Kit Senter sent in this Letter to the Editor to the Times-Picayune:
Yes, the government has the right of eminent domain. It can take people's property away from them against their will, but the reasons for the taking must be justifiable and the owner must be paid just compensation.
So what's wrong with the government taking the property of hundreds of people to use their land to build a medical complex?
First, there is alternative land that could be used for such a complex, and this lands is already owned by the government or are unoccupied.
The site of Big Charity and the 23 other buildings in the Charity complex are publicly owned and are the perfect place to build the new complex. The site of the Lindy Boggs Hospital and the acres adjacent to it would make a perfect site for the new VA hospital. Lindy Boggs is privately owned, but the site is unoccupied so using that land will leave no one dispossessed.
Second, people are not going to be paid just compensation for their property. After Katrina, Mayor Nagin encouraged New Orleanians to come home and rebuild their homes. Many did. Meanwhile, out of the spotlight, the mayor signed a memorandum of understanding in which he pledged to clear the area in Mid-City and buy the owners out. Then the city stopped issuing building permits in the area.
So we have had a couple of years of demolition by neglect, engineered by the government, which resulted in driving down property values. By the time the government gets around to buying landowners out, prices will have dropped so much that the homeowner or business owner will not be offered just compensation.
My conclusion is that the land grab may be legal, but it is unethical, immoral and perhaps downright criminal.
We're glad the issue of homeowner compensation in Lower Mid-City is on people's minds. The building moratorium that has been in effect over the last few years has made any serious improvement to the by homeowners, residents, or investors impossible. This has unfairly suppressed the value of the neighborhood and will likely soon result in compensation offers below what they ordinarily would have been had the neighborhood been allowed to rebuild. It would be doubly immoral if the moratorium was put into place for the expressed purpose of limiting the compensation homeowners will receive for their properties.