fingerprints On Fort Trumbull Plan

Documents show the pharmaceutical giant was involved in the Fort Trumbull
project form its inception, even before announcing its research center would
expand into the New London neighborhood

In mid-July, as commentators and politicians around the country decried this
city's attempt to seize private homes for economic development on the Fort
Trumbull peninsula, a press release appeared on the Web site of Pfizer Inc.

The pharmaceutical company, whose $300 million research complex sits adjacent
to what remains of the neighborhood, announced that it wanted to set the record
straight on its involvement in the Fort Trumbull development project.

The project, the statement said, wasn't Pfizer's idea.

"We at Pfizer have been dismayed to see false and misleading claims appear in
the media that suggest Pfizer is somehow involved in this matter," the statement
said. The writers said the company "has no requirements nor interest in the
development of the land that is the subject of the case."

But a recent, months-long review of state records and correspondence from
1997 and 1998 "” when officials from the administration of then-Gov. John G.
Rowland were helping convince the pharmaceutical giant to build in New London "”
shows that statement is misleading, at best.

In fact, the company has been intimately involved in the project since its
inception, consulting with state and city officials about the plans for the
peninsula and helping to shape the vision of how the faded neighborhood might
eventually be transformed into a complex of high-end housing and office space,
anchored by a luxury hotel.

The records "” obtained by The Day through the state Freedom of Information
Act "” show that, at least as early as the fall of 1997, Pfizer executives and
state economic development officials were discussing the company's plans, not
just for a new research facility but for the surrounding neighborhood as

And, after several requests, the state Department of Economic and Community
Development produced a document that both the state and Pfizer had at first said
did not exist: A 1997 sketch, prepared by CUH2A, Pfizer's design firm for its
new facility. Labeled as a "vision statement," it suggested various ways the
existing neighborhood and nearby vacant Navy facility could be replaced with a
"high end residential district," offices and retail businesses, expanded parking
and a marina.

Those interactions took place months before Pfizer announced that it would
build in the city, on the site of the former New London Mills linoleum factory,
and months before the New London Development Corp. announced its redevelopment
plans for the neighborhood and the former Naval Undersea Warfare Center next

The paper concludes:

But in a series of recent interviews, several former high-ranking state
officials confirmed what opponents of the project have long insisted and what
the company continues to deny: The state's agreement to replace the existing
neighborhood was a condition of Pfizer's move here.

Current and former Pfizer executives, meanwhile, concede that the company
expected a major redevelopment of the area to occur and offered guidance, but
they strongly deny that they insisted on specific changes.

Kelo Update

After the Supreme Court's Kelo decision that effectively increases the power of local authorities to take whatever poperty they want and hand it over the private developers, a number of outraged politicians began reform efforts to limit takings in their state to true common-carrier public projects.  So what has happened to these efforts?  Virginia Postrel links to this update on California, but I will give you a hint:  They have had about the same level of success that every other effort to limit government power has had of late.

Predictably, local government and redevelopment officials reacted with alarm
that eminent domain could be severely restricted. The California Redevelopment
Association and other advocates geared up to kill the measures and in the
closing days of the legislative session, Democratic leaders ginned up a strategy
to cool off the anti-eminent domain fervor. They unveiled legislation that would
place a two-year moratorium on the seizure of private homes (but not commercial
property), and authorize a study of the practice, thus giving their members a
chance, or so it seemed, to side with the anti-eminent domain sentiment without
doing any real damage to redevelopment agencies.

Quietly, however, the moratorium bills were themselves put on the shelf as
the session ended - with Democrats blaming Republicans. "With every vote, they
tried to derail this prudent response," said Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego,
who carried one of the moratorium bills.

Kehoe's finger-pointing, however, was more than a little disingenuous since
the stalled bills required only simple majority votes and thus needed no
Republicans to go along. Clearly, this was a Democratic action, not a Republican
one, perhaps just a feint to pretend to do something about eminent domain
without actually doing anything to upset the apple cart.

She also points to this story in San Diego:

First came a report on the San Diego Model School Development Agency's push to
seize and demolish 188 homes in the thriving City Heights neighborhood to build
up to 509 town houses, condos and apartments more to its liking. The 30-acre
site is far from the decaying neighborhood normally targeted in redevelopment,
but blithe agency bureaucrats from the Soviet school of central
planning--knowing they could call the area "blighted" if they chose--didn't

Then came yesterday's jaw-dropping story about National City's plan to use
its powers of eminent domain to force the Daily family to sell a parcel the
family leases to the Mossy family for one of its thriving car dealerships. After
the two sides couldn't agree on a sales price, Mossy representatives made plain
they would move their Nissan dealership--and the $1 million in annual sales and
property taxes it generates for National City--unless the city helped close the
deal. The City Council promptly caved in to Mossy's unsavory hardball tactics
and, in its role as the city redevelopment board, began looking into seizing the
land--after a mysterious epiphany in which members suddenly realized the site
suffered from a heretofore undetected case of "visual blight."

Yep, there's nothing like another large car dealership to fight visual blight.  Maybe San Diego should tear down the Del Coronado hotel and put a car dealership there too.