Professor John Mogk of the Wayne State University Law School has provided another opinion to The Detroit News in which he claims that the article written by Jesse Hathaway regarding “Re-evaluating eminent domain” simply does not accurately reflect what is necessary for Detroit. Professor Mogk’s position is that economic development is necessary and the land assembly is not possible without eminent domain.
To the contrary, blight removal will create enough land for appropriate land assembly. If an area is blighted, even the houses in good condition may be taken in order to clear up the blight of the overall area.
In addition, Mr. Mogk contends that as along as there is “good” economic development, the private profiteers will not take advantage of the system. This sounds very much like what I used to hear in the early 1980′s, when the Economic Development Corporation Act provided for acquisition in order to allow economic development and benefit the tax base of a community as a whole. Rather than creating such economic development, the Economic Development Corporation Act resulted in a Cookie Jar for friends and relatives of elected officials to enjoy the special benefit of being able to acquire land at a deep discount, then receive special government financing, all in order to obtain fees for development. All too often the end result was a foreclosure four years later.
Professor Mogk is well intentioned. All of us want to see the City develop and improve. However the simple need of eminent domain is not so simple and will not be so safe for the economic well being of our community.
Whatever application Jesse Hathaway’s Jan. 8 article, “Re-evaluating eminent domain,” has to the rest of the country, it has none to a city, Detroit, that is desperately in need of economic development to alleviate unemployment and increase its tax base.
The use of eminent domain for economic development is not available in Detroit or anywhere else in Michigan. While the U.S. Constitution permits the use of eminent domain for economic development, Michigan’s Constitution was amended in 2006 to prohibit its use to take property from one private owner for the transfer to another to achieve economic development, no matter how beneficial the transfer might be for the public good in alleviating unemployment and increasing the tax base. That is not the good news.