Eminent Domain

Today in Nealz Nuze Neal tells us this charming story:

Let me introduce you to Thomas and Stella Musick. Thomas Musick, who is 55 years old, is the service manager at the Cape View Exxon service station in Norfolk, Virginia.

Back in 1958, when Thomas was only seven years old, his mother died. Thomas went to live with his grandmother at 6th Bay Street in Ocean View, a Norfolk area community. He bought the home in 1980 and lives there with his wife today. It may not be the nicest home in that area of Virginia, but it’s well-kept, clean and sturdy. After many hurricanes and storms it still sits there sheltering Thomas and Stella while giving them a nice view of the ocean. In one more year Thomas will have this home paid off. He will own it free and clear. This sounds a lot like the prototypical American dream, doesn’t it. Thomas’ plan was to live there until he died.

Yes, I said “was.”

The politicians of Norfolk aren’t as fond of Musick’s home as Thomas and Stella are. It’s rather small and not all that expensive. And since it’s not all that expensive it doesn’t generate a great deal of tax revenue … money Norfolk politicians can use to curry favor with constituents.

Enter the government — the government in the form of the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. According to a story by Kerry Dougherty in the Tuesday Virginian-Pilot, the authority has been quietly working on a plan to take about 25 acres between 3rd Bay and 7th Bay streets along Ocean View Avenue in Norfolk and replace the homes that presently sit there with about 100 new houses. One hundred new houses that are much more expensive than Thomas Musick’s house. One hundred new houses that will pay a lot more in property taxes than the modest homes that are there now.

So, the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority sent a letter to Thomas and Stella Musick. The authority has informed the Musick’s that they want to buy their home. The letter isn’t really a request for an offer, it’s a demand. If the Musicks don’t want to sell to the authority, the authority will simply use force, deadly if necessary, to remove the Musicks from their home … kick them out … remove their stuff … and pay them what the authority says their house is worth. Thomas Musick has to move. He can’t live in that house that would be paid for by next year any longer. He won’t realize his dream of living there with that view of the Ocean, a home where he was raised by his grandmother … he won’t be able to live there until he dies. He’s going to have to move … he has to move so that his home can be bulldozed to make way for some more expensive homes for some richer homeowners who will pay more in property taxes to the city of Norfolk.

What country are we living in here? Isn’t this the same country where people used to dream of owning their own home? Isn’t this the same country where people have every right to expect that if they took care of their homes, paid their taxes and obeyed the law they could be all but assured of their ability to live in that home as long as they desire … even to the end of their days?

What have we done to this American dream? What kind of country are we living in where a man can work honestly and diligently at the corner service station, support a family and come to within one year of paying off his home … only to have some plundering politicians step in to seize his home so that bigger, more beautiful and more expensive homes can be built for people who will pay more property taxes? Musick’s home isn’t being condemned so that the city can build a needed school, a fire station or some other necessary public facility. This house isn’t being taken for any public use it all. The government … Thomas Musick’s government … is taking his house because it isn’t big and expensive enough to suit the politicians.

We’re all a part of this problem. Stories like this are happening across America. The Supreme Court of the United States opened the floodgates when they decided that “public use” was essentially anything that politicians said it was. With that one ruling the Supreme Court put every poor and middle income Americans most treasured possession, their home, on the auction block to be sold to the highest bidder … the highest bidder in terms of property taxes. These stories keep happening, yet we sit back and do nothing. Ohhhh … we may have a “tsk tsk tsk” moment. We may utter a dark oath under out breath, but that’s about it. Far be it from us to actually rise off our fat asses, turn off the television set and resolve to get out there in the community and work to stop these outrages.

The fate of the American dream is no longer protected by the law. The only thing that can now protect the American dream of home ownership from being bludgeoned to death by the political class is the anger and condemnation of an aroused and outraged American public. The Mayor of Norfolk, Paul Fraim, could step forward and do something about this outrage, but apparently he is not so inclined. Just what will it take to bring us to consciousness?

This isn’t Eminent Domain. This is nationalization. In other words, it is communism. Property rights are being stolen on a daily basis, and this is another example.

The email address for the Norfolk city council is [email protected]. FYI.

Update: (10:46AM) The Norfolk Mayor’s office has contacted Neal and claimed that the article that was his source was incorrect, and that they don’t have the authority to declare eminent domain. Uh huh. I’ll just keep an eye on you guys all the same, M’kay?


  1. Phelps says:

    I got an email back from the council claiming that they would never dream of using Eminent Domain in that sort of situation, and it was all a big misunderstanding.

    I’m guessing that they will have to take “likewise” as a response. I did word my letter as to give them that out, after all.

  2. gunner says:

    Authority Chairman W. Sheppard Miller
    he said in this article

    Miller said he would never rule out the use of eminent domain. “But I don’t see any reason why we’re going to need to use eminent domain,” he said. “We’re negotiating in good faith with land owners to buy their property. I’m convinced we’ll either buy their property at a price they agree upon, or we won’t.”

    Well it looks like maybe the mayor lied to you Phelps. It seems some in the government there thinks they can use Eminent Domain , they just will hold off for now…How benevolent.