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October 22nd, 2009 — By — In News & Events

Sen. McCain: Private property rights need protection

The opinion piece below appeared in today’s Arizona Daily Star and is attributed to Senator John McCain. Senator McCain clearly disagrees with the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo and even calls upon the Court to revisit “its decision in the near term because it is irresponsible for the court to abandon long-held limitations on government power.” Although it is unlikely that the Court will revisit Kelo “in the near term,” the Justices will have an opportunity review a case before the Court concerning the issue of private property rights when oral arguments in Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Dep’t of Environmental Protection take place before the Court on December 2, 2009.

Private-property rights need protection

By Sen. John McCain

Special to the Arizona Daily Star

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.22.2009
Years ago, Mark Twain said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” It’s a wise admonition, unless you live in one of the many states that disregard private-property rights.

In Connecticut, if a landowner won’t sell you his land, then the government is happy to seize it in order to generate new taxable income for the government. Shockingly, four years ago this month the Supreme Court held that cities could take land from a private owner and transfer it to another private owner for economic development.

Nine homeowners were forced out of their well-maintained homes in New London, Conn., because the city believed that the property could be developed to create aesthetic pleasure and more jobs for its citizens — and higher tax revenues for the city.

Arizonans living in the wide-open West cherish their homesteads as much as any American, if not more. And Arizonans cherish their private-property rights, including the right set forth in the Fifth Amendment that their private property shall not be “taken for public use, without just compensation.”

For these reasons, 62 percent of Arizonans, including myself, strongly supported a ballot initiative in 2006, known as Proposition 207, which stated that “eminent domain may be exercised only . . . for a public use” and with “just compensation.”

However, while residents in Arizona and 42 other states have moved to protect private-property rights, numerous states still leave residents’ private-property rights at risk.

The right to own private property is enshrined in our Constitution. John Adams wrote, “Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.” It would be shocking for our Founding Fathers to learn that today a government can seize a private, well-kept home for economic development under the guise of “valid public use.”

In New London, officials determined that it was a public benefit to take private property to build residential, hotel, conference, research and development space. And what has been built on this 90-acre property four years after the Supreme Court allowed the city to seize it? A 16-acre, $25 million state park with the remaining 74 acres sitting empty.

Four years later, the economic and public benefits have not been seen. But the property owners have still suffered a great loss.

The protection of property rights lies at the heart of our constitutional system. Homeowners’ rights have now become vastly unstable. The threat is shared by millions of small-business owners.

Property represents the fruit of one’s labor. Our economy is fueled by the dreams of innovators and entrepreneurs. Private-property rights are necessary to secure the incentives that have made America the greatest exporter, importer, producer, saver, investor, manufacturer and innovator on the globe.

Protection of those rights means that the individual reaps the rewards of his or her own hard work, not the government or those who control the government.

I hope the Supreme Court revisits its decision in the near term because it is irresponsible for the court to abandon long-held limitations on government power.

Most Arizonans, and most Americans, want the government to stay out of their lives and off of their property.

Due to the court’s decision, private property in much of the country is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, as long as the government sees it as beneficial to the public and its tax coffers.

I hope all Arizonans will stand with me in supporting the private-property rights of all Americans.