Monday, September 17, 2007

University of Oregon Basketball

Consider this story:
The University is one step closer to beginning construction on the new basketball arena.

At the State Board of Higher Education meeting Friday, Sept. 7, the Board granted the University a resolution of necessity: permission to utilize eminent domain laws in order to obtain three properties on which, along with the Williams' Bakery site, the University hopes to build an arena to replace 80-year-old McArthur Court. Thus far, the University has been unable to come to voluntary sale agreements with the property owners, and should it fail to do so it may use condemnation to purchase the properties on behalf of public interest.

The Board also granted a resolution of necessity to the University in 2004 to purchase the Williams' Bakery site, although the University ultimately did not use condemnation. The site sold for approximately $22.2 million.

General Council Melinda Grier said the University does not wish to resort to condemnation, and will do so only as a last resort.

"In Oregon we have a strong preference... to try to acquire properties through voluntary means," said Grier.
Sounds nice, eh? Acquring properties, not taking properties. Voluntary actions, not power and coercion. It seems to me the excerpt above makes clear that even if government in Oregon says it has a strong preference to acquire properties, the reality is something considerably different. Government in Oregon also relies on the threat of its power to take properties. Not unusual, of course. In view of government's power of eminent domain, I don't believe we should generally regard any potential "sale" of property to government as voluntary because the threat of the use of force to take the property is always implied and present when government officials come to "negotiate" over "price." If someone comes to buy my advertised used care, this looks like a typical voluntary market transaction, unless of course, the potential buyer is carrying a gun.

More from the story:
Eminent domain allows the government to purchase private property for public purpose. Should the University exercise condemnation, the state of Oregon would sue on behalf of the University and the court would determine an adequate sale price.
This seems a very interesting way to describe the power of eminent domain. Eminent domain "allows"? Eminent domain is a power, and therefore, eminent domain is really a reason given to justify government forcibly taking a person's property. Consider what this description says eminent domain allows government to do, i.e., purchase private property. If government uses the power of eminent domain, private property is not purchased, it is taken with "just compensation." Of course, the just compensation comes after the property has been taken. It seems to me more accurate to write: "Eminent domain allows government to try to purchase private property under the threat of forcibly taking the private property from the owner later." Consider also in this description that the power of eminent domain means a court will "determine an adequate sale price." Sorry. The court will not determine a sale price at all. The court will determine what it considers adequate compensation for the property owner's lost wealth because it has been taken by government. (Maybe we should see the silver lining in this taking. At least this taking of a person's wealth by eminent domain is compensated to some degree since it is not taken through some means of wealth taxation.)

[Allie Grasgreen, "University cleared to use eminent domain for arena," Oregon Daily Emerald, 9/17/07]