Veteran journalist David Collins is a columnist at the New London Day in Connecticut.
In a column supposedly published on Sunday but "updated" on Saturday (I'm not kidding), Collins assessed the aftermath of the Supreme Court's odious Kelo v. New London decision in 2005 in reacting to a lengthy story by Charlotte Allen in the February 10 issue of the Weekly Standard. In the process, he betrayed two erroneous mindsets about the case which I believe are common among members of the establishment press. The first is that it was purely a matter of "conservatives" backing property rights against "liberal interventionism." The second is his contention that the total lack of any development in the contested area in the nearly nine years since the Court's decision "is not that compelling beyond New London."
Clueless Collins acted as if the folks at the Weekly Standard have been asleep for nine years (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Fort Trumbull goes national, again
It's been a while since New London took a big spotlight in national headlines, although a lot of stories did bounce around the Internet a few years ago, when the whale fountain was shut down because homeless people were accused of using it for personal business.
The big mother lode of national news attention on the city, of course, goes back to Kelo v. City of New London, when the city went to the Supreme Court to defend the taking of homes in Fort Trumbull by eminent domain, and won.
Kelo became a rallying cry nationally for conservatives, who often frame the debate as a war of liberal interventionism versus property rights.
So imagine the glee at the assignment desk of the conservative Weekly Standard, when they learned that nothing, NOT A SINGLE THING, has been built on the eminent domain properties in New London, takings blessed by the Supreme Court in Kelo.
Had Collins done a search at the magazine's web site on "Kelo," he would have found a November 9, 2009 column by Mary Katharine Ham ("In Kelo, Government Took Property for Project That Went Kaput"). It noted that Pfizer Corp. was closing its New London facility, which was ironic because its presence was the reason "the Supreme Court ruled against (Susette) Kelo, arguing that Pfizer's promise to bring revenue and jobs to New London constituted 'public use.'" Oops.
Collins' "conservative" vs. "liberal" dichotomy is also false. The fact is that more than 40 states have laws restricting or banning the taking of private property by eminent domain for economic development projects. Given that Barack Obama carried 28 states in the 2008 presidential election, it's pretty obvious that some of the states limiting eminent domain to something close to the Constitution's true meaning (i.e., "public use," not "public purpose") are "liberal." More to the point, it's not difficult to find quite a few liberal Democrats and even hardened leftists who are appalled at the Kelo decision.
Leaving no dishonest rhetorical stone unturned, the classless Collins also accused Allen of racism because she dared to point out the nationality of many of those involved in the city's drug trade:
(Allen) goes on to relentlessly tear down the city, from the steam leak in City Hall (who could miss it) to its drug trade.
I thought she also drifted into what has the makings of racism.
"Police raids on heroin and cocaine rings run by Dominican immigrants are a staple of New London news," Allen wrote.
Couldn't she complain about eminent domain without smearing an entire ethnic population?
Allen didn't "smear an entire ethnic population." She noted the disproportionate involvement of menbers of an ethnic population in the drug trade. That's known as an "observation" of something which according to news reports is a "fact," one which Collins apparently cannot honestly dispute.
But let's stick to the race card for a second. Because if anyone is ignoring the relevance of race, it's Collins himself in his take on Kelo.
You see, it just so happens that eminent domain efforts have a sordid history of being race-driven, something the supposedly asleep Weekly Standard noted in 2007:
Under the Federal Housing Act of 1949, "which was in force between 1949 and 1973," she (Columbia professor Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove) writes, "cities were authorized to use the power of eminent domain to clear 'blighted neighborhoods' for 'higher uses.' In 24 years, 2,532 projects were carried out in 992 cities that displaced one million people, two thirds of them African American."
According to Fullilove, "African Americans--then 12 percent of the people in the U.S.--were five times more likely to be displaced than they should have been given their numbers in the population. Given that African Americans were confined because of their race to ghetto neighborhoods, it is reasonable to assume that more than 1,600 projects--two-thirds of the total--were directed at African-American neighborhoods."
The racial history of eminent domain use drove the NAACP to file a friend of the court brief in the Kelo case opposing the city:
"The history of eminent domain is rife with abuse specifically targeting minority neighborhoods," it argued. "Indeed, the displacement of African Americans and urban renewal projects were so intertwined that 'urban renewal' was often referred to as 'Negro removal.'" Joining this brief "was, in many ways, a no-brainer for the NAACP," says (NAACP Washington bureau director Hilary) Shelton.
Put that in your race-obsessed pipe and smoke it, David.
Now, let's get to Collins' "nobody really cares anyway" assertion:
The story that nothing was ever built at Fort Trumbull is not that compelling beyond New London.
In its decision, a confident Supreme Court majority declared the following:
The city has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue.
The fact that the judges have turned out to have been dead wrong in their fundamental assessment of the situation in what is certainly the most important property rights case of the 21st century seems pretty "compelling" to me. It's not at all a stretch to believe that anyone who believes in strong property rights, i.e., the vast majority of Americans, as seen by the laws passed in the decision's aftermath, would also find the fact that nothing has happened in Fort Trumbull in almost nine years since the decision quite "compelling."
Also quite relevant but completely ignored by journalists who are supposedly obsessed with disparate treatment of the haves and have-nots is the fact that the Italian Dramatic Club, which is located in the midst of the affected Fort Trumbull area, was allowed to stay right where it is, while houses on the same block were razed. Why? Because it's "a politically connected 'social club' of Connecticut’s political establishment." The bitter joke in New London has been that the Italian Dramatic Club could stay, but the Italians in the neighborhood had to go. I would also add that Susette Kelo's pink house had to go, but an establishment likely patronized by some of the very people who demanded that she go was able to stay.
(In an almost singular exception, the Associated Press broke down four years after the decision and did a report on the utter lack of progress.)
To overstate the point by only a bit, the only reason that someone like David Collins can in essence claim that almost nobody cares is that almost nobody knows. The only reason that almost nobody knows is that people who "think" like David Collins apparently dominate establishment press journalism.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.