Well-Kept Secret: New London, Conn. Mayor Has Apologized for Kelo Property Seizures

February 15th, 2012 11:34 PM

Daryl Justin Finizio, the recently elected Democratic Party Mayor of New London, Connecticut has apologized to the families and homeowners who lost their homes as a result of the city's decision to condemn properties in the Fort Trumbull area of that city. Those efforts began over a decade ago. A lawsuit by the victims which attempted to stop the city from taking their properties and destroying their homes ultimately led to the Supreme Court's Kelo vs. New London decision in 2005. The Court ruled in favor of the City based on what it believed was "a carefully considered development plan." A few remaining holdouts who tried to get the city to reverse course after the ruling, including Susette Kelo, lost their battle and settled with the city in 2006. To my knowledge, no ground has been broken on any kind of new development in the area originally occupied by the homes in the 5-1/2 years since.

Obviously, one could argue that the apology is way too late, given that the buildings have long since been leveled.

Considering that it relates to one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in the past few decades, how much opposition that decision has generated since it was handed down in 2005, and how so many other trivial apologies get so much more attention, it's more than a little surprising that there has been virtually no coverage of it outside of the immediate local area, as seen in the results of the following Google News search on ["new london" kelo apology] (input exactly as indicated between brackets):


That's it.

Here are the first seven paragraphs from Kathleen Edgecomb's longer February 1 story at the New London Day:

NLDC getting a new identity
Finizio says development agency to be overhauled, offers apology for city's use of eminent domain

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio on Tuesday apologized to property owners whose homes were seized by eminent domain in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. At the same time, Finizio announced a restructuring of the New London Development Corp.

The changes to the NLDC, which bought and took the properties to pave the way for private development in the Fort Trumbull area, include a name change and new leadership.

"I issued a formal apology to all those adversely affected by eminent domain to acknowledge, in my opinion, that mistakes were made,'' Finizio said. "I think our development strategy was flawed. We are moving forward with new strategy that will embrace a new vision."

Future development will be undertaken in partnership with neighborhoods, Finizio said.

In a redevelopment project at Fort Trumbull that began more than 12 years ago and was headed by the NLDC, seven property owners who fought the eminent domain filings saw the Supreme Court uphold the city's right to seize their homes for economic development.

Richard Beyer, a plaintiff in the nationally recognized Kelo v. New London eminent domain case, said he's not sure what good an apology does today.

"It's been so long,'' he said. "If he needs to apologize to anybody at this time, it's the families of the elders that lived there."

The reaction of Scott Bullock at the Institute for Justice, which defended Susette Kelo and other homeowners all the way to the Supreme Court, is that Mayor Finizio and the city need to pass legislation to ensure that what happened to Kelo and her neighbors can't happen again in New London:

City of New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio may have acknowledged that the city government wrongfully bulldozed Susette Kelo and her neighbors’ homes. But as IJ’s Scott Bullock points out, more is needed to protect against future abuses.

Below is Scott’s response to this article from The Day.

"It was good to see that Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio apologized on behalf of the city and the New London Development Corp. for abusing the power of eminent domain in the disastrous Fort Trumbull project ("NLDC Gets a New Identity," Feb. 1). But if the city wants to ensure that no other New Londoner goes through what the residents in Fort Trumbull did, then it should take the lead of other Connecticut cities, such as Fairfield and Milford, which have passed ordinances prohibiting the use of eminent domain for private development. That way, future mayors will not have to apologize yet again to homeowners and small businesses when their property is taken to give to private developers."

As to the lack of press coverage (a search on "kelo" at the Associated Press's main national site returns nothing relevant), my gut instinct is that the press is generally uninterested in apologies which make an aggressive, overbearing government look bad -- especially one which makes the portion of the Supreme Court which doesn't mind seeing the government take away people's property for unconstitutional reasons look positively foolish in hindsight.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.