In 1787, the United States Constitution was ratified, banning — among other things — the ability of the government to issue Bills of Attainder. These bills were legal writs delivered from a legislature declaring a person (or group) "attained"; that is, presumptively guilty of a crime without a trial. Attainder voided the party's civil rights and the attained's property escheated to the sovereign. It was one of Henry VIII's favorite tools against non-compliant but propertied subjects, and one of the conspicuous excesses of the English monarchy that the Framers wished to eliminate.Two hundred and ten years later, Susette Kelo, an EMT, bought and restored a little house in the Fort Trumball section of New Haven, Connecticut, overlooking the Long Island Sound. She painted it a cheery pink.
image from the Boston Globe
These two incidents should never have intersected, yet they did. Kelo's crime was owning property coveted by her sovereign.How did the New London government take Kelo's and 90 other acres of nearby property for the benefit of new private corporate owners? The city council created an Economic Development Corporation which leveraged the property against its owners. That is, the EDC told the city council that the properties would generate considerably more revenue if they were someone else's property — somebody...rich. Their promise: revitalization would create 3,169 jobs and $1.2 million in tax revenue. Pfizer was one of those prospective rich private owners. In 2001, they built the biggest office campus in the city, near Kelo's neighborhood. Pfizer got a sweetheart deal, too: they were only obligated to pay 20% of their property taxes for the first decade. Any additional development would enhance the value of the existing Pfizer campus, and now Pfizer played a key role.Ms Kelo was subsequently informed what the city intended to pay for her property, and the date she was expected to vacate. The letter wasn't labeled "Bill of Attainder," but it sure doesn't miss by much. In 2005, the dispute ended up in the Supreme Court of the United States, and was argued as a Fifth Amendment Takings Clause case. The Takings Clause says that the government cannot seize private property except where it's (1) for "public use," and (2) provided the owner is paid "just compensation." There was no question that the property was to be transferred from one private owner to another. Nonetheless, the majority was persuaded that the incidental tax benefit derived by the city from the promised revitalization was the requisite "public use."
...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 Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the general public. - Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority...and that was that. The court sided 5-4 with the Sovereign against the subject, in a bizarre ruling where the Court's so-called "liberals" adopted the Federalist-style argument, "who are we to question the judgment of the legislator? 'Public use' means 'any public purpose they decide.'" Ms Kelo's land was awarded it to the corporation for their planned "urban village" development of restaurants, retail, a conference hotel, marina, riverwalk and condos. The city announced its intent to sue the remaining residents of the disputed property for five years of back rent (a cause they eventually dropped.) Ms Kelo moved across the river to Groton, Connecticut.This month, Pfizer announced that it intended to abandon New London and transfer the 1,400 campus jobs...to Groton. The transfer will be completed within two years. Coincidentally, that's right before their 80% property tax discount corporate welfare expires.
New London officials were apparently stunned by this news, and genuinely upset that Pfizer had not consulted them, demonstrating that they are indeed as dumb and gullible as you probably already assumed. New London will be left with a massive abandoned office complex and the bulldozed lots of what was once Ms Kelo's Fort Trumball neighborhood — empty lots that produce zero tax revenue.
image from http://yedies.blogspot.com
Yep, despite the "carefully formulated development plan," nobody bothered to actually...develop.
Pfizer paid $67 billion for Wyeth, Inc. last month.