Saturday, October 15, 2005

Baseball stadium pushes landowners out

In December 2004 MLB teamed up with DC to finance a $535 million publicly financed 41,000 seat baseball stadium to allow the former Expos, now the Nationals, to move to DC. The team currently plays at RFK stadium. To move into their new stadium by opening day 2008, eminent domain will take property from 23 landowners.

The city made offers to all 23 landowners on the site last month but received no response from 10.

"We think there are some that we'll have good-faith negotiations with," said Steve Green, director of development in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. "There are some we haven't heard from at all."

Many property owners on the site said the city's offers are inadequate. Others are suing the city on the grounds that it has no right to use eminent domain to acquire land at the site, despite a Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of municipal governments to take private property for the purpose of economic development.

I just can't imagine the Founding Fathers standing here today saying, Yes, of course, to use the power of eminent domain to construct a baseball stadiumm is perfectly acceptable because it will encourage economic development. I think they would be appalled at the behavior of government. A baseball stadium is not for public use. It's for private use.

Futhermorere, if the best use of that land was to turn it into a baseball stadium, then is there some reason to suspect that private industry would not do it on its own? If moving the stadiumim to DC is such a great economic move, why would we not expect someone to realize the profits that could be made and build it themselves? Because real business people know that purchasing the land necessary to build the stadium would be outrageously expensive, like the building of the stadium itself. Government doesn't have to worry about those trivialities though.


Larry Eubanks said...

I'm pretty sure eminent domain was used for atleast a small number of properties when Coors Field was built in Denver. At this point, I think Coors Field is owned by a government entity, and as such, the Rockies (nor any other individual) do not obtain any revenue or profit from Coors Field itself. If a government entity is the owner of the stadium, do you think we should say the property that was taken was taken for public use?

Tateum Bowers said...

On the surface of things it may appear that since government owns the stadium, receives the revenues from its lease and represents the public, the stadium must be for public use.

Although I can see this point, I am uncomfortable saying this is an appropriate public use project. It is the role of government to protect life, liberty, and property at a minimum. At a maximum it is the role of government, primarily local in nature, to provide for public health and safety. Things like the construction of roads, sewage systems, police and fire houses would fit into the latter category. I don't think baseball stadiums do.

Allowing baseball stadiums to fall into the public welfare category alters the role of government to include enterprise ownership. I am very suspicious of state owned enterprises. I don't think they are designed to provide for the general welfare or the public health or safety. I think they are designed to command and control resources, a tactic tried with dismal results for the public.